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What Makes a Good Coach?

By Joan Scrivanich | Aug. 18, 2014, 6:20 p.m. (ET)


Wondering what makes a good coach and how to pick the right one? There are many more coaches available to the general public now than there were a few years ago, which can make finding the right coach a tough decision. Some coaches either are or were pro athletes themselves, some are mediocre athletes. Some coaches have never completed an Iron-distance race, while some race very well in all distances. But does that make them a better coach then others?


The answer is no. A good athlete does not necessarily make a good coach.



Some of the best coaches in the world have never reached the level their athletes have reached. Not all Olympic coaches were elite level athletes, but they know how to get their athletes there.


Coaching is an art and a science. It’s about seeing potential in someone and being able to teach and push them just the right amount. It’s about knowing an athlete’s weaknesses and strengths and developing that athlete to their potential.


Coaches wear many hats. They’re leaders, motivators, teachers, psychologists and cheerleaders.


So what should you look at when deciding on a coach? Here are a few things to look for:

  • Certifications
  • Education and experience
  • Attention to detail
  • Understanding of physiology and biomechanics
  • Understanding of both daily and sport nutrition
  • Understanding of training program design
  • Understanding of sport psychology


Don’t overlook whether or not a coach is certified in the sport. USA Triathlon Certified Coaches have invested their time and money into their profession. They are required to recertify in order to keep that certification, and good coaches always continue to learn.


After looking at all this, you still need to know if you and the coach are a good fit. The best way to do this is to talk to the coach; don’t be afraid to reach out.

A few traits you may want to consider when looking at a coach:

  • Honesty
  • Passion for what they do
  • A good listener
  • Inspiring
  • Respectful


With all of this in mind, start considering what you find important in a coach as you make your decision.


USA Triathlon has made it easy for triathletes to find a coach with their Find a Coach page. Other resources you can check include USA Track & Field's Registered Coaches List and National Strength & Conditioning Association's Find a Trainer page.

Joan Scrivanich, MA, CSCS is a USA Triathlon and USA Track & Field Certified Coach as well as a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. She has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Columbia University and has been an endurance athlete for 25 years, which has included competing at a Division I college in both cross country and track.

Joan’s coaching career started in the health care field while working at the top NYC hospitals in cardiac rehabilitation and research. She now coaches triathletes and runners full time while also coaching fitness clients and freelance writing.

Find out more about Joan and her coaching at Rise Endurance LLC at

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.