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Are You Ready to Be Coached?

Assess your readiness to ensure you’ll actually benefit and grow from the experience.

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Whether you’re looking to learn the ropes or level up your skills, a triathlon coach can help you achieve your goals–with one caveat. Hiring a coach only works if the athlete is ready to be coached. Being coached requires a substantial amount of time and effort (and often, money). To get the most out of your investment, it’s best to take an honest assessment of the behavior and mindset required to reap the benefits of coaching. Ask yourself: “Am I ready to be coached?”

RELATED: 6 Things Triathlon Coaches Secretly Hate

Chances are, your coach is asking the same question about you. “As I interview an athlete, I always look at character and fit before their competency in sport or ability to achieve their goal,” said Matt Smith of Sansego. This sentiment rings true across the sport–when several triathlon coaches were asked about the traits they look for when assessing an athlete’s readiness to be coached, not one said “speed” or “podium potential.” Instead, here’s what they look for:

Communication Style

“Communication is important,” said Jesse Vondracek of Top Step Training. “Coaching is as much an education for the athlete as it is prescribed workouts. When an athlete communicates all the aspects of their life, including work, family, commute times, social obligations, and sleep habits, I can tailor a plan to make it perfect for them, not perfect for someone living in a vacuum. I need to know how each workout felt, not just the power and heart rate.”

Are you ready to be coached?

If you’re the type to simply download your data after a workout without added information, hiring a coach may not be for you. Instead, consider following a straightforward training plan instead. If you need accountability, share your workout data on a social platform.

Humility

In a sport like triathlon, “humility” can be seen as a dirty word. After all, there’s a significant amount of ego that comes with training for not one, but three sports. But a coach-athlete relationship has no room for ego–on either side. “Humility goes for the coach too,” said Alyssa Godesky of Biscay Coaching. “Being able to check your ego at the start will help you form a relationship that will be built on things like trust, accountability, and communication–pillars of success for any relationship, especially one where you work as a team to get after some big goals.”

Are you ready to be coached?

If you’re the type to go off-plan (say, putting in tempo efforts when a workout explicitly calls for easy miles) or second-guess a coach’s philosophy by searching for contradicting information online, that’s a good sign you’re not ready to put your trust in someone else. If you think you know more than a coach, why would you spend money for their advice? Fly solo until you hit a plateau–then come to a coach with a willingness to try it their way.

RELATED: Quiz: Finding The Right Triathlon Coach

Tolerance for Discomfort

A good coach will push you outside of your comfort zone–and that’s a good thing. Trying something new means you’ll likely struggle at first, and not everyone is suited for that brand of agitation. You must be willing to endure periods of discomfort to realize the rewards of taking new and different approaches. “Training isn’t rocket science, but it is science,” said Godesky. “You have to come into a relationship with a coach with trust in their plan and the patience to let it do its thing.”

Are you ready to be coached? 

Successful coaching requires you to embrace new ways of doing things, even if you struggle at first. Are you willing to try, fail, learn, and try again? Your answer can reveal a lot about your readiness to be coached. 

Consistency

“Work ethic is an important factor,” said Smith. “Are you willing to make some sacrifices and train consistently?” Though a coach’s job is to make a training plan fit into the athlete’s life, it’s harder to do when an athlete is unable or unwilling to carry out the plan.

Are you ready to be coached?

Picture the sacrifices you are–and aren’t–willing to make in the name of consistency. Are you willing to wake up early for a pre-work swim session? Run every day while you’re on vacation? Do strength work, even if you find it boring? Discuss your barriers to consistency with any potential coach to determine if your schedule and work ethic are the right fit.

Honesty

“Dishonesty is the hardest trait to overcome,” said Vondracek. “When an athlete starts telling me half-truths, I know we are on a slippery slope. If for some reason an athlete is not willing to give me all the information, it is impossible for me to do my job to the best of my ability.” 

Are you ready to be coached?

Are you the type of person who is always “fine,” even when you’re not really fine? Being coached requires a certain degree of vulnerability. If you’re scared to admit you struggled with a workout or haven’t been sleeping due to stress, coaching may not be for you. Ditto for making “adjustments” to your data before uploading or bending the truth about your performance.

Responsibility

“If an athlete chooses to blame a poor performance on a former coach, race official, other athletes, the weather, or their bike not being aero enough, it tells me they aren’t willing to accept responsibility for their own results and training,” said Smith. “This erodes trust in the coach, and also does not allow for accountability in the process.”

Are you ready to be coached?

A good coach will hold you accountable for making progress–if the thought of that makes your hackles rise, consider whether you want a coach or a scapegoat.

The Bottom Line

If you’re not ready for a coach now, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a lifetime of training solo. “Being coachable is actually a skill, which is great, because you can develop it,” said Godesky. “Just like getting stronger and faster physically, you can develop better communication habits, spend time focusing on self-reflection and evaluation, and practice not bringing in extraneous outside opinions. These are all ways to hone in on becoming more coachable.”