There are a number of reasons why people choose to become a triathlon coach. From being a parent wanting to help out at their child’s club, to an experienced age-grouper or elite athlete wanting to share their knowledge and experiences and give something back to the sport they love.
Whatever the reason and ultimate goal, coaching can be a very rich and rewarding role – helping others develop and achieve their potential and personal goals within the sport. The role of a coach is vital to the success of triathletes at every level and goes beyond just creating and delivering the training sessions. It encompasses athlete management, being a role model, being a motivator to their athletes and fellow coaches and most importantly, building strong personal relationships with their athletes.
The triathlon coaching qualification levels range hugely from starting out as an ‘Activator’ to being a highly qualified and experienced Level 3 coach. At the start, your role as a coach may be very informal when working with entry level athletes and within local clubs. As you develop as a coach this role becomes much more professional, often working with highly ambitious performance athletes and requiring much greater time commitment. British Triathlon, the sport’s National Governing Body for the sport within Great Britain provide a range of qualifications and continuing professional development opportunities to suit all aspiring coaches.
If you don’t have any coaching experience, a good starting point would be to shadow a coach at your local triathlon club, but as an athlete you will be surprised at how much you will have already learnt and picked up from your coaches. Shadowing another coach will not only allow you to get a feeling of what coaching is and what it involves but also allow you to gain hands-on experience and accelerate your learning as a coach.
That being said, try to support a variety of coaches and athletes to help increase the breadth of your knowledge and experience. For example, working with junior athletes can bring a completely different challenge to coaching adult age-groupers and requires a number of different skills and capabilities.
What qualifications are required to become a triathlon coach and how do I get them?
You can enter onto a BTF Level 1 Coaching Course or Activator Course with no coaching qualifications or experience. From here you can progress up the ladder to Level 2 and our highest qualification, the Level 3 High Performance Coaching Programme (HPCP). Both the Level 2 and Level 3 Courses require a certain level of qualification and length of experience – visit www.britishtriathlon.org/coaching for more information.
It is possible to enter the Level 2 course without going through the Level 1 qualification through a scheme we call ‘direct entry’. This allows individuals with an existing level of experience and relevant coaching qualifications (eg. In another sport or HE degree) the opportunity to bypass the Level 1 Course following assessment by one of our accredited tutor workforce.
What do the BTF courses entail?
In October 2016, we reviewed and released our new Coach Education Programme. The Level 1 and 2 courses now focus on the core skills of coaching and serve as a platform for coaching to further develop their skills in any specific areas of interest and relevance to their role. Our philosophy which defines our courses is based on coaches taking responsibility of their own learning and coaching pathway, using our support through the resources and opportunities we offer to seek out the specific knowledge necessary to fulfil their role and develop as a coach.
All of our course content and assessment, with the exception of the final practical coaching task) is provided through our online learning platform, The Learning Hub. This allows the course contact time to focus on practical coaching activities, problem solving tasks and classroom discussion.
Any pre-2016 qualified Level 1 and 2 coaches, may want to consider re-visiting The Learning Hub as they will find a substantial amount of new content, videos and resources that may help them adapt, challenge and progress their own coaching.
All course information, including what they involve and how to book on, are available on the British Triathlon website at www.britishtriathlon.org/get-involved/coaching/become-a-coach
What characteristics and attributes should athletes look for in a coach?
Coaching is seen as both an art and a science. A coach needs to have a number of ‘soft’ interpersonal skills when working with athletes in order to optimise their development through trust, engagement and motivation. On the other hand, coaches also need a number of more technical skills such as discipline, specific knowledge and understanding of exercise physiology in order to appropriately teach and enhance the learning and performance of their athletes.
A good coach will have a good understanding of their athletes both as an athlete and a person and balance these two areas to meet their specific needs and goals within the sport. In addition to this having a growth and open mindset to their learning and approach to learning is crucial to getting the most out their athletes and to continue to grow as a coach especially in the sport of triathlon which continues to develop and evolve.
Having experienced coaches grow and develop from a variety of different backgrounds, we have seen some of the best coaches start with little or no coaching or triathlon experience, but they bring a drive to learn and support others.
You can follow British Triathlon’s Coaching and Volunteering team on Twitter, via @brittricoaching
Find out more on how to become a coach and the British Triathlon Coaching Qualifications, via www.britishtriathlon.org/get-involved/coaching/become-a-coach