As I have been deeply involved in coaching business in the last few years, I would like to share my thoughts on triathlon coaching business, which is getting bigger and bigger. However, the quality of coaching is questionable.
Let me start this writing with a story that happened a few weeks ago. Our company got a phone call from a potential customer who was interested in personal coaching. We explained him how does the coaching look like and told him the price for an hour with a well educated, experienced and successful coach. The price was not the highest and not the cheapest in the region/business. The same person called us next day again. He told us he found a half cheaper coach and therefore didn’t wish to use our services.
That decision was perfectly acceptable for us. However, about a week later he called us again an asked for our head coach. To come to the point – the athlete had gone to the cheaper personal coach but wasn’t satisfied as that personal coach couldn’t really advise him. Moreover, the athlete on the phone wanted us to give him a short advice on the phone (for free, of course). But would take a few more lessons with a cheaper coach as it was cheaper….
… later we found out that the cheaper coach was not even a coach but an “experienced” athlete with part-time job who earned some pocket money with “coaching.”
The final price of coaching service consists of:
- the salary of a coach
- the social contributions
- taxes (incl. VAT)
- the insurance
- the fee for the use of the facility and the admission fee to the facility
- the training tools
- the further education of the coach
- costs for administration and accounting
- advertising (website…)
I have probably forgotten something, but I believe it illustrates the situation.
In our company the coach’s salary is about 50 % of the final price.
The “coaches” who coach illegally, meaning not paying for the use of facility (they usually tell their athletes not to tell anybody they are coaches, but friends), not issuing the invoices (taxes!), having no education (often also no knowledge) can afford to be half cheaper.
The funny thing is, that those “coaches,” who are half cheaper then real coaches, are still charging too much for what they offer. Which is still better then some coaches, who are coaching illegal, have no education, no experience but charge high prices. And yes, people like that exist.
If you want to charge high prices, you absolutely can, but you must make big promises. Similarly, if you want to charge low prices, you must make small promises.
The Definition if a Coach
There are coaches, wannabe coaches and self-named coaches. I will try to explain the difference among those three categories.
If we take a look at the Wikipedia’s definition of a coach, we can read, that:
“In sports, a coach is a person involved in the direction, instruction and training of the operations of a sports team or of individual sportspeople.”
If we scroll down the Wikipedia page we can read the descriptions of different sport arts in some countries. And now, the most important, all the listed countries connect the professional coach to the coaches education, for. example in the UK:
“In June 2008, the Sports Councils together with the national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) formally adopted the UK Coaching Framework at the UK Coaching Summit in Coventry. More than 30 sports now have their coach education programmes endorsed as meeting the standards of the UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) as an indication of quality assurance. Typically, such programmes classify coaches within Levels 1-4, with Level 2 being the minimum standard for someone to coach unaccompanied. Coach education programmes are usually organised centrally by the NGBs but delivered locally to meet the needs of volunteer coaches. For anyone wanting to become a coach in a particular sport, the NGB website provides the first point of contact for further information.”
To sum up: a coach is not only a person, who instructs a sports team or an individual athlete,a coach is also a person, who should be well educated to do so.
In my opinion, the best combination that a really good coach can have, is a mixture of practical experience, meaning he/she was an athlete by him/herself, not necessary a very good one, and the theoretical background which the one can get through the education. And experience of course, preferably an apprenticeship with an successful coach.
The education can vary from country to country. In some countries, there is a study programme offered at the faculty of sports, in other countries there are private or state courses for coaches. Probably there is some kind of coaching education programme offered in every country in the world. Many countries even support the coaches’ education with scholarships and subventions. For example my country. However, there are still many “coaches” who don’t attend the courses, probably because they wouldn’t pass the final exam or the have enough customers.
Going back to the previous paragraph where I stated, a coach must have a practical experience as an athlete. I don’t claim he/she must have a professional athlete experience. Far from that. However, I personally believe it is of greatest importance to know how it feels to practice sports. The pain, the crisis, the good feeling, the moments of joy and moments of disappointment.
The theoretical background gives you important information about the anatomy, you learn how the humans body functions, about the muscle functions, metabolic system, hormone system, etc. You know what I mean.
At the moment when the literature is written, there are new methods and experience discovered. Therefore being on a sports scene, reading the newest literature, and talking to other coaches is a must.
The Triathlon Coaches incl. Examples
In triathlon the situation is even more complicated. There are three different sports: swimming, cycling and running. Three different technical issues, three different sport, that a coach must know. But in triathlon, everybody can name her/him a coach. However, there are different typed of self-named coaches and I will try to describe some of the types.
The typical representative of the first group is a former (half)professional athlete (either triathlete or an athlete in one of the three sports), who needs to earn some money after the sports career. He/she usually has no theoretical background or official education. But he/she can coach, because of his/her rich practical experience and people get coached from them. If you were good, you can teach. But wait – those athletes didn’t train then by themselves. They had a coach…
In the second group there are (wannabe)professional triathletes, who don’t earn enough financial resources with their professional career (read: are not good enough to get prize money) and need to live somehow (read: don’t have rich parents, who would tolerate adult children to do their hobby and don’t go to work). Also this group of “coaches” usually doesn’t have any education, they just make a website and name themselves a coach.
Sometimes there is an individual coming out of one of the two groups who has a potential to become a good coach by signing to the sports faculty or other school for coaches. If he/she also has a personality of a coach, he/she can get successful.
The third group. The representative is usually an age-group triathlete with low amount of experience, low success and pays a personal coach by him/herself. And he/she realises that triathlon is an expensive sport so he/she decides to coach beside his/her (part)time job. The worst category – no practical experience, no education. This group is the most dangerous of all – that kind a coach has usually no idea what wrong training can lead to (read injuries). But wait, if someone is so stupid to hire a coach from this group it is probably his/her fault? The very first section of this article is about that kind of coach.
It is getting more optimistic. The typical representative of fourth group is a person, who studied sport science. Great background, everyone should have it! However, it is a pity because he/she has a broader knowledge in only one sports discipline (let’s say cycling). But he/she studied sports which means he/she has officially knowledge in all sport disciplines. But wait: video-analysis and stroke correction in swimming? He/she can do it, of course, absolutely no problem. But the question is how? However, if that kind of coach is willing to either educate him/herself in all disciplines and get more knowledge or cooperate in a specialist on the area, where he/she has a deficit, it can lead to a great coach. If not…
Coming to the fifth group. The representative would be non-athlete, who educated him/herself for a coach. A lot of diligence was needed as he/she never practised any of disciplines. An education without a practice…
I hope the athlete from the story written in the beginning of a article will not call again. According to our experience, the next call would look like: hello, I visited my doctor because I had pain in _____ (insert any part of a human body) and the doctor advised me to correct the technique. And at the end, that athlete would either quit sports or pay large amount of money for therapies and a coach to learn him how to perform his/her sports correctly.
Some countries have rules that the one who teaches/coaches (usually children) must reach a certain level of education otherwise he/she is not allowed to coach. Some countries don’t and an athlete must find a good coach out of large pool of coaches. I hope those athletes are reading this article and won’t go for the cheapest, uneducated and inexperienced coach. For your health.