As a coaching professional, you have acquired a particular skillset and are an expert in a specific realm of endurance sports. However, how do you tackle issues that may arise for your athletes that fall outside of your band of expertise? Do you research the topic and tackle it yourself? Do you reach out to others in the community for assistance?
In an age of specialization among athletes, this trend follows into the coaching arena as well. Rather than attempting to be the catch-all for your athletes, a coach should build and establish a network of professional specialists for their coaching business.
By building a strong network of specialists to call on, you will provide a higher level of service to your athletes. Specialists may include dieticians, strength coaches, a sports psychologist, or a massage therapist, among many others.
Instead of learning some of these skills on the fly when it’s pertinent to your athletes and to their benefit, it’s best to find others who have spent years perfecting their craft, as you have with your own skillset.
Collaboration Will Bring More Success For Your Athletes—and For Your Business
“A good coach is like a good mechanic. The more specialists you have in your network, the more like you are to have the perfect tool for your client every time they need help,” said Jon Tarkington of Teton Consulting. By being collaborative with these specialists, you may find a cohesive environment where the two brands feed business to one another, thus growing your reach and your own business in the process.
Some may worry that sending their athletes to others would jeopardize their relationship with their client, calling their expertise into question, as well as potentially having this client “sniped” by those experts.
“I am thankful for the network of professionals that my coach and I have built in our time working together. Having access to such a team ensures that I am performing at my potential,” said an athlete I’ve worked with for several years.
By sending this athlete to others, I was able to push him to higher levels of athleticism and earned deeper trust along the way because he understood I wasn’t going to give him advice/training that was beyond the scope of my expertise.
While some coaches pride themselves on being a “one stop shop” for their clients, I have experienced and witnessed better success with building a network of specialists to send these athletes to, while staying true to my own qualifications.
Choose Your Specialists Thoughtfully
How do you know if an expert is trustworthy and worth referring your clients to? A strong first suggestion is to refrain from sending an athlete to another professional with whom you aren’t fully familiar or have experienced their services firsthand.
Many within the community may offer a trading of services under the understanding that the two businesses will grant a pathway to future athletes. For example, if a massage therapist encounters an athlete who’s looking for a quality triathlon coach in the area, this expert will now have you to give as a referral and vice-versa.
You may want to offer discounted services to those who are referred to you to incentivize the exchange of business. In doing so, it’s often an easier sell to the athlete when they are asked to go to another for these services.
As an example, I may send a mountain biker to a skills-specific coach who will offer one-on-one sessions at a deep discount, because the direct referral gained the specialist a new client.
As with any industry, it’s often best to reach out to others to help problem-solve and overcome obstacles within your own business. Personally, I meet with a group of professional coaches monthly to discuss the latest in science developments and problems that may arise with our respective businesses.
As such, we’ve devised not only a sounding board with others who may have encountered the same challenging situations we find ourselves in, but also coaches who may have a deeper level of expertise in a particular realm.
This may mean experience on a particular course, a unique type of athlete (road versus mountain versus triathlete; elite versus amateur versus age-grouper), or with a specific skillset (a bike fitter, for example).
As a result, I trust these coaches should I need to send an athlete to them for a particular service, as well as for furthering my own education as a coach.
In an age of specialization, it’s best to stay true to your own proficiency and rely on others when an issue with your athletes falls outside of your expertise. By building a network of specialists in your area, you’ll be able to provide a higher level of service to your clients as well build a deeper level of trust.
Further, these professional relationships will assist you in finding new business and growing your own brand.