Dear Coach: I’m about to hire a new coach, but what if we start working together and I decide I want to break up?
Managing the relationship with a triathlon coach can be a little like dating. Here’s my best advice to avoid a messy breakup.
Before You Get Started
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 his coaching philosophy before you hire him — does it mesh with your own beliefs and experiences? If not, are you truly willing to try something different?
Agree on an end point: 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.
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.
When It’s Time To Make The Call
Tailor your approach: For a long-distance, casual relationship, a simple, short explanation on 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 I’m a little bit needy and I need someone who’s 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 growing, 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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