The Value of a Triathlon Coach

A coach talking to his athletes
December 15, 2016

D3 Staff


There has been a lot of debate among age group athletes about the necessity or reason to hire a coach. For those that need guidance or the extra motivation, it is a must. Others may scoff at hiring a coach as a waste of money as you really need to just swim, bike and run. Those athletes have a hard time justifying the rates that a good coach may charge. I hear comments like “just train” or “I know how to swim, bike and run, so why waste my money?” or “I can read a book and do my own planning.”

So, where does the true value of a coach lie? What makes a good coach can not easily be defined. Technical knowledge, availability, personality and price all come into the picture. But beyond that, there is the art of coaching. Not to sound all mysterious or mystic, but there is more than just understanding periodization, memorizing some terminology and setting up a website.

The best way I can describe the art of coaching, and the justification for the cost is something I heard while I was watching a TV show called ?Build or Bust? on the Speed Channel. In the program they take a relatively mechanically inclined person, give them all the parts needed to build a motorcycle and 30 days to build it. If they get it done, it?s theirs, if not, they go home empty handed. The builder does get some help and advice from the shop owner, but it is limited. During one episode that went bust, the owner made a comment that I think really applies to triathlon coaching as well. What he said was, ?People ask me how I can charge $75,000 dollars for a custom bike. I tell them that the value of the bike is not just in it?s parts, but in the builders ability to put it all together. The knowledge it takes to build one of these takes years to learn, and that is what customers pay for. The average guy, even one with good mechanical skills, can?t just walk in and build one of these machines.?

When I heard that, I immediately thought of triathlon. Most athletes understand the concepts of base work, build phases, speed work, strength, tapering, racing and recovery. But how many triathletes can take all of those separate parts and put it together to make a complete, effective plan? On top of that add in the objective opinion a coach gives you. It?s like giving someone all the parts and saying ?put it together, and do it right?. When you hire a coach, you are hiring someone who knows how all the parts fit together. Unlike building a motorcycle, a coach has to also be flexible and be able to build the bike several ways. Not all athletes have the same physiology, goals, or time, so each athlete is like building a custom bike. Sure, all the parts are the same, but how they come together will differ greatly. In addition, bikes don?t get injured, or have sudden travel plans that throw a wrench in the plan (pun intended).

This is why reputable one on one coaching is costlier than if you were to purchase a generic one size fits all plan. When you hire a personal coach, you get someone who can modify your plan when something disrupts your plan. You also get a sounding board, and someone who knows when to tell you to back off some and when to push yourself. Yes, the costs may be greater in a monetary sense, but the rewards of racing to your best is priceless.

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