Are Coaches Really Needed?

You know, I got to thinking the other day… who really needs a coach anyway? With the Internet and every downloadable workout schedule under the sun available for free why is a coach needed to tell runners what to do? It’s in front of them in black and white. Day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month – everything they need to do in order to successfully run a new Personal Record or Boston Qualifier.

I do meet runners and triathletes almost everyday who have the answers because they read it in Runners World or Triathlete or Bicycling magazines. And since they read the two page article on stretching, strengthening, tapering, injury avoidance, pacing, long run, interval, tempo, hill and heat and cold training – they most certainly have all the answers. Right?

Have you ever noticed that we runners tend to be a “do-it-yourself” lot. You won’t find too many self-coached tennis players, swimmers, gymnasts, wrestlers, basketball-baseball-football-soccer players, rowers – at almost any level of competition. What is interesting is that at the higher levels of the running performance spectrum – similar to these other sports – you also won’t find do-it-yourselfers.

So, why have a coach? Are they really needed?

I have always contended that coaching is not writing down a workout for someone to do. As already mentioned, workouts can be retrieved almost anywhere from anyone at anytime nowadays. What a coach does for someone is beyond that.

With quality communication between the coach and athlete, a coach can tailor workouts to fit the day/week/month/phase. Training programs should never be written in stone – followed to the Nth degree and without regard to other variables. This in fact is how so many runners plateau, do not perform like they want, and get injured. And for novices it is how to get someone turned off to running!

A coach knows how to tailor a workout to get the most on that given day from that athlete.

A coach has a variety of workout options to get to the end results.

A coach knows how to modify workouts due to environment or venue changes, mood, health and physical ailments.

A coach knows how to accelerate training or hold it back; on any given day or in any given phase of training.

A coach can prioritize workouts so that if one (or more) is missed for some reason – overall training is optimized.

A coach is a sounding board. Though we all like to think of ourselves as being objective, we really aren’t. It is through a coach that perspective and insights are gained that we would otherwise be blind to.

A coach can see things in the athlete that they cannot see themselves; this includes things such as their capacity to train, endure and go farther and faster than before.

A coach is a consultant to self-coached runners.

A coach is a cheerleader in your corner. They celebrate your successes, help you through tough or disappointing performances and share in the athletic experience.

And a coach is a confidant. This last role is something that I have realized over the years. In order to perform in athletics, it is not in isolation from the rest of life. Many years ago I didn’t really believe that. But to be there for your athletes as a confidant is also one way a coach can get their athletes back on task. There are times that everyone needs to be able to safely and in confidence, vent – spout off – commiserate. And until that is done the distractions and stresses of life adversely effects your athletic life. A coach helps to process them.

So, who needs a coach? The answer is – most of us.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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8 Responses to Are Coaches Really Needed?

  1. Christina says:

    Excellent post. I know that I need a coach to help me sort out all the running thoughts and feelings and add some reason.

  2. Jenn says:

    I’ve been contemplating getting a coach for a few weeks now. Any advice on finding the right coach?

  3. Dean Hebert says:

    Read this article I wrote on the topic of finding coaches.

    Hopefully that will give you some food for thought and at least a starting point.

  4. Rob N. says:

    Simple answer – yes

    Aside from all the above a Coach can help triage and filter the mass of sometimes conflicting information out there.

  5. Dean Hebert says:

    You know I never thought of that! Good one!

  6. run4change says:

    i love having a coach. makes so much difference as I tend to love to research but the more you research the more confliciting stuff you find. I don’t have time to devote to finding the properly validated approaches to use to keep running. This is my favorite part of a coach. Also, I guess the best thing is the added motivation and encouragement in such a solitary sport as ultra running. HAHAHAHA

  7. Dean Hebert says:

    OK, we have another… to pull you from a race before you do damage to yourself… and so you can live to race another day!

  8. Seoirse says:

    I don’t have a coach and I can’t see myself needed one just yet. Of course I would love to have the whole one to one aspect of a coach and the encouragement he/she can give.

    Of course I love to come here and read the latest tips and ideas but on a personal note, I don’t REALLY need one.

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