Dear Coach: How Do I Break Up With My Triathlon Coach?
Hiring a coach is smart, but it’s important to ensure the relationship will work out. If it doesn’t, you need an exit strategy.
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Managing the relationship with a triathlon coach can be a little like dating. You might find someone online, send a few messages, maybe meet up for a coffee to get to know each other. At first, you might be really excited about your future together. But then, as things progress, it might be clear to you there is no future. Maybe you’re not seeing the results you wanted, or perhaps your communication styles don’t match up. Or maybe “it’s not you, it’s me” is the reason – and that is totally understandable, too. Sometimes things just don’t work out. It’s just as true for age-group triathletes as it is for pros. Case in point: Sam Long, who recently revealed on YouTube that he fired his coach.
“I am my own coach now,” Long said in the video. “After Oceanside, I made the executive decision that I had to fire Dan Plews, as it just wasn’t the right fit for me.”
Do you find yourself wanting to cut ties with a coach who just isn’t working out? Here’s our best advice to avoid a messy breakup.
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Before you get started
Ask yourself: “Am I ready to be coached?” A coach isn’t for everyone. Take some time to ask yourself the important questions (specifically, these important questions) about your willingness and readiness for the coach-athlete relationship.
Remove preconceived notions. You need time to establish a connection and sort out communication styles — try a minimum of three months. Making arbitrary deadlines in your mind — “If I don’t win my next race after hiring this coach, I’m done” — isn’t logical or fair.
Set expectations up front. How often will you communicate? Review this person’s coaching philosophy before hiring — does it mesh with your beliefs and experiences? If not, are you truly willing to try something different?
Agree on an endpoint. If your goal race is four months away, identify up front that you plan to rest and reassess for the next race after its successful completion so you don’t feel obligated to someone indefinitely.
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Reasons to consider a breakup
Lack of communication. First, remember that communication starts with you. Your coach can’t change the plan if he or she doesn’t know there’s a problem to begin with. That said, a turnaround time of 24 hours is certainly reasonable, less if it’s something with a time constraint. A consistent lack of response or lack of engagement isn’t acceptable.
Lack of individualization. The whole reason you hired a coach was to address your specific strengths and weaknesses. If you’re paying for an individualized plan, it should have a clear focus on your best path to improvement.
Lack of purpose. A coach should be able to clearly articulate the reasons for a specific workout or training block when asked.
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How to break up with your coach
Tailor your approach. For a long-distance, casual relationship, a simple, short explanation of why you’ve decided to go another way should suffice. However, if your coach is a friend, training partner, or mentor with whom you’re working closely and seeing regularly in person, you owe them and yourself more than a text breakup!
Be honest. Being honest yet tactful can ultimately be helpful if phrased right. Putting a little of the onus on yourself can get the message across while preserving the relationship. For example, “I feel like you’re ignoring my emails and phone calls” can be phrased as “I’ve realized frequent communication is important to me, and I need someone more available.”
Remember roses and thorns. If your coach wasn’t the right fit but had your best interests in mind, soften the blow with a rose and a thorn. Give credit for something positive (“I appreciate your wealth of knowledge”), while explaining your reason (“I just need someone more hands-on”).
Also, remember that while triathlon is a big community, the world of coaching is small and tight-knit. Who knows? You may seek out the services of your current coach’s training partner or best friend in the future. You want to ensure you meet your own needs and also preserve your reputation as someone fair and good to work with.
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