Andrew Raynor Dover New Hampshire NH

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So, You Want To Be A Triathlon Coach?

Andrew Raynor Dover

By Robbie Bruce for Crushing Iron

“What is it like to be a triathlon coach?”

I get this question all the time from both athletes, friends and complete strangers. Some are interested in actually becoming a coach and some are just curious about what exactly you do when being coach is your full-time job versus just a hobby.

They see that I get to work from home, wear whatever I want, be flexible with my hours, etc. They get to see the great results on social media and how great our team does. You get to make peoples dreams come true!!!! Sounds easy and amazing right??? You work in your pajamas and help people achieve dreams! Sign me up!!! While most of that is true it is still just about 10% of what really goes on.

This is what coaching is really like:

Imagine for a minute, every single one of your closest friends felt totally comfortable and open enough to tell you anything and everything. When they were having great days or terrible days. When their relationship was perfect or when they were breaking up or even going through a devastating divorce. When they loved their job, when they hated their job or even lost it.

They also tell you when they got the job of their dreams and a pay raise that will change their life for the better. They told you when their struggles with depression were affecting their life in so many ways it was just hard to deal with. They text you to tell you about how hard it is to deal with a dying loved one or that someone had passed away.

They tell you the exciting news that they are having a baby! When they have unexpected illnesses or injuries that make them question all their training or even if they can accomplish their dreams and goals. They tell you they feel like a failure and are crying but they also tell you how incredible it feels to be so healthy and achieving things they never thought possible with tears in their eyes.

Now imagine you have about 80-100 close friends just like like that.

After that sinks in now pretend that every single one of those friends has also asked you to help them achieve a huge goal that they have admitted they cannot do themselves. They need help and guidance. They have trusted you to help them get there.

So now it is your job to construct a plan each week that not only pushes them to be better but also sets them up for success versus setting them up for failure. You map out a weekly plan and then you listen, watch, and wait. Every day. You read their comments. You hear their voices either on the phone or the tone in their texts and emails. Are they tired? Are they overtraining? Possibly overreaching? Do they really need a day off or a cancelled session or is it time to see how they can adapt and respond? Then you either hold pattern or make and adjustment. That’s Monday….

Most every other day of the week is the same Mon-Fri. But when Thursday rolls around its time for some of those close friends and athletes to start getting ready and prepared to race. Some races are just stepping stones and others….. well…… they are lifelong goals and dreams. There are nerves, questions, concerns, doubts, etc. Every day. You guide them and do your best to help them navigate the best they can.

Then, for race day, you lay out a plan you believe will give them the best chance to succeed.

Imagine building a car from scratch with you child or best friend. You don’t ever touch the car physically you just give them the instructions on how to build it and watch them put it together piece by piece. Then one day you both open up the garage. You hand the keys over and they leave with that car for hours, and hours and hours while you just sit and wait in the garage in silence. That is what race day week feels like. You just sit and wait.

After race day you get back to work. Some things go great and some times we fall short. You don’t need to tear down the whole car and build it again but you are always looking for ways to improve. When the athlete performs great and meets all of their expectations you give them all the credit. They did the work. If things fall short then you remind them that “WE” fell short. Its a relationship. You do this together.

Then Monday rolls around again and you get back at it.

I often times really wonder if athletes and some coaches understand the difference between coaching and “training.” Personally I see them as very different. If you deliver a plan weekly or monthly to an athlete but have little to no contact and communication on training and most importantly life….. you are just training an athlete.

You are a trainer. You are not coaching the person. I am sure there are some people that will argue with me on this and thats fine. But believe me, there are A LOT of trainers out there disguising themselves as “coaches.” I understand that coaching means different things to different people and honestly I don’t think that aspiring coaches understand the mental, emotional and physical investment that goes into actually training the athletes AND coaching the person.

So let me tell you what coaching means to me.

Coaching is first and foremost caring. You care more about your athlete as a person than the results they produce on the race course. Results are expected but they are not the only metric for success. You coach athletes in a way to make them more sufficient on their own and NOT more dependent on you. You listen when times get tough and you provide a steady hand when their training and motivation waiver. Coaching is a mutual and equal relationship where you are both valued and heard. Coaching is communication and the most important tool a coach has is just “paying attention.”

Believe me, I understand how wanting to become a coach seems attractive. Coach someone to their first Ironman???? What a great feeling! But those 10-15 hours are but a drop in the bucket for you and the athlete. But if you are really coaching then what you see at the end is the entire journey you will never forget instead of a finishing time you won’t remember next week.

So… do you still want to be a coach?


For a deeper understanding of Robbie’s coaching approach, please check out the podcasts below. For more information on C26 Coaching check our Coaching Page or email Robbie at C26Coach@gmail.com.

Andy Raynor Dover

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