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What Makes a Good Coach Great?

By Deborah Nixon

Diane StibbardCoaches all have their own approaches and coaching philosophy. Your success depends on making sure that their approach aligns with your goals. You also need to take into account different temperaments and personalities.

After many years of working with a variety of coaches, I now know what makes a good coach great. Each time I started working with a new coach, I had high hopes and thought that I had met the best coach ever. Inevitably, after working with her for a period of time, I found that I wasn’t making as much progress as I had hoped. I also would get discouraged and wonder if the program  designed for me was the right one. Ifelt I was always second-guessing my coaches and constantly re-evaluating what I was doing.

My luck changed a few months ago when I read Diane Stibbard’s article on Women’s Cycling.ca. I had trained with Diane over 10 years ago and lost track of her. I reconnected with her and explained my situation. I had been cycling seriously for two years but had hit a wall with speed and distance.  It didn’t seem to matter what I did, I couldn’t improve. After our first meeting, Diane knew what I needed to do. I have followed her program for two months and I’m riding faster and stronger than I ever have.

So, what makes Diane different? And what makes for a great coach?

1) First of all, your  coach needs to participate in your sport. This is the primary advantage I found with Diane. Unless your coach cycles, she will never really understand the physiology of what is needed to be a fantastic cyclist. It’s all theoretical to a non-cycling coach. Also, a coach who doesn’t know your sport can never really know why you aren’t achieving your goals. They can only guess. And often they guess wrong. Diane instantly understood my problem, as only an accomplished and experienced cycling coach can.

2)  Your coach has to understand the reality of your life. So many coaches expect you to dedicate most of your free time to training. And if you can’t, then they make you feel like a failure or like somebody who just isn’t committed enough—somebody who deserves to see poor results.  Diane never did that. She understood my work schedule and that sometimes life gets in the way. Diane supported me by never criticizing me if I missed a training session. She simply adjusted my training schedule accordingly. In fact, her flexibility has resulted in my working hard to maintain the training routine.

3) Your coach should always be in dialogue with you. Most coaches will see you once a week and that’s it. What happens in between is your problem.  I’ve had coaches not reply to my emails or phone messages. Some coaches will not communicate with you without an additional fee.

Diane and I are in constant communication. She wants to know how each training sessions goes. If I have a problem, Diane is there immediately to help me resolve it. She demonstrates her commitment to me by being available, checking in, and going the extra mile.

4)  Your coach has to care about your success as much as you do. You have to be more than just a source of business to your coach.  Diane is as committed to my success as I am. She shows this by encouraging me, challenging me, being more supportive of me than I am of myself and helping me keep my training and my goals in perspective. When I get frustrated, Diane is there to encourage me. When I feel I can’t step up to the next level, Diane is there to reassure me that I can do it.

The wrong coach can take your aspirations and crush them. Finding the right coach can mean the difference between success and failure.  A great coach like Diane Stibbard transforms your doubts into self-confidence and leads you to victory.

Diane Stibbard provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training.

You want personal training but don’t live near Diane? No problem. Diane does email and telephone consultations. To learn more, contact Diane at [email protected] or at LinkedIn.


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