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Coach’s Desk: What is Your Biggest Coaching Mistake?

Our new monthly series featuring a Q&A with some of TrainingPeaks' top coaches.

Every month we will offer valuable insights, advice and anecdotes from TrainingPeaks coaches around the world to help you learn from one another, grow your business and fine-tune your coaching techniques. For this installment, we asked five coaches the following questions:

What are 3 things you wish you could tell yourself as a newbie coach and what is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made as a coach?

Andrew Simmons

  1. “Don’t rush the process of getting clients. It’s hard to see the point where you’ll be picking and choosing clients or turning away someone who isn’t the right fit. This will happen naturally, give it time and space.”
  2. “It’s okay to make mistakes! Be honest with your clients! Confidence is huge but you can’t fake what comes with experience. Your methods, communication and coaching style will change as you mature as a coach. Your clients would much rather hear ‘let me do some research and get back to you’ versus ‘I don’t know.'”
  3. “Rest and recovery are so important to your client planning. Each athlete recovers in different ways and at different rates. No one is cookie cutter, so don’t give them what you give someone else. Some athletes can run easy on recovery days and feel great, and some people need complete days off—some people just need yoga. But everyone needs someone to tell them it’s okay to chill out. You need to always work in the best interest of the client.”

“My biggest mistake was not thinking that I would make mistakes, or that I was unflappable and knew every answer. Since I started coaching I have been fortunate enough to have athletes who 1.) challenged me and required significant research 2.) required me to reach out to colleagues and other trusted coaches and 3.) made me question their sanity (kidding!). If you’re thinking about being a coach, having a good sense of humor and a little humility will go a long way. The human body is an amazing tool that can frustrate you and your athlete. Knowing that you’re going to make mistakes, that you’re going to say something that may be misinterpreted, and that you’re not going to get it right every time is paramount to your longevity as a coach. Coaching is not for people who think that results happen overnight and that one cycle of training will always lead to massive improvements in every corner. My closing piece of advice is to make sure to tell your clients to be kind to their older self, don’t let one training cycle determine if they are the best marathon runner, worst swimmer, or world’s most-mediocre mountain biker.”

Joe Friel

  1. “Listening to clients is more important than talking to them.”
  2. “You can’t help everyone. Decide who you can help the most and seek out those people as clients.”
  3. “Everything you consider for an athlete’s training must be unique to that athlete.”

“My biggest mistake is that at times I was overly focused on the science of training at the expense of the art of coaching.”

Mike Ricci

  1. “Be more organized. Being more organized with athlete schedules would have helped a ton and using a platform like TrainingPeaks was essential for organization and for growing my business.”
  2. “Don’t worry about the mistakes you’re about to make—you’ll learn from them and you’ll be a better coach because of it.”
  3. “Trust your intuition more than anything else you read out there. Have a reason why you want to do something, but don’t rely on other people’s experiences all the time.”

“My biggest mistake was taking on too many athletes. I learned that my sweet spot is about 10 to 12 at a time—and it’s made my life and my coaching much better!”

Taylor Thomas

  1. “All business is not good business. Whether it’s partnerships, athletes or whatever—make sure it is a good fit.”
  2. “Good partnerships are key. Don’t try to go it alone. Work with people that support you and help you reach your goals as a coach.”
  3. “Don’t be too protective. Share ideas and content freely with others. Work toward building a supportive community—not toward isolating yourself.”

“My biggest mistake is that I spent too much time early on chasing opportunities I knew deep down weren’t positive or worth my time. When you’re starting a new business, or really struggling to grow, you’ll often push aside your gut feeling to pursue something that may not be the best fit in the interest of money or growth potential. I wish I would have stuck to my guns and trusted my instincts more in the beginning. I could have put that energy somewhere positive and made much more progress.”

Ben Day

  1. Be the best coach you can be and delegate the rest to experts. They’re faster at the billing, marketing, accounting and designing than you are!
  2. The relationship with your athlete is hugely important, but it’s not just give, give, give. There has to be balance and respect for both parties. This is a job of passion, don’t let either party ever think of it as just a “duty” or a financial transaction. And don’t just be a friend.
  3. Be open minded. Listen, collaborate, challenge yourself and your athletes. No one book, no one expert, no one experience, no one class is going to give you all of the answers for everything you encounter. You must stay humble yet confident, and learn to deal with each individual athlete and their unique circumstances.

“The biggest mistake I made was to underestimate the importance of clear agreements and contracts with the people I was working with.”

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The staff at TrainingPeaks includes passionate athletes, coaches and data enthusiasts. We’re here to help you reach your goals through deliberate practice, innovative training and tools to keep you achieving.