One Team’s Strategy for Dynamic Athlete Services

With more ways to deliver individualized training, coaches are well-positioned to reach more athletes.

Forever Endurance has approached athlete services by diversifying the coaching talent on their own team and by looking to outside experts. Coach Grant Holicky talks about how this approach has allowed his team to help a larger number of athletes with individualized programs. It’s also challenged his coaches to be better and more knowledgeable.

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Video Transcript

Joe Friel  00:06

Hello, everyone. I’m Joe Friel. One of my interests in terms of coaching has always been the services that we provide to our, to our clients. Along that line I’ve brought in today to talk to me about his company’s background in this area, is Grant Holicky. Grant, glad you’re here.

Grant Holicky  00:23

Great to be here, Joe.

Intro to Grant Holicky and Forever Endurance

Joe Friel  00:24

So let’s get started, Grant. How long have you been in the business of coaching?

Grant Holicky  00:30

I’ve been in the business of coaching for a good 30 years. I started coaching swimming when I was 17 years old, helping out the team I was on. Then coach swimming through the summers when I was in college, for summer league. Then, right out of college, when I got my first teaching job, I also got my first coaching job in Washington, DC.

Joe Friel  00:51

So, you’ve been at it for a while, and you’ve probably seen lots of different ways for coaching companies to operate. I want to explore that with you today. I’d like to find out more about your company, we’re going to dig into it.

First of all, let’s talk more about the big overall sorts of things, like what sports are you are you coaching?

Grant Holicky  01:10

Pretty much anything to do with endurance: cycling, triathlon, we have some ultra runners that we coach. Run the gamut.

Joe Friel  01:19

So you say “we coach.” You’ve got assistant coaches, associate coaches working with you?

Grant Holicky  01:23

Yeah. There’s seven of us completely in the business. Each of us coaching somebody with a different, each of us will have a different specialty. We have an ITU triathlon coach, we have cyclocross coaches, we have gravel coaches, something along those lines.

Joe Friel  01:44

How do you find your coaches? How do you bring people on board?

Grant Holicky  01:47

A lot of our coaches are actually people in the community that we’ve known, fellow coaches that we’ve known, and some are former athletes that have shown an interest in coaching through their career, have taken more interest in the sport science behind it, or the sports psychology behind it. Then the goal is to help foster their love for coaching. I always want to find really good people first, and I feel like I can teach the nuts and bolts of coaching. If they’re interested in learning, we know we can teach the nuts and bolts of coaching. But, that ability to relate to another human being, that ability to communicate, that’s what I think is really special.

Joe Friel  02:28

People skills. I agree 100% on that. So, are all your coaches, local? You’re in Boulder, are they all local?

Grant Holicky  02:35

No, we have a coach back east now in the Northeast outside of Boston, and then a coach in Northern California as well.

Joe Friel  02:43

Are their talents, skills that your coaches, or your assistant coaches have that allow them to help others within the group? For example, if you have a swim coach, and you’ve also got a triathlon coach, can there be a cross over there with two coaches working with the same athlete?

Taking a team’s approach to meeting athlete’s needs

Grant Holicky  03:00

That’s been one of our biggest goals, and one of the biggest goals is to approach this from a team aspect. To say, you’re not just hiring this coach of Forever Endurance, you’re hiring the whole company. We know that we can reach out to those resources within the company when we need that extra help.

We have a triathlon coach in the company. Recently, they asked for help with one of their athletes to work on sprinting. I took that athlete out and we worked on sprinting, and I’ve done some swim work with them. I’m not a sports scientist by trade. I’m a coach more from the sports psychology standpoint.

Cody Moore, who is the original founder of the company, he has a degree in kinesiology, so he can do some of that testing.

We have those places that we can reach out, knowing that it’s a safe place, that we’re going to get the expected communication. We’re going to get the expected [outcome in] how they relate to the athlete—it’s a known entity.

Joe Friel  04:00

You’re bringing in coaches who have talents besides simply coaching a sport. You’ve got other things, other qualities that they can bring to the group.

When and how to outsource services

Joe Friel  04:10

Are there any places or gaps you have within your group where you don’t have fill? Like, for example, in nutrition or bike fitting or whatever it may be, are there gaps like that where you try to bring in people from outside of your coaching group to assist?

Grant Holicky  04:26

Yeah, and I think our goal is to be a coaching company. We’re going to coach endurance sport. There’s a lot of layers to endurance sport, but being a good coach and being an effective company has a lot to do with knowing what you don’t know.

I can give a cursory strength program, a basic strength program for somebody to make sure they don’t get injured. But, if I want to take that to the next level, sure, I have a lot of information from a lot of different sources. But, that’s not my layer of expertise. So, I’m going to go out to a strength coach or group that we’ve partnered with in town or nationally, and say, “Hey, I’d like you to take a look at this athlete.” I’m very adamant about this regarding nutrition. My wife’s a registered dietician, so I have somebody at home that I can turn around and go, “Hey, Brees, what do I do with this?”

I think a lot of coaches have that gut instinct that, “Well, I know nutrition, I’ve done this.” But, at the same level, we continue our education or that we got our education in the first place, a registered dietician, this is what they’ve dedicated their life to. They know the science, they know the “in’s” and the “out’s”. Obviously, just like with a coach, you have to find somebody that can foster that relationship with the athlete and that you trust. But being able to turn somebody over to somebody else whose expertise is in that field, I think is critical. Otherwise, you’re usually gonna run out of bandwidth. You’re trying to do too many things.

Athlete services offered at Forever Endurance

Joe Friel  05:55

Help me understand how far out you’ve reached. You mentioned nutrition and how your wife has helped, and I assume as filling that gap.

Grant Holicky  06:01

She’s a big help.

Joe Friel  06:02

That’s one of the gaps that a lot of coaching companies have is nutrition. That’s a great starting place. What are some of the other folks you’ve brought on board who are experts outside of what your coaching group can offer, as far as services?

Grant Holicky  06:15

We work with strength coaches in town. The strength coaches we partnered with are also physical therapists. Therefore, we have a couple of physical therapy groups, depending on placement in the county, (ones in Louisville, ones in Boulder) and we’ve also got bike fitters. I think, again, this is something that I can take a look at an athlete on the bike and say, “Yeah, you look pretty good. I think your saddle height’s right.” But if I want to get into how their hips are working? Do they need to lift? Do they need to shift in their shoe? These are things that are outside of my pay grade, and frankly, not my interest. I like it, I think it’s interesting, but obviously I’m in graduate school for sports psychology. So that’s really where my interest lies. I’d rather bring somebody in who’s passionate about what they do as a bike fitter, so bike fitters and, strength coaches.

Business services at Forever Endurance

Grant Holicky  07:11

Luckily, the co-owner of the company, Cody Moore has an MBA. We have a business consultant in the group, and I think that’s a place where a lot of coaches could use some help.


Joe Friel  07:23

I agree.

Grant Holicky  07:24

Then we’ve partnered with some of our athletes to do social media. Now that I’m 49 years old, I know what it is, and I know how it works. But, there’s a younger group of people that definitely take more time to understand the algorithms of social media, how those things work, and how an effective marketing plan could work through it.

Finding the right people and partnerships

Joe Friel  07:46

One of the things I ran into when I was doing pretty much the same thing you’re doing now, when I started my coaching company, I was trying to find the people I wanted to be on this team. People who are not members of our organization, but they were in an external organization, but they brought in services that were critical to our success. How do you go about finding the right people?

Grant Holicky  08:10

I experiment on myself a lot. This is one of the benefits of still being an athlete is that when you’re in town, or in the sport world, you hear of the people that are kind of up and coming or hot or have this talent. Honestly, what I’ve done in a lot of cases is looked for their services for myself and tried it out. Trying to understand my personal biases, like I’m a I’m a bigger guy, so I can go in and get a strength program. I don’t need pure strength work, like a lot of runners or cyclists would need. But, I still went through a two year period where that’s what I did. The goal was to try to get a sense of how that group or how that trainer could fit into what we did. I’ve had those that haven’t worked out, and I’ve had those that are like, “This person is just fantastic.”

The goal then is just, how do we involve each other? How do we help each other? I think doing that in a way that’s that’s real and truthful to say, is there a mutual benefit? Is there a way to be mutually beneficial here? Can you get something out of this, and I can get something out of this? That’s really how I’ve found the partners through the years. I’ve tried to do it in a way that it’s almost additive. So, there’s not just one strength group, we’re going to use. Just like coaching in general, that relationship and that report is a real key to the success. So giving athletes multiple options: try this person, here’s a female strength coach, here’s a male strength coach—all of those options really help the athlete find exactly what they’re looking for.

Assembling an expert philosophy or method

Joe Friel  09:56

If you found a person that you think may be the right person for your company to help you out in some particular area of strength and conditioning, for example. Are you trying to find somebody when you do that initial discussion with this person? Are you trying to find somebody that blends in with your philosophy, your methodologies? Is that important to you?

Grant Holicky  10:17

Yes, and no, because even within the coaching group, I have coaches that coach differently than I do. I tend to be very, very polarized, I live on the corners. I like intensity around. I have coaches in the group that are more kind of a sweet spot training methodology, or [they] to through a very large base period at the beginning of the season.

The goal is to bring people who are differently minded in so that that athlete, when they enter Forever Endurance, they have options. If it doesn’t work out with me, they could turn around and work with Chris McGovern. Or they could turn around and work with Steven High, they could work one of the other coaches in the group. It’s the same goal with a strength and conditioning coach. I want it to be a philosophy that I can at least wrap my head around. How that blends then becomes up to the coach and the athlete together with that strength coach to see if we can blend all this together.

Services for remote athletes

Joe Friel  11:16

Originally you said your clients are not all local to Boulder, they’re spread out. If you brought in somebody who is helping out with strength conditioning, can they help somebody who has a long ways off, hundreds of miles?

Grant Holicky  11:29

Yeah, but that is a challenge, right? Some of the things that we’ve used and some of the platforms that we’ve used through the years . . . I know the guys that develop the strength work for Wahoo system, for instance. I feel very good about what’s going on within that strength program. I can use that as a stop gap, and say, “Well, let’s look around in the area and see who is around you that we could really work with.” They’ll say, “Oh, I found this person and this person. Take a look.” I’ll kind of go into it, and if it’s something that strength and conditioning is a major hinge piece, and what they’re going to do, this could make or break their career or their longevity. Then that’s when I may pick up the phone or start emailing back and forth with this strength coach and start to get an idea of what’s going on.

Joe Friel  12:22

Let’s say you find somebody who is long distance, a strength and conditioning coach, and you want to bring them on board to be external to the organization, but but also helping out with all your athletes, or particular athletes in particular regions. How does that person benefit from this? Are they getting paid for their services? And if so how?

Grant Holicky  12:42

Yeah, a lot of the times with this work that’s going to be on the athlete to pay that individual strength conditioning coach. Within our structure locally, because we do have most of our athletes that are local, or at least local to those coaches.

Payment for services

Grant Holicky  12:59

Communication is a big piece of the puzzle for us. Being able to touch base with that athletes huge. Locally, there’s a benefit in that strength and conditioning place of business knowing that I’m likely to refer a lot of people to them. They know that we have seven coaches on staff, we have 100-150 athletes under our care. Now, are we going to push that out? Where are those people going to come in? They have a benefit in knowing that they’re going to be getting one-on-one clients.

They, then in turn, a lot of them will then offer a discount to our athletes coming back. Again, and I’ll say this all the time to my athletes, “Listen, I can provide a strength program as part of your coaching package. But understand this is not my area of expertise. Understand that when you’re looking for more, I’m going to advise you that it would be a good idea to go look external.” Again, now coming back to what we said at the beginning, knowing what you don’t know, and having that understanding and being comfortable with that.

Joe Friel  14:05

So, you find a person that is going to help out with strength and conditioning. They’re giving you perhaps a discount, which may vary from person: one expert to another at strengthen conditioning, for example. They’ve got the potential for getting more clients from this also, it’s one of the one of the reasons they’re giving you a discount. Is there any other benefits you get from this person who’s a strength and conditioning coach, nutritionist, bike fit, or whatever it may be, that your company can benefit from also besides the fact that they’re providing services to a given client?

Other benefits from partnerships

Grant Holicky  14:43

I think probably the biggest thing, and this is why we have a coaching group to begin with is knowledge and information. We all want to be up-to-date on the information that’s in our field, but we tend to have our own focal points, our biases. What we’re pulled toward, and each one of these people is going to have a different thing. The goal here is not just forming a business relationship, but also forming a little bit of a personal relationship so that I have strength conditioning coaches in town. When something comes up, and they’re like, “Hey, thought you might want to see this.” They’ll shoot me a scientific article or an article that they’ve read. That cross information piece of, “Here’s something I saw from the strength world, I thought you might like to see it.” Or, me coming from the sports psychology world and saying here, “Here’s a piece that I thought you might find interesting.” That exchange of information is a big piece of it. It enhances their business, and well I hope it enhances their business, I know it enhances mine.

Ultimately, what I’m looking for with our coaches in the group, and then our partners, is people who have a genuine interest in the success of that athlete. I’ve long stated that my goal as a coach is to enrich people’s lives through sport, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Not enrich their sport life first, but to enrich their life through sport. How can we reach that person, and give them something special for their life? That’s really what I hope all the coaches are looking for, and all our partners are looking for.

Nature of the service agreement

Joe Friel  16:18

Good. So this relationship you have with this outside expert? Is it contractual? Do you have a document? Or is it more of a just a shake hands sort of situation?

Grant Holicky  16:28

It’s more of a shake hands situation, because we’re not paying them out of our company pocket, the athlete individually is paying them. Now we’ll make sure that from a liability standpoint, those pieces of the puzzle are not included on our waiver. Those companies have their own waiver and those things like that, but it’s more of an understanding, because again, we’re not contractually hiring that outside person.

Joe Friel  16:56

I assume the athlete is, is aware of some of this stuff and not the details. If the athlete, for example, has a particular problem they want some assistance with strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology or it may be sports psychology. You bring somebody in to help them, are they in a position where they can decide whether or not they want to use this this provider of services? Can they step back and say no, this is not right for me?

Grant Holicky  17:25

Absolutely. That’s why we’re trying to make sure that there’s multiple providers, so that it is about the fit. It is about that relationship and rapport, so that athlete might work with that person for a little while and say, “Coach, Grant, this isn’t really working,” for whatever reason. Sometimes we’ll dive into it, “Why?”, so that I can help them find the next person. Sometimes even go there, like, “Okay, it’s not working great. Here’s some more options, and let’s go find what works for you.”

The athlete has to have that ownership over what they do, the autonomy piece. That’s a core piece of everybody’s motivation, and I think that sometimes gets lost in the coaching relationship, the power gap gets too big, and it’s you’re going to do this from the coaching standpoint. We’re trying to create a partnership, a support structure. I’m walking with the athlete not pushing the athlete in front of me. When that athlete has an opinion, it’s really important to listen to it and kind of take a step back and say, “Okay, what do we need to change?” That may be me, there may be things that I have to change. That’s one of the reasons coming back to the idea, I love the group setting. I think it challenges us to make sure we’re at our best, because there is going to be this information coming from other places. Now I’m not, I don’t want to be challenged for fear of losing the athlete. But I want to be challenged from this idea of “I want to be the best coach I can be.” This guy found something I didn’t know about, “Well, great, that’s awesome, thank you so much, Chris, bring that into the conversation.” But I often walk out of that going, “I should have found that, I gotta get better.” Then, I try to put that on myself.

Joe Friel  19:06

Grant, thank you very much for being with me today.

Grant Holicky  19:08

Thanks, Joe.

Joe Friel  19:08

Enjoyed talking with you, lots of good information there. Lots of things for coaches to talk about. These are the sorts of things that you need to be thinking about for your coaching company. What can I be doing to improve the services I provide to my clients? How can I produce more successful athletes, and therefore my company becomes more successful also?