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Dumb question about coaching
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This is a dumb question, but I don't know the answer, so, I'll ask.

Is triathon the only sport where the primary method of getting coaching is via an individual athlete directly contracting with a coach, whether it be in person or online.

In most other sports I can think of, coaching is provided through the club / team. Athlete joins the team, but the team hires the coach. In some cases, the coach might own the team, but that doesn't change the fundamental model.

I don't know how coaching is done in running, or cycling outside of a team environment.

Enlighten me.

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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First of all, ST has an American bias so you will never get a broad picture of the triathlon world by reading here. But yes, US triathletes are very individual coaching focused.
There are several reasons.
USA does not have a club culture in sport.
Instead of a club, often a coach has a team.
Coaches position is stronger in the USA than in many other countries, especially in endurance sports.
Since triathlon is an old white man sport, it has a higher degree of commercial elements.

I am sure there are more.

By the way. I charge one cup of coffee per season for xc-skiing coaching. That include as many private lessons as you want.


Member of Valhalla Racing Team
XC-skiing coach at Momentum Northwest
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [Halvard] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks, but not really what I was asking. That stuff I know. What I'm trying to get a handle on is whether triathlon is unique with respect to the coaching model, or are there other sports doing the same thing.

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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I used to race bikes about 10 years ago & the same coaching model existed as does in triathlon now.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [turningscrews] [ In reply to ]
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i recall now that when I was racing bikes 20-13 years ago, CTS was the new thing. But I hadn't heard of getting a coach on your own, outside a team, prior to that.

So that's one.

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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Yeah CTS was really just a fancy conglomerate of coaches using Carmichael's coaching strategies.

There were many local racers that had sought out coaches. I live in the Midwest & Robbie Ventura had & still may have a group of coaches who work under him. Again, just like Carmichael's model & other models that are still used today.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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Not sure if I'm answering your question, but I think most coaching being individual and not team based is that triathlon is very time consuming and most popular among white collar BUSY people. At the scholastic level its great and I personally miss it terribly, but these are kids with similar schedules age and ambitions. As a triathlon coach (im not) I would think what most people are looking for is direction to have fun competitively as it fits other priorities in life and this is very individual. I love the idea of more group based interaction, but at least in my area thats hard to achieve.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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Truly individual sports often have individual coaches. Think ice skating, for example (I know not everyone here considers that a "sport").
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [Gee] [ In reply to ]
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Agree with the comment on truly individual effort sports. Golf, swimming (more at the pro level), tennis, boxing. And then those quasi individuals where you may be in a mix of individual and team settings, like gymnastics or track & field, where you'll have a coach for the team but also one for yourself.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [Gee] [ In reply to ]
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I could be wrong, but I think that most skaters are part of a skating club.

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [Blee] [ In reply to ]
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I don't know of many swimmers who contract with coaches individually. There are a handful, sure, but for the most part, no. Phelps swam for NBAC, Ledecky- NCAP/Stanford, lochte -Florida/swimMAC, etc.

The only exceptions I can think of off the top of my head are Hosszu (she's married to her coach) and Kevin Cordes who went to train under Sergio. But even then I'm not sure what the fundamental relationship was, did he hire the coach or did he join the club.

People might link up with a particular club because of a particular coach, but that's not what I'm talking about.

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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Skating was more like the gymnastics model when I was doing it. One coach for the rink. You paid for your weekly private lessons and he watched you practice the rest of the week and made additional comments.

Usually a coach was exclusive to the rink. Nine had his own office and was more of less a senior member of the staff.

Cycling : I had a cts cycling coach for a short while back in the day before taking up running.

I have a swim coach now. Yeah it's true related, but no reason it has to be. I found several other individual swim coaches in my area.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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I would actually counter that swimming goes through kind of an evolution from team to individual (or slightly less team, perhaps). You join community / competitive clubs when you're younger because that's what's available. Phelps swam NBAC because that's where he started with Bowman when he was young. By legacy affiliation he was NBAC but let's be real, during Phelps' Olympic training days, if Bowman left and moved across the country, Phelps would have followed with him. Didn't Phelps just follow Bowman to Arizona this year? (Semi-kidding since Phelps is retired so not as relevant.) Missy Franklin's been coached by the same coach all her life too I think.

But your point isn't lost on me, these may not be the norm cases across the sport. I'll chalk it up to availability bias and call it a day.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [Blee] [ In reply to ]
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With youth swimming you also learnt from the other kids on the team. A lot could be learnt from watching and imitating others as they develop.

There was also the social element!

I am a self coached triathlete. But I would pay for the social learning and constant feedback of a team.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [Velocibuddha] [ In reply to ]
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Velocibuddha wrote:
With youth swimming you also learnt from the other kids on the team. A lot could be learnt from watching and imitating others as they develop.
There was also the social element!
I am a self coached triathlete. But I would pay for the social learning and constant feedback of a team.

Exactly this; I've advocated watching good swimmers whom you see at the pool several times on this forum and have received a mixed response. Jason fears that, if I just stand and watch someone swim for 3-4 minutes, the person might be offended. That's the great thing about a team: you see the same better swimmers day in, day out so you can watch them 20-30 sec at a time and not be perceived as a "stalker". In any case, I think imitating other swimmers is the best way to learn, if it works for you. (Not you personally but the generic "you"; I know you are plenty fast enough already and that you would the swimmer most swimmers would be watching.)


"Anyone can be who they want to be IF they have the HUNGER and the DRIVE."
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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When I was a competitive tennis player, it was generally individuals contracting with a coach. some coaches built groups (think Nick Bolleteri) but you were paying for services. that was often on a group basis but that was more practical than anything (shared cost/court time).
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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JasoninHalifax wrote:
Thanks, but not really what I was asking. That stuff I know. What I'm trying to get a handle on is whether triathlon is unique with respect to the coaching model, or are there other sports doing the same thing.


No, it is not unique in the slightest. Triathlon is an individual sport, most train individually. And accordingly, hire a coach to train them individually. Many other sports and endeavors are the same. Tennis is an individual sport. Hire/contract coach specifically for you and practice individually. Same with golf, boxing, ice skating, weight lifting, squash, snowboarding, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, duathlon, biathlon, ping pong, chess, to name just a few. All individual sports using same coaching model. Same for that matter as any musical instrument or other individual pursuit.
Last edited by: aerobike: Sep 14, 17 4:30
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [aerobike] [ In reply to ]
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Lots of those might have one-on-one coaching, but the coaching is delivered via the club. Tennis pros are usually part of the tennis club, then you buy your lessons individually / in blocks / seasons through the club. If you wanted a particular coach, you would first join that club and then pay for the lessons on top of the club fees. At least, that's how it used to be.

In tri, coaching is primarily delivered, it seems, outside of a club environment. Most people train outside of a club, so that makes sense. So its individuals, who are not attached to the club,

In those other individual sports mentioned, many or most of them are primarily pursued through clubs of some sort. Boxing is mostly through clubs (can't really train without other people in boxing or other martial arts). golf, dunno, but I think that most teaching pros are still attached to clubs. maybe not.

Tri is closer to the music lesson model than any other sports I can think of.

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [Blee] [ In reply to ]
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Blee wrote:
I would actually counter that swimming goes through kind of an evolution from team to individual (or slightly less team, perhaps). You join community / competitive clubs when you're younger because that's what's available. Phelps swam NBAC because that's where he started with Bowman when he was young. By legacy affiliation he was NBAC but let's be real, during Phelps' Olympic training days, if Bowman left and moved across the country, Phelps would have followed with him. Didn't Phelps just follow Bowman to Arizona this year? (Semi-kidding since Phelps is retired so not as relevant.) Missy Franklin's been coached by the same coach all her life too I think.

But your point isn't lost on me, these may not be the norm cases across the sport. I'll chalk it up to availability bias and call it a day.

Oh, on Missy, she was coached by Todd Schmitz as an age-grouper in Colorado, and then went to Cal, where she trains in Dave Durden's program.

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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At least around here, there are both Tri Clubs with that coaching model, as well as individual Tri Coaches.

I have to admit, you're asking a strange question, but I think that the answer lies in a factor that you haven't mentioned yet. Triathlon, unlike most other sports, is typically taken up as an adult. It doesn't have the same club structure that nurtures athletes from youth to potentially adulthood.
Last edited by: stinkycheese: Sep 14, 17 6:51
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [stinkycheese] [ In reply to ]
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It's an unusual question that I don't think anyone has asked before, at least not that I've seen on this forum. But I don't think it's a particularly strange question.

I'll give you the background behind my question. There is, shall we say, mixed buy-in wrt coaching in triathlon. Dave is pretty anti-coach (for himself anyway), and lots of others are the same. Don't need a coach, would rather DIY. Some love their coaches.

In most other sports I can think of, coaching is widely, almost universally, accepted as part of the sport at most levels. exceptions might be amateur / recreational level tennis, golf, cycling and road and trail running, and sports of that ilk. But I don't think that list is particularly long.

That's where the question comes from...

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [aerobike] [ In reply to ]
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aerobike wrote:
All individual sports using same coaching model. Same for that matter as any musical instrument or other individual pursuit.

I think that's an interesting comparison. When I was a beginning musician (which was not in the US, so band class was not a thing), my instruction was provided in a small group setting with others at a similar level. As I improved, I moved on to private lessons and then to a teacher who could teach me more specific technical nuance. I still played in groups, but my "real work" was done individually.

My tri club functions in a similar way. We have swim groups, run groups, and bike groups. They're fun, coached by real coaches, at a level slightly above the lowest common denominator. Beyond that, perhaps you join the small-group coaching specifically provided outside the club by the swim coach, or you take lessons with her one-on-one. Maybe you join a group of roadies to get a more aggressive road experience, or you have a cycling coach who works on aspects of your riding and how to best use that fancy power meter. Or, you get a tri coach who covers maybe strategy and how to magically make ten more hours appear in your week moreso than sport-specific technique.

It's not unique to tri. I have a friend going through this with cyclocross right now; she's been a part of the general coaching group for several years now and has decided that she wants to make a real, concerted effort to cat up. She's hired a coach to supplement what the group gives her.

Eventually, I think with most of these things you end up at a point where what you need is so individualised that the most efficient way to provide it is individually.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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JasoninHalifax wrote:
It's an unusual question that I don't think anyone has asked before, at least not that I've seen on this forum. But I don't think it's a particularly strange question.

I'll give you the background behind my question. There is, shall we say, mixed buy-in wrt coaching in triathlon. Dave is pretty anti-coach (for himself anyway), and lots of others are the same. Don't need a coach, would rather DIY. Some love their coaches.

In most other sports I can think of, coaching is widely, almost universally, accepted as part of the sport at most levels. exceptions might be amateur / recreational level tennis, golf, cycling and road and trail running, and sports of that ilk. But I don't think that list is particularly long.

That's where the question comes from...

You've answered your own question, but I think are trying to overthink things. Two reasons you've already mentioned.

Triathlon is a recreational sport for most people. There isn't a large portion of the sport that is focused on youth participation leading to Olympic/pro competition.

Triathlon also doesn't strictly need other people to train with and it doesn't need a fixed location that limits availability.

A bunch of age group 'racers' that can train independently makes it far less likely to have group or club based coaching. And a lot of clubs are actually virtual in tri, not actual face to face sessions in a regular basis.
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Re: Dumb question about coaching [Jctriguy] [ In reply to ]
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Jctriguy wrote:
JasoninHalifax wrote:
It's an unusual question that I don't think anyone has asked before, at least not that I've seen on this forum. But I don't think it's a particularly strange question.

I'll give you the background behind my question. There is, shall we say, mixed buy-in wrt coaching in triathlon. Dave is pretty anti-coach (for himself anyway), and lots of others are the same. Don't need a coach, would rather DIY. Some love their coaches.

In most other sports I can think of, coaching is widely, almost universally, accepted as part of the sport at most levels. exceptions might be amateur / recreational level tennis, golf, cycling and road and trail running, and sports of that ilk. But I don't think that list is particularly long.

That's where the question comes from...


You've answered your own question, but I think are trying to overthink things. Two reasons you've already mentioned.

Triathlon is a recreational sport for most people. There isn't a large portion of the sport that is focused on youth participation leading to Olympic/pro competition.

Triathlon also doesn't strictly need other people to train with and it doesn't need a fixed location that limits availability.

A bunch of age group 'racers' that can train independently makes it far less likely to have group or club based coaching. And a lot of clubs are actually virtual in tri, not actual face to face sessions in a regular basis.

Overthinking things is what I do best...

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Re: Dumb question about coaching [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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Individuals hiring personal coaches is very common in cycling at all levels. Even pros who are on teams that have a coach still more often then not have their own personal coach.

As for swimming, I agree. While it probably has happens somewhere, I have never heard of any competitive swimmer having a personal swim coach but swimmers at all levels will change club/teams to pick a coach. But the model is almost always a coach being paid by a club and working with multiple athletes in fixed setting. The only recent change there is has been a big rise in the last few years of stroke analysis specialists which lots of age group swimmers are now using to supplement their regular coaching.

Generally, sports that need facilities for training that are scarce and where one has to pay for access such as skating, swimming, etc. are dominated by clubs, and almost always will use a model where a coach heads up a club/team because that brings in enough money to provide the facility AND coaching.
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