In the endurance world of multisport, cycling and running, it seems like everyone wants to be and is a “coach.” All too often, individuals feel that if they have 1 half-way decent race or they sit through a course, that they are more than qualified to coach & advise others.  Let’s be sure that if an athlete chooses to be coached that they are receiving just that (coaching) and not just a cheerleader.

The Art of Coaching

Good coaching, no doubt, requires a ton of time, effort and energy. Cheerleading, on the other hand, requires just the opposite… zero effort, zero time and zero energy.  Let’s set the stage; a triathlete hires a coach and has been training intensely for months. It is the end of a long season and it is time for some active and passive recovery for the body and mind. During this well needed recovery, the triathlete tells his/her coach that they are going to do a 100-mile challenging ride. What is the coach to do?


Often times, coaches are disengaged and far too interested in their own personal fitness and racing. This leads to the “cheerleader syndrome” which takes no effort or energy. As a cheerleader, the answer to the athlete is a simple, “sure, that sounds like fun, yay, you rock! Enjoy the 100-mile ride.” Remember, athletes have plenty of cheerleaders in their corner and these cheerleaders are free.  Athletes have more cheerleaders than they know what to do with, such as social media friends, family members, co-workers, etc. The last thing an athlete needs to do is pay for additional cheerleading.


Athletes are extremely motivated, goal oriented and driven and this is great.  As a coach, the goal is to corral this energy and make sure it is being utilized appropriately for the athlete’s goals and needs. And yes, this requires a coach to listen intently, be engaged and answer multiple questions and advise the athlete via phone, text, e-mail, etc.… And when this is done, you do it again and again and again. This is coaching not cheerleading.


Tough Love

As children, we all learn what tough love is. We may not understand it at the time, but we quickly realize how valuable it truly is. As a coach, providing tough love is necessary in order for athletes to achieve goals beyond their wildest dreams. You can be their friend and even their best friend at that, but you are still their coach and they have retained your services for a specific reason…so they can achieve their goals and dreams they have set for themselves.


Athletes are driven and this is what makes it so exciting to coach them. There will be times when the athlete feels “more training is better.” On a scheduled rest day, the athlete may override this and choose to train. Or, each time an athlete has a one-hour run prescribed, he/she may extend this run an additional 10-20 min. Now, as a cheerleader, you let this slide because it actually takes work, effort, energy, tough love and coaching to take the time to explain in great detail the method behind the coaching. Even if you have explained this to the athlete 100x before, it is time to do it for the 101st time.  It is this type of coaching that will help to take athletes to the next level.


As with anything successful in life, nothing comes easy, and coaching is no different. If you want to be a successful coach and grow a successful coaching business, get ready to work, get ready to listen, get ready to be engaged with each and every athlete…and repeat these steps daily. When an athlete hires you to coach them, always remember, they own a piece of you. It is your obligation to your athlete to listen intently, be energetic, be empathetic and be on your A-game 24/7; this will allow you to to coach them…not cheerlead.

Dr. Rick Kattouf

2x Best-Selling author

Named One of the World Fitness Elite® Trainers of the Year

Named one of America's PremierExperts® in Fitness & Nutrition

CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf Inc

CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf Nutrition LLC

CEO/Founder of Virtual Gym LLC

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