For the last part in this feature (catch parts one, two and three here) I thought it may be a good idea to embark on some reflective practice. Namely, what are the lessons I have learned from my first year in business, first year having coaching as my profession and first year being my own boss?
But first, some background.
Why did I start Premier Endurance in the first place?
I started Premier Endurance as a vehicle to pursue my passion for coaching athletes, specifically, endurance athletes. Over the past four or so years I’ve had my fair share of coaching experiences. Some were bad and some were good, but all provided valuable lessons to shape my philosophy and ideas around coaching athletes and in some ways around my business model. I had always dreamed of having a central hub where athletes (amateur to professional) can go for coaching, recovery, nutritional advice, psychological support, physiological testing and much more and this is still my end goal. I felt starting the model for Premier Endurance was a great way to begin on this journey and I was right! But it wasn’t without its ups and downs.
The good experiences first
When I launched the site and the business with our first blog, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I was anxious of the reaction namely who does that young guy think he is!? This couldn’t have been further from the truth – the support I received was amazing. Family and friends wished me luck, strangers from all over the world read my blog and a steady stream of athletes wanting to know more appeared in my mailbox. I was delighted, to me this was a step in the right direction.
I learned many things in those first few months that had nothing and everything to do with coaching. I learned how to build a website and how to mess a website up and then how to fix again (thanks Derek Troy!), I learned how to register a company, how to insure a business, how to do accounts, how to manage workflow (more on that later) and how to deal with conflict. The list really does go on and on.
Being your own boss is great most of the time. I’m extremely self-motivated (which is sometimes a curse) so I don’t mind working odd hours and grafting for what I get, I find it extremely rewarding. What was even more rewarding though was, as more and more athletes filtered though, a need for more support staff arose (feeding into my above future vision). From here I looked at the need for another coach and Thomas Fallon was the only name in my head, thankfully he said yes! I also needed to forge relationships with nutritionists, psychologists and physiotherapists which, using my connections as an athlete and through college, proved successful.
Over the months that have followed, highlighted to me by our testimonial series, I feel a bit surreal. The feedback we have gotten has been amazing. To see your philosophy of creating self-sufficient athletes who know the why for everything they are doing has been so rewarding. Never in my life did I think I would be working with professional athletes yet here I am and the joy I get in running a skills programme for a group of kids and them showing up the coach with their bike handling ability will never get old!
The bad experiences which made me learn
Firstly, people do not see coaching as a real profession. In my opinion it is not well understood in the sense that people think it’s more about little Johnny’s parents volunteering at the club. Yes, this forms part of it but trust me there is a whole world behind it that many don’t see. I found it very difficult at first to say yes, I’m self-employed my primary role is coaching, but you get used to it – say it with confidence and don’t belittled yourself is the lesson here!
I also found it difficult to accept that there were coaches operating out there with zero qualifications. I had athletes come to me who were chronically over trained, hadn’t an idea of what and how their programmes and bodies worked and possessed very little in the ways of psychological skills. I must admit part of me felt that these guys were taking my business and charging more for the pleasure, yet I’d invested thousands in education and years in learning and building experience. In honesty this type of thinking is un-useful, let your work do the talking and put the athlete first.
Managing workflow was a big one for me. For the first few months I went at it “full gas” as we say in the cycling community. Little did I know I was on the slippery slope to burnout (yes coaches get that too!). It literally got to a stage where a client said to me you know you don’t have to answer right away yes? I was obsessive, I felt I needed to earn their respect and justify my role when in fact I wasn’t doing any one any favours. I hadn’t had a single day off away from the phone in over five months when I finally said (with some frank input from loved ones) that I needed to find balance. Balance was found but more of a 70:30 split at first which has slowly tipped down and down – maybe still not 50:50 but I’m learning. This is a lesson to all young and not so young coaches out there. Look after your mental health – if you’re not functioning 100% then your athletes are suffering, and this is what you were trying to avoid in the first place with all that extra work! In honesty coach burnout is a whole other blog entirely but just being aware is the first step.
The buck often stops with you. When it goes wrong for athletes, they often blame their coaches or support team and sometimes its justified. But knowing when it is not justified is important in working through a situation and figuring out how to do better next time. I quickly learned not to just be a surface to vent at for the athletes, as yes, its required occasionally, but mostly it’s just un-helpful to the greater cause i.e. enjoyment and performance.
How these points have influenced my coaching and business approach
You can’t please everyone. It is important to know when a relationship is simply not working and hammering your head against the wall any further is of little use. Like in life make a mutual decision to go your separate ways and don’t take anything personally.
Self confidence is a funny one. Each day you have experiences that bring you up and bring you down. Celebrate the victories but learn from them. Don’t wallow too long in defeat and learn from that too. In essence that’s the recipe for success.
On the continuous learning theme this blog has been a real help for me. It’s aim is to provide factual and evidence-based information to the masses in a variety of topics. Often, I have very little understanding of some of the topics but through research for the blog and through guest features I get to learn something new almost every week. It’s great!
Finally, I’ve learned to keep a balance in my life. Don’t get to hung up on business disputes, coaching arguments, social media and new ideas. Take time for yourself to just switch of. For me that’s exercise and spending time with people outside of the bubble, you need to find what works for you.
I hope you enjoyed that small(ish) self-reflection on our first year in business here at Premier Endurance. I hope it is not just limited to sport and there are some life lessons that can be learned out of it. Like anything awareness is the best step in combating it, I find reflective practice excellent for this and would urge any coaches and athletes to give it a shot!
Until next time,