If you have been keeping a pulse on the tri industry, you will know that WTC (a.k.a Ironman) has broken into the coaching certification field and is now offering “Ironman University,” a 4-week, 100% digital, long course specific coaching certification program. Since coaching is what TSC does, I wanted to throw my two watts into the ring.
It is hard to say what makes a good triathlon coach mostly because it depends on the individual needs of an athlete. Some people prefer a coach who is as hard as nails and will make you “eat lightning so that you can crap thunder” to paraphrase Rocky Balboa’s coach, Mickey. While others prefer a coach who is a bit more understanding and compassionate to busy family schedules. The good coaches do both: they push you too the next level while being honest about your goals given your current limitations. Regardless of which type of coach you are or have, I can guarantee that you will not be made a coach in four weeks time just through an online program.
Like athleticism, coaching takes knowledge gained from a variety of sources. Triathlon coaches need a firm foundation in biomechanics, anatomy, and physiology. Equipped with this “book” knowledge and even some hands on experience of getting down and dirty in cadavers, we know which muscles are used for swimming and if you get an injury what is causing it and how to fix it. Book study though can only take you so far.
A good coach also needs experience in the sport be it first hand or years of coaching immersed in the the sport itself. Both Kevin and I (Chris) have seen a good deal of what is wrong and right with the sport and through this experience, we can answer the most basic questions (how do you stay on course in open water) and even the more esoteric problems (toe cramping for example).
Lastly (but certainly not least) a coach needs to understand the psychology of athletes. By being able to get into the minds of their athletes, coaches can walk with their athletes through their problems and in doing so break down those fear obstacles that are holding the athlete back from achieving his/her goals. Without diffusing these sometimes subconscious fears, true change will never occur. This psychological component to coaching is particularly true for swimming.
Coaching comes down to building a strong relationship with the athlete, without which an athlete is left not understanding what he/she needs to work on and not achieving the goals he/she hopes to achieve.
When you are picking out your coach do your research and look beyond the certification.
Coach Chris and Kev