The 5 signs you need a new coach and how to find the right replacement

By Brad Williams | 5 Minute Read

We recently heard from Spokes coach Pav Bryan as he asked, ‘do you need a coach?’ The coaching theme continues with this piece from Brad Williams as the #TeamPH captain provides some guidance on what to do if you’re considering changing your coach...

As a coach I have brought on new athletes and also helped them make the transition to coaching when their time under my guidance came to an end.

In my first three years in the sport I was self-coached, and then when I decided to do my first IRONMAN I hired Scott DeFilippis. He coached me for eight years, up until the fall of 2018, when I made a coaching change.

The reasons I opted to make a change are different to the ones I explain below but I think they’re worth discussing. My own personal change came after I was hit by a car in September of 2018 and so I was effectively going to be starting from ‘square one’. I didn’t want to leave the pro/elite level of the sport wondering ‘what if?’.

As a coach myself I thought the time was right to learn from someone else and, with that in mind, I went in search of a new coach.

While my situation was quite unique, it’s worth considering the potential factors that might cause you to change coach…


The 5 signs that you might need a new coach:

  1. You aren’t getting the attention/communication you feel you deserve or are paying for
  2. You’ve plateaued or regressed
  3. You’re getting a training plan that isn’t built around your life and you’re struggling to fit it all in
  4. Not receiving the services that you signed up for or are paying for
  5. You’re continuously adjusting or not doing the workouts


1. You aren’t getting the attention/communication you feel you deserve or are paying for

All coach-athlete relationships start out great and you typically get all the attention you need. Over time this may die off and the engagement from the coach may slowly drop off, and the same can be said for the athlete as well. If you feel this is an issue, ensure that you are making an effort from your end to communicate.


2. You’ve plateaued or regressed

If you think this may be something you’re dealing with, definitely ask yourself if it’s the coaching or if it’s a change in your commitment to the training. Has your training load cut down drastically for other reasons or is the training no longer helping take you to new heights mentally and physically?


3. You’re getting a training plan that isn’t built around your life and you’re struggling to fit it all in

A training plan should be built around your life, rather than just given to you with expectations of fitting it all in. If your swim sessions are on days when the pool is closed or your long workouts are on days that you’ve specifically stated you can’t get them done, then that’s an issue. You shouldn’t have to constantly improvise and adjust training sessions. At the end of the day, you pay a coach and it’s their job to figure out how to get the most out of the limited time you have available to train.


4. Not receiving the services that you signed up for or are paying for

When you signed up, were you promised unlimited contact, weekly calls, every workout being analyzed, etc.? And now a few months in you aren’t getting any of what was promised?

Well, if that’s the case then you either need to start paying for the services you’re getting, or have the open discussion that you aren’t getting what you’re paying for.


5. You’re continuously adjusting or not doing the workouts

The craziest thing that I see many athletes doing is showing up to group workouts and doing those rather than what their coach has planned for them.

There’s nothing wrong with doing group workouts, but discuss that with your coach and have them build those into your plan. Coaches aren’t dumb, and it’s pretty easy to figure out when you aren’t doing what’s prescribed, even if you aren’t uploading the files and doing ‘secret’ training.

You’re paying a coach for their experience and services, so why are you going behind their back and doing your own thing? It might be time to write your own training plan or find a new coach that will accommodate your social training.

Before making the decision to look for a new coach, bring up any issues that you’re having with your coach. Simply having that discussion may improve the relationship and help things improve for the better.

If you have a long term relationship with your coach, you may even consider involving them in the process of looking for a new coach. It’s more than likely they know you quite well by now and may know of another coach that would be a great fit for you.


What to look for when searching for a new coach?

A coach who is having success with athletes like you

If you’re a 45-year-old with a family and working 50 hours a week, then Jan Frodeno or Daniela Ryf’s coach are probably not the right coaches for you.

Look for a coach who is successful with athletes who are of similar ability and in a similar situation to you. Typically, those coaches typically find a niche of athletes that they can relate to or are really good with, and that coach might be best for you (not the one that is creating world champions, unless of course that is your goal!).


Local coach or online?

A common misconception among athletes is that just because a coach is local to you then you’ll get to see them more often (seeing a coach face-to-face on a regular basis can be quite expensive).

Technology is absolutely amazing these days and a lot can be done from across the world.

The one thing that a local coach may be able to offer that an online coach can’t is group sessions, and ‘on deck’ coaching. This is pretty rare and would more than likely come at a premium cost, but if it was available to you then it would be a reason to choose a local, rather than online, coach.


Keep searching and remember who works for who!
Take your time finding a new coach, don’t settle on the first one that you find. Not every coach is going to be right for you, and even if the first one feels right, search around to ensure you’re finding the best fit.

When I was searching for a new coach I would always ask the coach who I was ‘interviewing’ if there was anyone else that they thought would be a good fit for an athlete like myself and with my life situation.

It’s something that I always offer to athletes who come to me, as I’m well aware that I may not be the best fit and it’s wise to connect them to other possible coaches.

At the end of the day, the coach is working for you, as much as it may feel the opposite. You’re paying for a service and ensuring that you’re hiring the best individual to deliver that service is something to keep in mind.


Believe and commit

As mentioned above, the craziest thing I see is athletes not doing the scheduled workouts, or just doing their own thing.

Find out what methods and training philosophy your coach believes in and uses – do they line up with your views? If not, is it something you’re willing to buy into?

You have to commit to the process and fully believe in the training plan that you’re being given, otherwise you’re back to ‘square one’. Why would you continue to pay for something that you aren’t going to use or constantly adjust.


The grass isn’t always greener on the other side

It may well be time to change coaches, but at the end of the day the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

So, when/if you decide to leave your coach, it may be wise to leave on good terms. Ensure that the door is always open, just in case you realize that your original coach was the ‘Einstein of coaching’ and you want them to get you back on track.

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