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How to Hire Coaching Staff

Frank Overton and Mike Ricci describe how they go about hiring coaches to join their team. With hindsight on their side, these coaches explain why people and process factor heavily into their hiring decisions.

Coach Mike Ricci training athletes

Mike Ricci, D3 Multisport

The first assistant coach I hired went to Ironman Florida. He had finished three Ironman races in six months, which seemed crazy at the time. We had a mutual friend, and that led to him working with me for five years, and the recruitment of other coaches. Now I have a more formal process and different parameters.

Early on I was looking for someone fast and focused on coaching them up on how to be a coach. I’ve learned that’s harder than you think.

Two or three times I made a hire that didn’t work. It mostly came down to a lack of customer service. We all love the sport, but, for some coaches, training takes precedence over coaching. They want to coach 20 people and make $50K per year. There’s a perception that coaching is going to be easy, allowing for a lot of time to train. When coaches are out on 100-mile rides, they are not taking calls from clients or doing any of the other work to serve their athletes.

The truth is, a lot of coaching is just hard work; things you have to do to get the job done. Not everyone is willing to put in the work.

Mike Ricci, D3 Multisport

Now, any coach I bring on is someone we’ve coached at D3 Multisport. Our whole process is known—why we do things the way we do, how we manage race reports, how we monitor performance in TrainingPeaks, and so on.

We have monthly calls with the coaching team. One coach makes a presentation on a given topic. We all need to be moving in the same direction, united on philosophy, and these calls help us do that. Currently, we have five coaches, a nutritionist, and a mental skills coach. All of our coaches are contractors, and the business refers athletes to them.

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Frank Overton, FasCat Coaching

In 2008, I had enough people reaching out to me that I needed to hire more coaches. That said, I didn’t want to become the “McDonalds” of coaching. I wanted to maintain a high level of communication with athletes. The first assistant coach I hired was a learning process. It took about four months to build up the knowledge and experience required. 

Back then, a lot of people wanted to become coaches, but they needed a place for mentorship. That was an attractive, rewarding thing for me. But, as it turns out, my hiring strategy is to hire athletes who I used to coach. That way, I know what they know about the sport and I know their character. When you have that trust and you are aligned on values, it’s a natural transition.

FasCat currently has 10 coaches, three of which are senior associate coaches. We are mostly focused on cycling, but we do have one multisport coach. We have a rule: You can only coach athletes in a sport that you have participated in.

Everyone has stories about how you bring on coaches and then they build up a large enough base that they can go off on their own. You are basically helping a coach turn it into a career and they can just leave.

Again, when it comes to hiring, I’ve realized that the most important detail is not how smart someone is or what they’ve done, but whether the two of you are aligned on values.

Another thing I look at when hiring a coach is how strong relationships are in the other parts of their life. You can’t really teach or mentor this, but you can hire it.

Frank Overton, FasCat Coaching

From there, I’m asking the question, “How can I help them?” In the early days of bringing on a new coach, you’re giving them athletes or a salary. Later on down the road, it’s about making them a better coach. I’ve made some bad hires, but that’s all on me. Usually, the coach’s athletes let them go first. It’s not a mystery.

I have coaches who have been with FasCat for 10 years. This is possible because we’re providing a job, health insurance, and security. I value these coaches, so they don’t have a reason to go off on their own. I take care all of the administrative stuff so they can do what they love.

I started off hiring coaches as contractors, which can be a great way to go initially—find a good coach and hire them right away, and that takes care of a lot of challenges. But athletes leave in the off-season. Since 2010, I have hired coaches as employees of FasCat, not contractors. The salary takes care of the retention problem that many coaches struggle with and gives them more incentive to come over.

Over the years, I’ve also come to realize that if I’m going to hire a coach, they need to come on board with 10 athletes. From that point, it’s my goal to get them more athletes so they can validate their paycheck.

FasCat podcasts, videos, training camps, and community group rides are all rolled into the responsibilities of the coaches on staff. This involvement creates a team mentality so a coach is not just an island.

Learn a few basics about business services in our free downloadable Craft of Coaching Playbook, How to Grow Your Coaching Business by Coach Philip Hatzis.