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July 1, 2016

When looking for a coach

I’ve seen many athletes make the big mistake of hiring a trainer who in fact has little or no knowledge about the sport they are training for and often turn out to be detrimental to the athlete leaving them worse off than before they went looking for help.

Here are some things to look for in a coach/trainer:

Knowledge: The role of a coach/trainer is to have a sound understanding of the sport and physiology of athletes for that given sport and be able develop and bring out the best in that said athlete and direct them to their best at certain events that suit the athlete.

Communication: A coach/trainer also has to be a great communicator with his athlete and must be able to listen and give correct feedback to the athlete in any situation. This applies to race or training sessions as well as the basic facts of life that will help improve the athlete.

Implementation: A coach/trainer must be able to implement skills and fitness based on the athlete’s gender, age and specific goals. While implementing the training program the coach/trainer must be able to assess the program while motivating and keeping the athlete focused on achieving their respective goals.

Partner: Once a good relationship is formed with the coach/trainer the role of a trainer goes beyond the call of duty and is also not just performance related. A coach/trainer will also be an instructor, assessor, friend, mentor, facilitator, chauffeur, demonstrator, adviser, supporter, fact finder, motivator, counsellor, organizer, planner and often the shoulder to cry on when things don’t go in the favour of the athlete.

The coach/trainer will also often be the communication line between athlete, parent and sponsors or potential sponsors and often will need to give feedback to the relevant parties on the progression and faults of the particular athlete and what is to be done to improve both issues. Often a coach/trainer also has to know when to tell the athletes parents and/or sponsors when they need to possibly step back and not interfere with the athletes’ daily training and goals. Often when there is too much interference the athlete under-performs and in some cases gives up on the sport they are talented at due to too much pressure.

Over and above the criteria mentioned above, I believe these are some key traits a trainer should have:


  • Able to adjust quickly to situations
  • Is not fazed by changes to training environment

Well organized

  • Well prepared
  • Plans appropriately for all activities

Knowledgeable and up to date

  • Responds quickly to current issues/changes
  • Actively seeks new opportunities/alternatives to develop players

Safety of athletes foremost

  • Caters for any changes in training regime
  • Considers all aspects of training and competition

Role of the Athlete

With all that being said, the role and pressure can’t all be on the coach/trainer’s shoulders. The athletes themselves need to show the commitment and dedication that they are receiving from the coach/trainer. The athlete must also realize that should things not go according to plan, all blame does not necessarily fall in the lap of coach/trainer. Both the trainer and athlete must work together to overcome the problems or issues the athlete may have.

The coach/trainer can only make changes to the athletes training program from the feedback the athlete provides. The more information with regard to the athletes training and riding the athlete passes on, the more information the trainer has to make regarding improvements to the training program. The reverse is true as well. The less information the athlete passes on, the less information the trainer has to fix problems that may exist. This often leads to both parties being dissatisfied and is commonly where the relationship ends with neither party getting what they want out of the relationship.

A relationship between athlete and coach/trainer can be an incredible bond that can go on for many years. I personally have a few athletes that I have been working with for the last 5 – 6 years. Together we have been to hell and the top of the podium and the trust we have in each other is, as they say, “beyond the call of duty.” I believe that with this type of relationship, anything is possible.

I hope this gives you some insight into the role that is required of both the coach/trainer and athlete. If you are thinking of hiring a trainer to help improve your program, remember these tips to help you make a good decision.

If there are any questions you may have please feel free to contact me on the mail address below.

Yours in Sport,

John Wakefield

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