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9 // Coaching Endurance Athletes

Swimmers on the side of the pool from The Craft of Coaching Module 9

The Craft of Coaching series has ambitiously tackled the subjects often reserved for an annual conference—from refining your coaching methodology to building a viable business, from managing athletes to coaching mental toughness. Topics that deserve more attention than one weekend allows.

Now it’s time to get down to the brass tacks, the day-in, day-out considerations that will either accelerate your practice and help your athletes achieve their goals, or bring things to a standstill.

First things first. In the article below Joe Friel shares some advice for building up your client base, which will be of particular interest if you are newer to coaching.

Female coach encouraging an age group athlete at a local race

How to Attract Athletes to Use Your Coaching Services

Today’s coaches enjoy a greater demand for services and steeper competition for clients. Choose a direction for your business and be patient in getting there.

The challenges facing endurance athletes are, in fact, challenges that most people face. However, the demands of training make time, sleep, and available energy more elusive. Coaches Alison Freeman of NYX Endurance, and Ryan Kohler of Rocky Mountain Devo describe how age groupers often rely on their coach to help them maintain that precarious balance between sport and life.

Ryah Kohler and Alison Freeman

Common Challenges of Coaching Endurance Athletes

The typical endurance athlete is time-crunched, which triggers a number of challenges for coaches around rest and recovery.

In Module 3, Friel explored the process for onboarding athletes, including a thorough approach to goal assessment. (In addition, you can explore season plans for a variety of goals from Dean Golich, Dr. Andy Kirkland, Trevor Connor, and Alan Couzens, four accomplished endurance coaches with distinct coaching methodologies.)

In the case studies that follow, Joe Friel revisits his journey with three different endurance athletes in an effort to help you refine your process.

Coach directing a swimmer at an indoor pool

Defining the Athlete’s Goal, Some Hits and Misses

Goals are best evaluated in the rearview mirror. Joe Friel reflects on the goals of three endurance athletes, highlighting lessons learned.

Helping your athletes reach their goals is one of the most important aspects of your role—and it’s largely why they hired you. But those goals need to be the right ones. In the article below, Friel shares some clear ways of doing this, revisiting what he might have done differently in the case studies above.

Athletes in a group high-five

Criteria for Setting SMART Goals 

The goal belongs to the athlete—not the coach. It’s the coach’s job to help the athlete give shape to the final product.

It’s no secret that endurance athletes love their gadgets, but too great a reliance on data and devices can wreak havoc with training and progress. Sometimes as a coach you’ve got to know when to help your athlete tune into their bodies and leave the devices at home. It’s a balancing act.

Balancing Athlete Data and Devices title card

Balancing Athlete Data and Devices

The options for data and devices are endless and some athletes need their coach to intervene. Coaches Ryan Kohler and Alison Freeman describe the metrics that matter most.

Self-awareness isn’t just a buzzword. It happens to be critical to success when it comes to athletic performance. Fast Talk Labs’ Trevor Connor explains how you can help your athletes hone this vital skill in the article below.

young woman looks at camera after workout

Why Your Athletes Need to Know Themselves 

Encouraging your athletes to build self-awareness can bring a myriad of benefits, some more obvious than others.

The coach-athlete relationship can be a tight-knit one, but like every healthy relationship, there needs to be clear boundaries. That can be tricky sometimes, but in this video interview, Friel talks with Freeman and Kohler about some of their experiences and the red flags they no longer ignore.

Where to Draw the Line Video Thumbnail

Where to Draw the Line

The lines between life and sport can quickly blur. Difficult issues like weight loss or obsessive behavior can lead to big problems for coaches.

Motivation is undoubtedly a powerful tool—and knowing exactly why you love to coach can really help take you—and your athletes—to the next level. In the video that follows, Friel, Kohler, and Freeman talk candidly about the “why” that drives each of them.

The Power of Finding Your Why title card

The Power of Finding Your Why

Knowing what energizes you as a coach will cultivate performance. It also creates bandwidth for situations where energy and outcome are not yet dialed.

Athletes who are strong, durable, happy, and healthy set themselves up for success, but getting to that place isn’t always a linear path. Strength coach Erin Carson works with athletes of all calibers—from Ironman world champions to rookies—and in this video she offers valuable insight into what it takes to build the best athletes, regardless how lofty or little their goals.

How to Build a Better Athlete title card

How to Build a Better Athlete

Strength and conditioning coach Erin Carson shares her insights and expertise on building durable, happy, successful athletes—and it’s about more than just lifting weights in the gym.

Coach-athlete relationships work best when the roles are clear and everyone knows what’s expected of them. In this article, Friel shares the guidelines that helped him navigate his 40+ years of coaching.

A man and woman high-five in a gym

Who’s Responsible for What in the Coaching Relationship?

Taking ownership of the best practices for performance can help the coach-athlete relationship work at its best. Use this list to troubleshoot your existing client relationships.

Endurance athletes can sometimes be a difficult bunch, so knowing how to deal with issues as they arise can be a very useful tool to have in your coaching toolbox. In the video that follows, Friel, Freeman, and Kohler talk candidly about how they’ve handled some troublesome client relationships—and what they’ve learned from it.

Ryan Kohler, Alison Freeman, and Joe Friel in conversation

Dealing with Problematic Athletes

It can be challenging when athletes aren’t compliant or lack motivation, but it can also be a great opportunity for change or growth.

Endurance sports should be for all, regardless of race, age, disability, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and this is a sentiment echoed strongly by USA Triathlon’s CEO Victoria Brumfield. In the following video, she talks about the importance of coaches taking an inclusive approach to growing their businesses by embracing athletes from all communities. In expanding your idea of who is a prospective athlete, you could also discover a new opportunity to grow your business.

Building an Inclusive Endurance Community with Vic Brumfield title card

Building an Inclusive Endurance Community

USA Triathlon’s CEO Victoria Brumfield speaks to the importance of welcoming people from all communities into the endurance sports world.

Oftentimes, coaches get involved in their chosen sports because they have a strong passion for what they do and they want to see others succeed. When those moments of success come, it can be a truly rewarding experience, as these coaches highlight in the video that follows.

Finding Success as a Coach title card

Finding Success as a Coach

Coaching isn’t always easy, but when those moments of success come, the rewards are often deep and meaningful.