(1) Time per Athlete vs. Coach’s Experience
This is the one of the most important considerations as an athlete as you weigh your options of who to hire as a coach.
An inexperienced coach is likely to only have a handful of clients and as a result, they are likely to spend more time on each of their client’s programming. Often this coach is someone you know personally (and is local to you), which is an advantage.
However, there are clearly downfalls to having a less experienced coach, from programming that lacks basic principles to the coach not knowing what it takes for you to reach your goals (since they likely haven’t had other athletes in a very similar situation to you.)
The other option is a very experienced coach. This clearly has advantages since they probably know your needs as a unique athlete, will be honest with you about the work and sacrifices required to get to your goals, and their programming will be grounded in scientific principles.
The downside of certain experienced coaches is they focus most of their time and attention of the athletes they view as having more return on their investment, at the expense of the rest of their clients.
For example, a coach who spends several hours each week on their elite athlete, which helps them market their services and give them status in the community, while only spending five to ten minutes per week on the designs of the rest of their clientele.
It’s the difference between mining the client for money versus investing in the athlete as a person that the coach cares for.
The takeaway for you is, find a coach who has helped other athletes reach a very similar goal to you (e.g. coach a remote athlete to a CrossFit Semifinal), and make sure you have faith that they are a trustworthy individual who will deliver the service you are paying for.
(2) Templated vs. True Individual Design
One of the ways that coaches with a larger client base try to save time (allowing them to take on more clients and make more money) is by copy & pasting part of one client’s program for another client. In some cases, these coaches market themselves as writing “individualized” programs, but will deliver the same program to multiple clients.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with athletes doing part of their programming from a group program, but this shouldn’t be a shady process that is done “in the dark” without the athletes knowledge.
In my opinion, it is deceptive and just wrong, to sell an athlete individual design programming and deliver a copy & pasted program without their knowledge.
There are ways to use this approach and be honest about it. I personally have athletes on “hybrid programs” which are a combination of a group and individual programming.
For example, we pre-agree upon X sessions per week of individualized programming and the remaining sessions are pulled from The Protocol. But this is a lower price point than full-time individual design.
Again, the takeaway here is finding a coach who you believe will be trustworthy and deliver individualized programming if that is what you are paying for.
(3) Are Warm-ups, Movement Prep, Mobility Sessions, and Recovery Days Programmed?
This comes back to the amount of time the coach spends per client. Less time per client means more clients, which means more money.
For this reason, many coaches choose not to program warm-ups, recovery days and other similar elements of an athlete’s programming.
As you have your initial contact with a coach that you are potentially hiring, I would recommend asking for a sample of their programming. If the person is unwilling to share or take the time to help answer your questions, that’s probably a good sign of how they will act once you are a client.
Personally, some of the most detailed programming I write is for recovery sessions.
(4) Does the Coach Provide Cues & Feedback?
One of the things that is most important for ideal execution of workouts (and accelerated improvement) is not just having the exercises, sets and reps, but also having information on how to complete the work.
You should know if your coach writes specific cues and focal points for your workouts.
But it doesn’t stop here; your coach should also provide feedback on your results and training videos. A coach should have specific systems built for doing this.
For example, I use a screen record with voiceover to provide detailed feedback on technique for my athletes.
(5) Solo Coach vs. Part of an Organization
Is the coach you are looking to hire doing coaching on their own or are they a member of a larger coaching organization?
There are excellent coaches who are solo and there are excellent coaches who are part of organizations, but I want to point out some of the themes that I have seen from my experiences (conversations I have had with athletes who have parted ways with other coaches and work with me).
First, you are more likely to get treated like a number in a large organization. Big companies with large followings get an absurd number of leads from athletes looking for coaches. These clients / leads are often fed to a coach (the coach doesn’t have to work for them) and therefore the coach is more likely to not cater to your individual needs and be less patient if you have a lot of questions.
However, one big advantage of a coach being apart of a larger company is they are likely to have access to a pool of data on benchmark fitness tests and similar items from many other athletes will a similar goal as you. This data gives the athlete an advantage through the coach providing a statistical analysis of the athlete’s ability in key metrics.
The best of both worlds would be a coach who works in a small organization that is athlete-centric and the company (and each of the coaches) have a reputation for taking care of their athletes.
It’s fine if you don’t work with one of our coaches, but -please- just do your homework before you pick a coach.
After all, it’s one of the most important decisions an athlete can make.