Coaching Red Flags

So you’ve got a coach, and while you enjoy having a schedule laid out, you feel like there’s something missing from your $400 dollar monthly coaching package. Well, you could be right!

Here are some common red flags to look for while working with a running coach:

1. They don’t listen. Sure, your Coach may have many athletes to attend to, and all humans make errors from time to time (if this is the case, address it, forgive and forget!) but if you’ve verbalized an important race multiple times and your coach keeps forgetting, it’s time to look elsewhere. Do you keep mentioning your lingering shin pain, yet keep getting prescribed speed work? Time to talk. Have you said time and time again that weekends don’t work for your long runs, but they keep getting scheduled and left for you to move yourself? No dice! Listening isn’t hard, but that simple skill should definitely be a prerequisite for coaching.

2. No Response. We have contact guidelines for a reason here at Upper Left DT; everyone has to separate work and home, but the last thing we’d want is for you to be left hanging for long periods of time or to get no response at all to important questions. If your coach doesn’t respond to texts or e-mails in a timely fashion (hopefully by the guidelines they laid out when you started your relationship) then it’s something you should address. Part of hiring a Coach is having someone there for you when you have questions or need advice about the activity you’re passionate about. Expect responsiveness!

3. Lack of specificity. We can, and should, include all types of workouts into our training to ensure we hit multiple energy systems so we stay fast and fresh, but if you’re training for something like the White River 50 Mile Endurance Run and your Coach hasn’t put a single hill session or endurance focused, trail centric long run into your training plan, then they have no business guiding you through that 50 Mile training. Specificity is key and this goes hand in hand with listening.

4. They’re Self Centered. “I do this. I do that. I like to run like this. I like to eat that. When I was in Europe this worked for me…” No. Being coached isn’t about what your Coach or mentor likes or what works for them, being coached is about finding out what’s right for YOU. You are an individual. You are the focus. You are the athlete and your goals should be front and center while you work together with your Coach to reach them.

5. Egotism. This is by far my biggest pet peeve I see in the modern age of digital coaching: Coaches use their athlete’s success to bring attention to themselves and their coaching skills by bragging on social media to boost their “value” and inflate their ego. Sure, a good Coach feels pride when their athletes succeed and do amazing things, but a good Coach doesn’t seek fame or notoriety from that success. A professional Coach operates in the background, puts their athletes first and doesn’t feed off of constant recognition. The athlete comes first. End of story.

Now before you go ditching your Coach for another, try having a simple conversation about the issues you’re having. After all, a healthy coach/athlete relationship revolves around communication, trust and mutual respect – just like any other relationship. So, try talking it out first, but if you feel the issue doesn’t resolve, don’t be afraid to do what’s best for you! Having a coach is about having someone there to guide and support you through the grind of distance running, and sometimes, life.

Happy Trails