Pay attention to your needs first. It is not your job to coddle your coach so he or she can feel good about managing your schedule.
Be sure to keep your coach in the loop no matter how mundane you think your day-to-day life is. A good coach will see patterns and signs of stress and change and will be able to help you work through them. I had an athlete who played tennis at least once a week and never told me. I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t maximizing his rest days. He was tired and never really recovered after a couple hard sessions. That was because he wasn’t recovering!
Find a coach who can appreciate your situation(s).
I work hard to support athletes who have families, challenging jobs, and lots of moving parts. We all know the saying….”if Mom’s not happy no one’s happy”! That goes for Dad too! I’ve known coaches who make ridiculous demands of their athletes asking them to compromise family, career and health.
If you are in a situation where you are stressed because you feel like you have to choose between family and your training then it might be time to revisit your plan. This is not to say you won’t have days where you run around the soccer field for 2 hours while kids play, or you hit the hotel gym after a long day because you know it will make you feel better or you pass on your workout because your Mom needs help in the garden. What makes it hard is when you feel guilty or angry because the decision stressed you out.
Work with a coach who is flexible and honest about what workouts you really need to get done to reach your goal. As coaches we all have “cool” workouts we want you to do because we know it will help you in the long run but not if you freak out trying to do them.
Work with a coach you can be honest with.
If you are embarrassed or nervous about telling your coach something then maybe you should revisit your relationship. You want to feel comfortable talking about anything that might arise during training, racing etc. I had a coach who made me feel so bad about missing a workout that I actually stopped recording any workouts so I wouldn’t have to see my failure in writing. UGH! I also had to get used to talking to a male coach about the uncomfortable chamois in my bike shorts and the saddle sores that were so infected I couldn’t ride. Some men might find it hard to talk to a female coach about numbness on the bike or sore nipples and on and on. Make sure you can both talk about these issues openly and without judgment.
It is helpful to find a coach that has “been in your shoes”.
If you want to run a 50K it is helpful to work with a coach who has done a similar event. If you want to increase from a sprint to a half distance triathlon it can be worthwhile to talk with a coach who has done both. At the very least I recommend a coach who has coached other athletes for the event you are considering. Not because your experience will mirror their experience or because you want to have the same experience as your coach but because a good coach can use their experiences to paint a picture for you of what the event will feel and look like.
Knowing the tricks and tips related to packing, preparation, training, logistics, anxieties, injuries and racing can help you better prepare for and execute your endurance event. As an ultra-runner I can work with an athlete’s valid concerns about running 50 miles or for 24 hours! It does seem ridiculous but it is very doable!
The bottom line is that you need to be honest with yourself about what you want and need in a coach and what style of communication works best for you.