>A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to take a few moments to complete a survey about coaching. I mentioned that this was all part of the advance research I was doing for a series of posts I planned to write about triathletes and coaching.
Well, it’s time to finally share the results of the survey and to set the stage for the upcoming series. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been interacting with some of the best coaches in the country. Picking their brains. I’ve done tons of reading about the concept of using a coach, including pros & cons. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll begin posting my thoughts and observations.
But first, the survey.
The survey was relatively simple. Eleven simple questions. Less than 90 seconds to complete for most people. I ran the survey off of TriMadness for about a week, and LOTS of you clicked over and took it. So thanks!
Now, the results – but keep in mind that this is not a “scientific” study, and the statistical significance of the data collected here compared to the overall population of triathletes is probably fairly low (I didn’t calculate it).
The first question I asked was how many folks actually use a coach. I was a little surprised to find that roughly half of the survey responders don’t use a coach or consider themselves self-coached.
By digging a little deeper into the underlying data, it’s fairly interesting to see that a higher proportion of men chose not to use a coach (69.57% versus 30.43%), whereas women are not only more likely to use a coach in general (57.14% to 42.86%), they are also more likely to use a coach for specific events (85.71% versus 14.29%) or to help them improve specific aspects of their triathlon training (100% of folks who responded with this choice were women). I’m sure that there are some gender-specific stereotypes that I could belabor here, but I’m just going to say that according to my data, it just appears that guys would rather come up with their own plans.
It’s also interesting to examine the triathlon experience of folks who completed the survey, and then those that use coaches versus those who don’t. Clearly, the vast majority of folks who completed the survey fall into the 2-5 years of experience category.
Of those athletes that indicated that they use a coach “all the time”, the majority of athletes fell into the 2-5 year category (28.57%) and the 5-7 year category (35.71%). The third most prolific group was the cohort in the “More than 10 years” category. Conversely, the data for those indicating that they “never” used a coach was skewed towards the lower end of the spectrum, with 8.7% of the respondents having less than one year of experience, 34.78% having 1-2 years experience and 39.13% having 2-5 years of experience.
There are likely multiple factors that cause the comparitively high results on the low experience side of the curve – chief among them unfamiliarity with coaches and the cost component associated with hiring a coach. Roughly 54% of the survey takers who never use a coach cited “Cost – too expensive” as their primary reason. Secondary reasons for not using a coach: 20% indicated that they “prefer to make their own plans”, and 17% indicated that “prepared plans from media (web, magazines, etc) are good enough for me.”
Switching gears to those athletes that do use a coach…
I was curious as to how triathletes found their coach. Not surprisingly, most athletes hook up with a coach due to a personal recommendation. Curiously a fairly sizeable percentage of athletes found their coach online (through social media, a website, or directory) or chose their coach based on name-recognition.
Part of the coaching dynamic that seems to be fairly important is the frequency and modality used for communication between the athlete and coach. Going into the survey, I would have guessed that most athletes communicated with their coach on a weekly basis – and this assumption held for the most part. I was a little surprised to see that a fair number of athletes interact with their coaches on a daily basis:
Moreover, athletes are not bound to one particular communication tool when it comes to interacting with their coach. As you might expect, phone and email are pretty common choices. Social media is fairly common as well. I received several comments from survey takers that the choice “all of the above” should have been included – as they communicate through phone, email, text, social media, fax, snail mail, smoke signals, signal flags and morse code. OK, that my be a little stretch, but you get the idea.
Next, I was interested in learning where coaches live in relation to the athletes they coach. Again, I suspected that the majority of coaches likely lived in the same or an adjacent town. As you might expect, the data supported that idea. What surprised me, however, was the relative proclivity of coaches that were considered “national”.
And finally, I was interested to learn if there was a geographic component in the coaching dynamic – meaning are athletes in one area of the country more likely to use a coach than athletes in other parts of the country. Curiously, there was not any apparent trend that I could find. Roughly 26% of the survey respondents reside in what I would call the “Northeast”, whereas 24% reside in the “Midwest”, and 22% live in the “Southeast”. In all fairness, though, the number of folks from the “West” or “Southwest” that completed the survey was relatively small.
So there you have it. The results from the TriMadness coaching survey. I hope you found this interesting; I sure did.
Coming up beginning next week: Part One of the Coach-Athlete Dynamic.