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What Do You Want in a Coach

While you’ll be attending college to get an education, athletics may pay for part, if not all, of the cost to you as a recruit.  There are many factors to bear in mind as you assess the coaches and teams that you are interacting with during the recruiting process.  Talk to as many college coaches as possible, even the ones whose program you’re not interested in.  It’s good to know what you’re getting and what you’re not getting.  Also, sometimes you’ll learn about various offerings that you could turn around and request from another coach.  

Even though the coaching dynamics will be a critical component in your collegiate athletic experience, it’s not advisable to base your college choice solely on the coaches.  Coaches could leave for a myriad of reasons during the recruiting process, after you commit but before you arrive on campus, or during your time as a student-athlete at the university.  They might be seeking better coaching opportunities, be asked to leave due to improprieties or less than stellar team results, or retire.  It’s common for coaches to shuffle around from one college to another right after the NCAA championships in June.  Case in point, the day after the NCAA DI Championships in which USC won the women’s team title, it was announced that its head coach was leaving to direct the University of Georgia’s track and field program, which took third at the championships.  It’s acceptable for you to ask coaches when their coaching contract is set to expire.  

As an aside, if a coach leaves, the replacement could be a coach you interacted with from another college during your recruiting process.  As the saying goes, don’t burn bridges behind you.  It’s wise to make an effort to keep all of your recruiting interactions with coaches positive.  

While a coach’s departure is a possibility, during the recruiting process you should operate under the assumption that the coach who recruited you will coach you for the duration of your time at the university.  Therefore, make the effort to get to know the coach.  It’s likely that you may receive more than one offer and the coach’s personality and philosophy could make a difference in your decision on which offer to accept.

To get to know the coaches, start by reading their bios.  Their bios would include information about their educational background, their personal athletic accomplishments, their coaching level and achievements, their family status, how often they move around, etc.  You have to be discerning though, because some bios are clearly padded with athlete’s achievements that they weren’t involved in.  Reading the bios would allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of the coach, the team’s history, and successful athletes who passed through the program. 

When coaches are communicating with you regularly and have even shared with you their personal contact information, that's a good sign of your recruitment. You are probably a favored recruit if coaches readily speak to your parents.  After the initial contact between you and the coaches, some coaches are very methodical and will call you routinely.  Some will call to discuss how you performed at specific meets.  Other coaches are looking for you to update them regularly on how your season is going or about academic matters. 


In your communications with coaches, you should be looking to gather the following information from them:

  • What is the coach’s proven body of work in recent years?

  • Is your event coach the head coach?

  • Are your event coach and the head coach approachable?

  • How instrumental is your event coach in coaching athletes to score points at championships?

  • What’s the coach’s outlook for the team’s competitiveness?

  • What activities does the coach support to facilitate team bonding and team spirit?

  • Does the coach facilitate cross training between different running groups? 

  • Does the coach have training partners for you?

  • What’s the coach’s training philosophy?

  • Is the coach interested in how you have trained in high school?

  • Does the coach individualize workouts?

  • How does the coach integrate strength training into the program?

  • What is the coach’s required holiday and offseason training for the team?

  • How does the coach explain when his athletes don’t perform to their potential?

  • Has the coach discussed with you any of your less than stellar performances?

  • How does the coach discipline athletes?

  • What’s the coach’s program for injury prevention and recovery from injury?

  • Does the team cover medical expenses for sports-related injuries?

  • What’s the coach’s philosophy on redshirting?

  • What’s the coach’s organizational style?

  • How does the coach handle athletes with academically-rigorous schedules?

  • How does the coach accommodate class conflicts with practice time?

While you are assessing the coaches, be clear that they are doing the same to you.  They are trying to feel you out as a person and an athlete, your coachability, and how you’d fit into the team dynamic.  Be prepared to answer a myriad of questions about yourself, training, family life, interests, goals, etc.  Answer the questions TRUTHFULLY.  Telling coaches what they want to hear, if it’s not true, doesn’t serve you well.  It gives both them and you a false sense of your fit in the program because what they tell you will be in response to your answers.  Also be aware that coaches may follow you on social media to get a glimpse of your character.

Other Factors

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