What Makes a Successful Running Coach?

Hi Friends,

A question popped up on a questionnaire I filled out last week: What makes a successful running coach?

I was filling it out to spend two months in Flagstaff while the NAZ Elite crew get ready for the Olympic trials. The question really got me thinking… that’s pretty relative right?

After all, who determines what successful means? Is it simply that you’ve coached runners to new prs? Or maybe all of your runners just enjoy training? Or do you have to be recognized by your peers?

What Makes A Successful Running Coach?

I believe there needs to be a bit of all three to be successful. With that in mind – here are some points I pride myself on that every coach needs to keep in mind:

Your runners need to enjoy training

You must be in tune with your runners, don’t let them burn out. Training can be tough and there are days they might hate you, but you need to know the difference between being tired from the rigors of training and being mentally worn down. Sometimes your athletes will need a day off.

Your runners need to be in the position to run their best every training block

The training must suit their needs, and you must be willing to react and anticipate any problems they may have.

Your runners need to be comfortable talking to you

This means being open with your athletes, don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear. Be honest and be real, because if your athletes can’t talk to you – how will they tell you how they are feeling.

You need to be able to market yourself and expand your coaching presence

This is something I struggle with at times but am constantly working on. A successful coach needs to be able to sell their brand and have your coaching philosophies in front of as many eyes as possible. This means being able to influence runners – experienced and beginners alike.

You must be able to talk confidently about your coaching methods

If you can’t talk confidently about the science or reasoning backing your training then your runners won’t feel confident executing the plan. Don’t just say regurgitated terms, really KNOW why the training works and what you are accomplishing. You don’t have to be a Biology major but you do need to know why you are training this way.

You must be flexible with your coaching methods

Sometimes your methods won’t work like you expected: maybe it’s how the runners are responding, maybe it’s a lot of external stress on the runners, maybe you didn’t execute your end of the plan as well as you wanted. You must – MUST – be able to change your approach! As one of my mentors told me, “let the runners have the glory,

You must be willing to learn

Whether that’s by reading or asking questions, be a sponge and never stop learning – even if you can’t incorporate a method or you disagree with the reasoning behind it. The more you know the more you can be ready for any questions your runners may ask.

You must be willing to move on

Sometimes things just don’t work out – you need to be fluid. Maybe there is a athlete relationship that isn’t working or a way you are explaining things or maybe a way you are marketing yourself. Don’t be afraid to shut it down and move on to something else… don’t be afraid to fail.

Ultimately success can be defined as many things but it always comes down to the runners!

Follow me on Twitter to ask me how I stand up to these points, or if you have guidelines I didn’t cover.

Happy Running,

Justin

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