Maybe you're tired of it, Maybe you're not... isn't everyone on social media an online coach now? That can be how it seems when you're looking through a small scope on the internet. You may be asking yourself. What makes this person qualified? How can I separate the good coaches from the crowd? Why do they charge so much? How fast do you need to be to get a coach?
I'm writing this blog post today to answer a few of those questions, and also why I decided to finally.... finally.... take the leap!
I know most of you that read this blog also follow me on instagram... so I keep that in consideration when I write these blogposts. Many of you, no matter how real you keep it, may have "two lives" or identities; there's you're real life... your family, friends, and work or non-running extracurriculars that might not fit in with your online "market" or appeal to your audience, so you don't share... and then there's running. Well, for me... There's just running. That's not to say I don't have a life outside of running... I do.... but I didn't pick up running late in life and once I started I never stopped... so as a result running shaped all of my friendships, all of my extracurriculars, and even my family is largely a result of running... so it is threaded into every aspect of my life. Many of the people I grew up competing with have either burnt out from the sport, started coaching, or both. I've always had an interest in coaching, however I never could commit to someone else's training when I struggled to even commit to my own. Instead, I offered up my expertise and experience in the form of a volunteer and as a training partner to younger student athletes who needed a mentor... it was mutually beneficial as I also got a training partner in return.
A handful of years ago when my late high school coach was dying, I went to visit him and felt this huge weight of obligation to take over the program and begin coaching in his place. It felt poetic and looked good on paper so when I visited him, I asked about it. I told him that I would continue on and honor the program he built if he wanted me to. I thought for sure he'd say yes and I braced myself for the answer. I honestly didn't want to... but I'd do anything for that man and knew he wouldn't ask me... so I offered it... but instead of the yes, please I expected, he rolled his eyes at me and said "Caitlyn, I just want you to run. You have more in you and you should pursue your own running" It was not what I saw coming... but man I was relieved! I didn't want to give up my dreams but didn't know how it was possible to work full time, coach, and train... (this is before I had kids and realized how bad I was at time management. Kids really whip you into shape in that department!)
Since then I've been approached countless times about coaching and countless times I've fallen back on the "I'm pursuing my own running" answer and offered up a quick tip that really isn't very helpful because coaching is a whole-picture-type-thing. For a good long while, pursuing my own running was true, but recently I felt a huge shift and I felt myself change and I actually wanted to coach. Sadly, I still felt like I did nothing with my own running since that conversation with Coach Kirk, so I felt like now if I shift to coaching... I'm letting him down. He wanted me to pursue my own running and I did and I am but it's not fulfilling me the way it used to. I've deflected a lot of inquiries about coaching to try to honor him, and myself and to try an get faster, but I've recently felt like maybe I’ve been using him as a crutch to not take this next step! I’ve been really sitting on this since February last year... and I felt like my late coach has been trying to send me signs that it's okay. What he meant was to follow my own path... not his... and at the time that meant pursue my own running, but now... that can mean whatever I believe! I know he'd want what I thought was best for me and my development as a whole person.
If you don't believe in this stuff, just skip to the bold... But I believe in a higher purpose and power and I believe we are called to do certain things in life at certain times and I started being called. I had several pretty profound things happen in the past year that felt like my former coach communicating with me, and I it keeps coming... so I can’t ignore it!
First, his nephew began working as the custodian in my school specifically assigned to my class. I didn't know why his eyes looked so familiar until I signed into work one day and saw the last name, "Kirk"... it hit me like a bag of bricks! That very same week my coaches daughter drove by me while I was doing the walk of shame home from a failed run. She lives a quarter mile away from me! What?! Next, I was bringing Raea to the dance studio and noticed one of the girls wearing a sweatshirt with the name "Kirk" on it from 1998, I had an identical sweatshirt from the year we won the cross country championships. I stopped the girl in her tracks and stuttered through questioning... "wh-wher-where'd you get that shirt?" She said it was her friends sisters. Of course! I found out my coaches youngest daughter that was born when I was in High School was now a senior and danced at the same studio! (don't even get me started on how much I cried watching her solo)... and the last straw was last week when my mom received letter in the mail with my class ring from high school... It was sent by an athletic director from another school. They found it while remodeling the locker room, sent it back to my high school and my high school sent it to my mom (or something like that? I don't know I actually still haven't seen it... my mom just told me about it... all I know is I lost my class ring that has a track foot and cross country symbol on it and now I have it back) Freaky, right? While hiking the Rim on Cannon Mountain in the white mountains this summer, I saw a shirt that said “guardians” (my mascot from High School and I said “hey I’m an alum!” And from under the woman’s hat appeared my old History teacher who still works at the school. She said “Caitlyn! I just sent your class ring to your mother, did you get it?” ... weird.... Also weird is that I was hiking in the Whites the day my coach died, too. I was as close to Heaven as you could get in New England.
Somewhere in the middle of all these events, I sent resumes and inquired about other coaching companies out there... but none of them felt right for me in the phase I’m in. I couldn't really wrap my head around abandoning the very important work I was doing in the school systems. I'm very good at what I do and although it sucks the life out of me at times... sometimes it gives me life to know that I can connect with children that other people are afraid of. I want to have the flexibility to only coach a handful of people and increase when the timing is right for me, not be flooded with new athletes that I don't get to do intake phone calls with and that I don't necessarily get the chance to feel out if we are a good fit for one another. It's a two way street! So then the hurdle was just being brave enough to take the small steps each day so I could get closer to launching this. The extra time on the summer gave me a chance to re-read training books, prep my website, learn about payment portals and hosting sites so I could make a seamless transition when “real school” starts and when my own marathon was over. I'm not going to lie, I've been almost more excited and more anxious about this than I was for Erie. As Erie approached I kept finding myself saying "and then I'll start officially coaching!" A weird part of me felt like I couldn't be a coach if I was not able to run myself. I felt like I needed the marathon to prove myself first... and in hindsight, I know that is really silly... because race times do not make a coach more or less qualified to be a good coach.
What Makes a Coach Qualified?
There are lots of certifications out there that give you letters you can put next to your name to say that you learned something about coaching and about running. I have none of those letters. I have none of those certifications. The most influential coach I ever had was Kevin Kirk, and he wasn't USATF Level anything. Coaching is about knowledge and experience to some degree, but how you are able to use that knowledge to help someone else is crucial. A good coach motivates. A good coach sees both strengths and weaknesses and knows how to use them to benefit the athlete, a good coach is a teacher (eh, em.. Masters Degree+). They know when to push and they know when to pull back. I have experienced every spectrum of coaching both as an athlete and as a volunteer assistant, and although I can't tell you exactly what type of coach is best for you and what makes a good coach for you... I can tell you one thing... certifications will not give you that answer... neither will PR's. When you hire a coach, you enter into a relationship. It needs to be a good fit for both.
How Can I Separate Good Coaches from The Crowd?
Again, there is nothing clear cut here. Results of the Athlete matter, but health of the athlete matters more and that is not as obvious or concrete so it's harder to spot online. A conversation is necessary for knowing for sure that the coach has your best interest in mind and is not just results driven. I've seen this be especially problematic for women runners and fertility. IF you are not menstruating you need to get off the slippery slope.... a good coach will know how to guide an athlete into a healthy zone.
Why Do they Charge SO Much?
I'll be honest, I've never once felt like I've been charged too much for coaching. I've been lucky enough to receive coaching at a high level without having to pay (except for all those student loans!) for almost half of my running career, so when I completed college there was no question I would continue to have a coach, and for a long time I continued with the assistant coach from my college. If something is valuable to you, you find a way. If you feel like coaches are charging too much, than you are not valuing their commitment and your own commitment to the sport enough... and if that is where you are, I understand that. I have priced myself below the industry standard in order to access athletes that do not believe their athletic goals are worth more, however I am in a position to do that since this is just a part time gig I am doing to fulfill the space in my heart... and with time I hope I can make them see that they are worth it and I am worth it! (but I won't increase my prices, I will just be happy to have made a difference in someone's perception of self)
How Fast do you need to be to Get a Coach?
EVERYONE DESERVES A COACH! There are plenty of great coaching companies that coach athletes of every level. You've probably seen them online. I, Personally, am a McKirdy Trained athlete and have received great professional care (even with all the complications!) from my coach Pardon no matter how out of shape I've been. I follow a lot of other coaches on instagram and there are a lot of good options out there that have no requirements! For the most part, a lot of coaches care significantly less about your ability and more about your commitment to the work (and to the rest!). Many coaches also have a better grasp on your untapped potential than you do, and it is often really fun to take a new, unexperienced, moldable athlete to the next level. There are some programs and clubs that have qualifying standards, but if your poking around on this page, you probably aren't interested in that type of stuff! If you have a goal and a worth ethic to match it, you can be coached. Period.
Why Should I Hire You?
The truth is, I don't know if you should. I want to have that conversation to get to know you first! Most coaches are not in the business of making money... we just want to see progress! If progress is what you want, we agree on that! Lets see where else our philosophies and goals line up and if we're a good match! And if you haven't checked out what I offer, please do! I'm especially excited to have a discounted rate for mothers because that is something I am very passionate about having just had a 2 year battle with postpartum injuries... I have learned a lot!
If we've had a conversation already or you're ready to take that step, just go sign up! I look forward to this new journey and am really excited to see you grow as an athlete and have running enhance your life the way it has mine!
Welcome to my blog! I blogged my entire pregnancy in 2017 and I had high hopes for where I could take my running after baby number 2, but my body had other plans. At some point I got too discouraged to write and recently realized that it is essential for my personal growth and development to keep putting feelings into coherent(ish) thoughts. I still hope to run sub 2:45 in the marathon one day, but for now I’m trying to focus on the process and I’m learning to enjoy it. You can come along for the ride, apologies in advance for grammatical incorrectness!