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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Selecting a Coach

Di Billick of Indiana

"Those who say it cannot be done, should get out of the way of those doing it."- unknown

I wrote in my last blog about some of the advantages of hiring an athletic coach. So what should you look for when choosing a coach?  Here are some things to consider.

Are you ok with email or phone coaching?  My coach lives in Florida and we do all our coaching via email.  Many coaches will do their coaching by phone.  If you are someone that needs face to face interaction, then pick someone local.  If you are looking for a triathlon coach the USAT has page with a map of locations for their certified coaches.

If you are looking for a running or strength coach you can check with your local gym for recommendation, local running club or triathlon club.   Badger land Striders is the local running club in Milwaukee and Tri Wisconsin is the local triathlon club.  Both have listings for local coaches in their newsletters.  We have two USAT certified coaches with experience with working with athletes with CMT.

Morgan Johnson
Dallas, Texas

Joy Von Werder
Winter Springs Florida
Joy is my coach and Morgan coaches teammate Joyce Kelly. Both of us have qualified for the Para triathlon National Sprint Championships in Austin in May.

Special Needs
As an athlete with CMT, I have issues which affect my athletic abilities. It is important to get a coach that understands any special needs you might have like CMT.  Because of my CMT I cannot run every day without getting injured.  I hired a coach last February to help me get ready for Boston and Nationals.  I paid $60 for an initial consultation where I shared my limitations.  He put together a training program that had 3 consecutive days of running. He also did it the next time he put together a program even though I had reminded him of my limitations.  Needless to say our coaching relationship did not last long because not only did he not listen to my needs, he did not accommodate them in my training program. My current coach Joy Von Werder does understand the needs of a CMT affected athlete.  Morgan Johnson also a Team CMT member and USAT certified coach has experience working with Joyce Kelly a CMT affected athlete.

What are your goals as an athlete? When you interview a coach, do they really listen to what you want to do rather than try and sell you on their service?  Can they help you meet those goals?  What do you need to work on?  Is your goal to run faster, have a faster bike leg, be more confident in the swim or have better transitions? A good coach will not promise to help you achieve unrealistic goals.  They should not promise you to help you qualify for Boston, if you are not currently running the needed mileage to support that type of marathon program.

Education and Background
I like to have someone who has been or is an athlete themselves. They know what it is like to complete and the preparation needed.  Look for someone that had an education in athletic training, exercise science, exercise physiology or something related. For triathlon training look for a USAT certified coach.  If looking for a coach for other sports look from US Cycling, US Swimming or USA Track and Field.  If looking for nutrition information look for certification as a Register Dietitian (RD). Other types of certification could include National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for personal trainers.

What is your coach’s approach to training? I had a running coach that did not believe in rest days or stretching. He believed that because the elite athletes he coached did not take rest days or stretch much.  I hate stretching and following his advice set me up for injury. I did adjust my training to include stretching and took rest days because I needed them. I learned a lot from this coach but my training philosophy did not always match with his.
How much experience does you coach have? Does that experience match with the goals you are trying to achieve.  If you are a beginner triathlete, you may not be a good match with someone training elite athletes. You may be better off with a coach that specialized in working with beginners if you are getting ready for your first triathlon.  My goal is not only to get the Nationals in Austin, but to win the National Championship in the T3 category. My coach is helping me to do the things I need to do to be ready for this type of competition.  She has also qualified for this event and knows what I need to do to be successful. She like Morgan Johnson has in interest in working with physically challenged athletes.

This is one of the more important factors. Do you mesh? Do you click? Do you communicate well? You have to communicate well to have trust in your coach. If you don’t have trust it can be difficult to take their advice.  I knew right away when emailing my coach we were a good fit. Sometimes you have to be with someone for a while before you know if it is working.
 My coach Joy is a huge help with dealing with pre-race anxiety.   A lot of racing and training is mental.  She gives me coaching and advice in places where I really need it.  She also understands what it means to be an athlete with CMT. For me that is huge. She knows what I am experiencing and the challenges I face.
 I also know she has my best interests at heart.   When I had to file an appeal of my Nationals results last year, Joy went to bat for me with the USAT and appeared at the phone conference. The support she provides goes well beyond work out plans. She is actively working to help me achieve my goal of winning a National Championship.

What do you need and what do they offer?  Some coaches are very specific to one sport. Some offer VO2 testing, bike fit, gait analysis. Some only offer workout plans. Some have once a month phone chats. I am more needy then that. I talk to my coach 5-6 days a week via email.  Not many coaches provide that kind of service or will do it for all their athletes. Your goals will help you determine if their services are a good match for you.

One on one coaching is not cheap.  The coach I hired last year, had two fee schedules. One was $60 a month for just a template workout plan. Once a month email coaching with a customized plan was $200.  Coaches with experience coaching elite athletes get $300 or more.  Some offer camps and other services for their monthly fee. You have to determine what you can afford. There are alternatives to one on one coaching which I will discuss in a future blog.

If you are thinking of hiring a coach you will want to talk with them to get a feel for their style, determine if they can help you and if you are a good fit. Here are some questions you may want to ask;
·         What is your fee and what does that include?
·         Is the workout customized for me?
·         What is included in your services?
·         How often will we communicate?
·         Can you work with someone with CMT ( or other challenge you may have)?
·         What certifications do you have?
·         What types of athletes do you work with (beginner, elite, pro, senior, youth, challenged, etc.)
·         Are you a current or former athlete? What is your athletic experience?
·         What is your educational background?
·         Do I need to sign a contract?
These questions will help you get an idea if this is the right coach for you. You may select one like I did and find you aren't working well together.  You do what I did and move on to another coach.  Coaching can be an investment and may not be in your budget. In a future blog I will talk about some alternatives to one on one coaching.


Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have almost 100 members in 17 states. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

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