The Most Effective Coaching Styles for Distance Runners

The 3 Types of Coaches

1. The Dictator

This coaching style commands every aspect of training and allows little room for personal variation from the prescribed schedule. The coach is more likely to “tell” instead of “ask” the athlete if they prefer one thing over another.

The dictator takes full control of all aspects of training and the athlete is expected to follow their plan exactly as it is laid out.

Which athletes respond best?

Perfect for athletes who are not overly disciplined in training and need a clear structure outlined by an authoritative/trusted source.

The dictator is a perfect style of coach for athletes who might lack discipline, or who need clear direction and structure to their training and racing.

Athletes who have respect for authority and who will unquestioningly listen to their coach’s plan will do well with a dictatorial coaching style.

Consider imposing this style when relating to your team as a whole. Opening room for question from an entire team is an open door for people to disagree and share their often times invalid opinions.


2. The Systematic

The systematic coach is very logical in their approach to training and racing. All decisions are evidence based, and goals are focused on incremental improvements from measurable performance indicators, such as VO2 max, and heart rate.

The systematic coach can break an entire season out months in advance by only having a baseline for their athletes expected fitness markers.

This coach leaves no room for personal preferences as everything is based on physical indicators of fitness level and pre-defined formulae, and not on psychological factors.

Which athletes respond best?

Perfect for Athletes who require little emotional support and are self-sufficient in their training discipline

Runners that will respond best to this style of coaching are those that are very mechanical and relatively unemotional about their own training and performance. These athletes are extremely disciplined and organized, and simply need to see small improvements week to week to build their confidence.

The head cases will not respond well to this style of coaching as this does not address their sensitive mental state during training or racing, and these athletes usually require bigger goals that show larger improvements, even if these don’t come on a week to week basis, but instead bi-monthly or once a month.


3. The Partner

The partner coach allows their athletes to have an equal say in the direction of training based on personal preferences. They work extremely close with the athlete to determine the best schedule and the most attainable goals for a season or period of training.

They help to guide their athletes to their own self discovery regarding their training, what they respond best to in workouts and races. The coach’s role is more to assist their runner’s to decide on their overall goals or objectives for a period of training and then work together with a training schedule that will maximize the athlete’s chances of meeting them.

Which Athletes Respond Best?

Perfect for runners who are more introspective, and have good self control. They should also like having the freedom that this coaching style offers them to make their own decisions regarding their training.

These runners typically are independent, but occasionally may require more emotional input from their coach. The runner and coach should enjoy a strong collaborative environment where they are both equal partners in achieving success, and meeting goals.

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