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Thread: Hiring a Coach

  1. #1
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    Hiring a Coach

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    So here I am at the end of my first season of racing. I didn't start last year with much in the way of expectations and was really suprised and happy to find that I did well this first year. Now I think that if I really want to think about getting better I should look into getting some personal coaching.

    Anyone out there have any coaching stories good or bad? What to look for / watch out for in a coach. Are any of you coaches? What do you look for in a client?

    We actually have a range of folks on the team who also coach so I have some opportunities open to me. Now I just have to make a decision. Any advice that you gals can give will be really welcome.

    thanks in advance
    Eden
    "Sharing the road means getting along, not getting ahead" - 1994 Washington State Driver's Guide

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  2. #2
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    coaching

    I had a coach for a little while...

    He definitely help me improve, but i felt he wasn't tough enough on me...one of my friends/mentors also does some coaching, and the first thing she told me was to lose weight. not that i was overweight, but the fact is, if i wanted to really compete, i needed to lose some pounds...my previous coach always felt that it was too mean to bring up weight with his female athletes, but sometimes that needs to be said.

    the biggest issue i have with coaches, at least arond here, is there credentials. there is a big difference between some guy who raced well and a good coach. a good coach has taken some kind of education in coaching. just because someone was a good athlete in their day, means they were able to train themselves, and they tend to use that same "formula" with other people and that doesn't necessarily work. my coach was very educated and knowledgeable, just not tough enough with me.

    also, i need a mtb coach, and road coaches don't necessarily understand the needs of mtb racing.

    hope that helps!

    H
    "The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."-Moliere

    "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." -Thomas A. Edison



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  3. #3
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    Hi Eden - congratulations on doing so well your first season.

    Quite an adventure I imagine and something I hope to do next year.

    Hiring a coach, a good one anyway, can really help you reach your goals, so I think you are definitely making a wise choice.

    While I've not worked with him directly, several folks I know have said positive things about Ric Stern - he is out of Wales in the UK and is very experienced with Power Training.

    Good luck finding a coach and becoming an even better racer next season.

  4. #4
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    Not sure how old you are?

    The reason that I ask this is the following:

    There are exceptions to the rule, but just beware. If you are an older athlete (i'm not sure how old you are), often times younger coaches do not understand the needs of an older athlete (they have never gone thru the changes that happen as you age so they really do not understand them; and Like I said above, there are exceptions), but if you are an older athlete ask them questions about how they deal with the fact that you do not recover as well as a younger athlete will - that you need more rest time - and that people with more in their lives, i.e. jobs, children, etc. have different needs as well.

    Coaches need to understand that cumulative stress from our lives, i.e. jobs, children, etc. are part of the equation when we are training and adding physical stresses to the bundle of stresses. If you have lots of these stresses, you need more rest and less work. So, look for a coach that seems to have some idea when you are talking to them, that asks questions about your personal life and needs as well. If not, you may get in over your head with training and get burned out. Also, when you interview a coach, tell them how many hours you have to train - so that they can work your training around your abilities to work out. This is really important. If you find a coach that can help you balance these things - you've found a great coach!

    Finally, one of the other best kept secrets of coaching is "Can that Coach motivate you?" You need someone that can help keep the fire lit!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cassandra_Cain View Post

    While I've not worked with him directly, several folks I know have said positive things about Ric Stern - he is out of Wales in the UK and is very experienced with Power Training.
    This is just my opinion but from the posts I've read on another forum I'm not impressed with Mr. Stern. His personality appears to be one of -what I say is right and if you don't think the way I do you are an ignoramus. I would read his replies to people to see if you don't agree. He does appear to be educated and he backs up everything he says with a study done here or there. But as we all know there are many studies done and they all don't end up with the same conclusions. Training/athletics is not an absolute - but he purports them to be. As an example, he (rudely) tells people that single leg drills are of no value whatsoever unless you plan on riding with only one leg. I have read many articles written by trainers/coaches who say just the opposite. He doesn't even say that "in his opinion" they are of no value...he says it as an absolute. Well, my own training in physiology and kinesiology (even though many years ago) taught me that muscle memory is very important in training athletes. When I replied to one of his post stating this he said he didn't have time to discuss it and then never addressed the issue later. Again, this is just my opinion. You will now be returned to your regular broadcasting schedule...
    As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence." ~Benjamin Franklin

  6. #6
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    Eden - Bridget is on your team, isn't she? I've been to several of her coach-led bike skills/rides with Team Survivor.

    For where I am at, she is excellent! I learned so much from her this year, I am so grateful to her!

    But I'm not a racer, so can't say anything about how she'd be for you.

    (she's so good at teaching beginners and middlers, I would think she'd be great at any level)
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  7. #7
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    Hi Eden! This is a great question, and since I'm a coach, I'll share some thoughts.

    First, let me share my opinion about being coached by teammates. This might also apply to being coached by friends, spouses, co-workers, etc. Once someone becomes your coach, the former relationship you had with that person will undoubtedly change, and not neccessarily for the better. Before hiring someone you know to coach you, I would really assess your current relationship (and how valuable it is to you). Your roles will change. You may or may not be able to separate the new role (coach-client) from the old role (friends, etc). If you choose to enter a coach-client relationship with someone you know, spend some good quality time thinking about all parts of that relationship and then chatting with your potential coach about it as well.

    Since I know a little about you, Eden, I'll make some assumptions. If I'm wrong, correct me.

    Since you want to improve your racing, I think it's important that you find a coach who not only understands racing, but more importantly understands women's racing and more specifically, beginner women's racing in the Northwest. The demands of women's racing are very different than the demands of men's racing. Distances are different, paces are different, pack size is different, etc. You need to find a coach who will coach you specifically for the types of races you'll be doing (not the types of racing he or his male clients will be doing).

    For racing, I think it's important to find a coach who can actually observe you racing, which means finding a local coach. Luckily, there are lots of great coaches in your area, so you should have no trouble there. Racing performance is not only dictated by your fitness, but also your skills and your use of tactics, and it's important for your coach to be able to see this in a racing situation. Many coaches also have client rides and group workouts, so this would be another reason to find a local coach. There are also value-added services that many coaches provide -- bike fit, testing, skills coaching -- that a local coach can provide and an internet coach can't. If you don't have any coaches in your area (or any coaches you like), consider a coach who's out of the area but in a similar demographic.

    Don't get too caught up on your potential coach's personal race resume. I know some pretty incredible road coaches who aren't former pros or CAT1 racers. I think someone else mentioned this, but most former pros don't know how to teach others, don't have the background in exercise physiology to understand the demands of the sport and how to train them, and probably aren't the best coaches. There are a few exceptions to this, but I don't know many.

    Understand why you want to hire a coach. This is a super-important thought. Don't do it just because everyone else seems to have a coach. Sit down and list the reasons you think you need a coach. What will that person bring to the table for you? What are your expectations? How do you define the relationship? Then, share those thoughts with your potential coach candidates. They will respond in a way that will help you understand if the relationship is a good fit.

    Determine if you're coach-able. As a coach, there's nothing more frustrating that a client who really wants to be your client, but isn't coach-able. What makes someone uncoach-able? A schedule that's so restrictive that there's no time to train. Someone who will do whatever they want to do regardless of what the coach recommends. Someone who isn't willing to give up their cardio-kick-boxing class five times a week + their run three times a week + their swim four times a week + whatever else isn't really helping them become a better bike racer. Someone who won't communicate with their coach, complete a training journal, answer phone calls, or fulfill their part of the relationship. Remember, it's a relationship: coach:client.

    Interview lots of coaches. The interview process begins with your first contact. How long does it take someone to answer your email or phone call? Is it impossible to reach this person? Everyone gets busy from time to time, but if a potential is always too busy to interview, she's probably too busy to do a good job coaching you.

    During your interviews, you can determine if there's a relationship fit. Don't be afraid to ask any question -- a coaching relationship should be an honest relationship. I think "fit" is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a coach. Remember, you're making a long-term commitment to this relationship (most likely at least six months), so you want to make the right decision.

    Be willing to trust your new coach. You're paying good money for this person. So why wouldn't you listen to her? Trust, when she asks you to do something, that there's a good reason for it. Trust, when you don't see immediate results, that she will peak you for your goals in the spring/summer, not the training rides in December. Trust that she's always listening to you and has your best interests in mind.

    Don't hire a coach who is so popular that he won't have time for you. If you want personal attention, don't hire the most popular coach in the area. If you do, you might find that you never see that person.

    Take every reference with a grain of salt. Coaching references are tricky. I know some very bad coaches who continue to generate income as coaches because they have fancy websites, are good at marketing themselves, and no one dares give honest feedback about them. These bad coaches go through a constant stream of new clients because they can't retain the old clients. But no one wants to admit that they hired a lemon, so no one talks about it. Word of mouth is valuable, but always consider the source when you hear feedback (good or bad) about someone.

    Don't necessarily listen to the recommendations you receive on a public forum, bulletin board, or email group. People are name-droppers. Half the time someone makes a recommendation, they haven't even met the person they're recommending. They just want to contribute to the conversation and probably think they'll sound cool for dropping the name they just dropped. 2nd or 3rd hand recommendations (what I call the "friend of a friend" are basically useless).

    Also remember that most cycling clients don't really know a lot about coaching. I've found that if someone hasn't worked with a coach before, and now they're following a training plan, they'll improve no matter how good the coach is. Why? First, they have some accountability, so they're probably training more consistently than they did in the past. Also, just by doing things differently than they did in the past, they'll create positive adaptations. So, just by virtue of having a coach, not necessarily the actual training program, a client will improve.

    But client performance alone isn't always the indicator of a good coach. One of my very first clients became a national champion in our first year working together. She attributes it to our relationship and the training I developed for her. While I think that's great, she was also a genetically gifted individual, with a background in competitive sports and a huge desire to succeed. And while I'd love to take credit for her national championship, I know that she probably could've attained the same result with any coach. Just because someone is coaching a super-star doesn't make that person a great coach.

    The long and short of it is that the best coach for you is someone who will be attentive to you, treat you as an individual, and help you define and achieve your goals. That person might be local -- they may not be. That person might have a similar background or maybe they don't. But the most important thing is that you respect that person, trust them, and communicate openly with them. After that, you're almost guaranteed to be successful.
    Last edited by velogirl; 10-09-2006 at 11:08 PM.

  8. #8
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    Wow, velogirl, that's a good advice.
    It almost made me wish I was living near you so I could ask you to coach me

    To be honest, I never had a coach, up till so far I have been doing what I believe was good and I have a good book with (women specific) training schedules which I use. I have been thinking about it but then it would have to be through the club where I am riding since I can't really afford a personal coach.
    There is one club which I am considering of joining and they have woman who used to be in the national team (during the uprise of Leontien van Moorsel) and has a trainerslicense. She now gives trainingsession and trainingadvice to women that want to race or are beginning to race but she is not really a coach.

  9. #9
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    wow Velogirl, I hope you have that in a brochure somewhere Very good advise and extremely well written!

    I too wish you were closer!

    Trac'

  10. #10
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    Have you read Joe Friel's "The Cyclist's Training Bible"? You can purchase this for $22.95, and come up with some pretty sound training. I read this before my first season of racing this year, and felt that it really helped me to focus my training as I followed the advice and planning outlined. There is also a women's-specific chapter...

    Now, I was able to supplement this with coaching for my women's team through my local club, which also helped. You might want to consider this purchase/read though if you are looking for some advice on training.

    Of course, the hard part is that you have to follow the advice yourself, without another person actually pushing you .

    Good luck, and let us know what you decide!

    SheFly

  11. #11
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    Shefly brings up a good point. I actually recommend athletes read Friel even if they are working with a coach -- it helps them understand a bit of the methodology that most coaches use.

    If you decide to self-coach, one thing I've done in the past is have a training buddy -- someone who reveiws my training journal, provides feedback, and keeps me honest -- and I do the same for her. I don't recommend this unless one or both of you have a pretty good sense of what you're doing, but it's another alternative.

    BTW, coaching is probably not as expensive as most of you think. Like just about anything in life, you get what you pay for. I've seen online coaching packages as inexpensive as $25/month and I know other coaches who charge up to $450/month. Most coaches fall toward the middle of that range.

    Usually you'll find the coaches who charge in the $200+ range are coaching full-time and working with fewer athletes (good for the athletes). Those charging at the low end are either hobbyists (ie they have another full-time job and just coach for fun, which means you don't get their full-time attention), or they coach huge numbers of clients (ie CTS) so you don't get very personalized attention either.

    If cycling/coaching is a priority, you'll find a way to rationalize the expense. Maybe you substitute a month of Starbucks for a month of coaching (probably about the same price). Or dinner out once a week for a month of coaching.

  12. #12
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    Wow, Velogirl's comments are great!

    I want to echo one of her comments - about not focussing on the coach's race resume. More important is whether the coach can watch and learn from you as to what it is you really need and then if he or she can put commnets into a description that you can follow. One of the best coaches I've worked with, Mike Cox, isn't necessarily a super fast or super long distance rider. But literally every time I ride with the guy, even when he isn't actually "coaching" me, I learn something about bike handling, timing of power moves, etc. When I do ride with him for actual coaching, he just has a way of making things somehow more clear.

    It's hard to describe. But I guess what I'd suggest is to see if you can ride with a potential coach as sort of a preview (paying for the time, of course). But see how the coach actually works with you - is the coach watching you and learning from you what it is that you need? Can you understand the comments and instruction? How do you "fit" with the coach?

    Have fun! Good luck!
    Sarah

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  13. #13
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    Thanks Velogirl,
    Thats all really great advice. I definitely don't think I want to go with an out of a book, self coaching. We have lots of books and I can read them all I want and process the information fine, but they can never offer the feedback or the expectations that another person can. One of my team mates was telling me her boyfriend had a coach for years, then decided after all of that time he should be able to put together his own training. Got the Friel book, planned it all out, spent hours putting spreadsheets together, and then with no one to be accountable to never followed through. So this year he's going back to his coach... I think I can be accountable to myself, but it sure won't hurt if I have to report to someone either. Plus, I really think that its difficult to objectively measure your own progress. My husband always sets his goals too high so usually dissapoints himself. I'm afraid I may not set mine high enough? One of my biggest hurdles I think is that I don't know what to expect from myself if that makes any sense.

    I plan to go with a local coach and I guess I'm not terribly worried about hiring a friend - the women on the team who coach are all at higher levels than I am so I know them in passing at best and we had 98 members on the team this year!

    The one I've been leaning towards joined the team late in the year, and while she has just gotten into road racing recently (she will upgrade soon I'm sure), she's been doing track for some time. She owns a rehab/coaching business and there is another certified cycling coach there as well, so I suppose there is a possibility that the other person would work with me as well. Their coaching service is reasonably priced and they sponsor the team, so its better for us as well. Their background being rehab the coaching package includes a lot of other services as well - fitting, physiological testing, pedal stroke analysis etc. They could be a risk as well though. They've been in the rehab business for some time, but I think coaching services they offer are relatively new.

    I think we have at least 3 other personal coaches on the team. Two of them I know little if at all and one I shared a cabin with her and 4 other team mates at one race so I know her a little. She's a cat 2 on the road and used to race pro downhill otherwise though, so I don't ever race with her. I understand from others that she does coach that she's very good at teaching technical skills and we have her do our cornering clinic every year.

    I should look into outside coaches as well I'm sure, but its so difficult to tell anything from web sites. Of course everyone wants to say they are the best and put up glowing references. I've started looking at the list of local USA Cyclilng certified coaches to see what other options I might have. One reason I have for going with a team member is that they are all women and they know what its like to be in my place.

    Right now I think I'm in a good position to be a client. I just go laid off so I have lots of free time and no excuses. I don't think I'm going to be in any big rush to change that either. I know that I would train better with some structure to what I'm doing and I don't think that I'm going to improve without training better. I know I'm not one of these physically gifted people who can go from beginner to pro in a year. As far as I'm concerned the only reason that I did well this year is because I started reasonably fit, I was able to devote lots of time to training last winter, I had the time and endurance to race a lot during the season, and I understand at least some of the physics of a pack - I know that I am not the strongest rider out there, but I can stick with a group that drops stronger folks than myself, because I have some understanding of where and when to be. I'll be expected to upgrade sooner or later - I will and, I think need, to start next season as a 4, but I don't want to be one of those perpetual 4's who always comes in high and everyone grumbles needs to upgrade either. The next step is unfortunately up with everyone else. Our fields run 4's separate and 1's, 2's, 3's together so I'll have to be stronger if I expect to even keep up.

    Anyway that was kind of long and rambling, but it will be the kind of stuff I expect I'll want to discuss with a coach so it's good practice I guess...
    Last edited by Eden; 10-10-2006 at 10:05 AM.
    "Sharing the road means getting along, not getting ahead" - 1994 Washington State Driver's Guide

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  14. #14
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    I agree with everything you say, Eden. You're on the right track.

    Don't forget, you can spend time interviewing potential coaches as well. Remember you're hiring them (not the other way around). Meet with them in person or on the phone. Let them know you're interviewing a number of coaches. Be very clear in your intentions, what you expect, what you need, etc.

    I personally think that finding a good personality match is one of the most important factors in finding a coach. This doesn't imply that you're looking for someone just like you, but rather someone whom you can respond to and someone who can respond to you.

    Oh, and if you're wondering, I've almost always had a coach in my cycling career, even though I could easily coach myself -- for many of the same reasons you mention -- objectivity, accountability, another pov, etc.

  15. #15
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    thanks for a great thread

    Thanks Eden and Velogirl for a great thread on coaching!

    I used the Cyclist's Training Bible for a year to coach myself and learned alot. This year in mid-season I was cycling with the local club and connected with a former competitive cyclist who has ended up being my coach. The second half of my season was just amazing and a lot of it had to do with the advice I got and the adjustments to my training program that my coach has made.

    Velogirl, your summary about coaching was terrific and would make for a great article in a cycling magazine. I think your points about understanding why you would want a coach and if you are actually coachable are really important. My coach really took the time to understand my goals and then asked me do things like rest more than I wanted to and give up other activities (running in certain races or riding with my hammerhead friends every Sunday, for example) that would be counterproductive to my overall goals. I took her advice to heart and it has really paid off for me. Everything from my bike handling skills to my time trial times have improved significantly this year.

    Eden, congrats on an awesome season and good luck finding the right coach!

    -traveller
    "It never gets easier, you just go faster." -- Greg LeMond

 

 

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