Coaching: The 10 Year Plan

Let me start by asking a question for those who have a Ph.D.  (I got as far as Undergrad, so I am in no position to comment)

Is it better to do all 10 years at the same school, or 3 different schools?

I am referring to 4 years for undergrad, 2 years for a Masters, and 4 years for your Ph.D?

Of course, these are just ballpark numbers, some may take longer than others!  Sorry if I offended you Smile

The same rule applies for coaching athletes.

Do you stick to one coach, or jump ship every few years?

I wrote 3 previous articles that lightly discussed this very topic:

I, personally, stuck to one coach for 9 years (Dennis Barrett at McGill University) .  That included the undergrad years as a student-athlete, then part of the open Club (McGill Olympic Club).  To this day, those years are my best memories!

I always said “loyalty speaks volume over results”!

Did I ever consider switching coaches?

Of course I did, just like married men will “look” at other women (and vice-versa).  But cooler heads always prevailed, in 99% of the cases.  I won’t get into the 1%, right Tiger?

Changing Coaches

But isn’t it better to learn specific skills from one coach, then change?

It’s like a job (and believe me, I have changed jobs a lot)… you keep learning new skills, then jump ship to another (higher paying) job, and keep building on experience?  Like the IBM slogan from the 1980’s (when IBM was King of the computer world, decades before Google, and years before Microsoft), it’s up or out.

You’ll also hear this expression time and time again… “the grass is not always greener”. 

Take Donovan Bailey for example, the 100 meter 1996 Olympic Champion and world record holder.  He worked with Dan Pfaff from 1994, two years later wins Olympic Gold, THEN changes to Loren Seagrave, but only for a few months.   Eventually, he returned to Dan and still ran well despite tearing his Achilles.

Open House, Free Agency?

I wonder how many coaches and athletes are open to the idea of an open house, where you attend a training session of a competing track club.  For those who have made a National, World, or Olympic team, the Head coach is often not your own coach (i.e. the personal coach).  Sometimes, your personal coach can’t afford to go to the big meet, so you are under the supervision of a new coach and new massage therapists.

Then again, I’ve seen Elite coaches hand out their business card to athletes, even when their own coach is standing next to them!  Talk about hard-core rude sales tactics!

But it would be nice if you can get an idea of a prospective new coach… beyond the new facilities, beyond the training plan and new drills that supposedly makes you run faster, beyond the differences in personalities (most important, in my opinion).

Of course, this may sound absurd after spending 5 years developing an athlete only to see him or her move on to another club!  And what compensation was there?  Ha!  Probably none or a nominal club fee of a couple hundred dollars per year!

For those who changed jobs voluntarily for another (hopefully higher paying) job, you know you dread the day when you have to give your Boss 2 weeks notice.   The same applies when giving your coach “notice” that you are leaving.  I’ve had athletes come and go throughout the years, but the song remains the same.

Sometimes, it’s just time for a change.  Especially when you have personality conflicts!

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • As far as PhD is concern it depends on the university. Most of the time people do their undergrad somewhere and their phd and master somewhere else. Graduate studies are very different than undergrad, usually you choose a faculty that is strong or renowned in your field of interest and very often you pick up a supervisor that enjiy working with and who becomes your mentor. The PhD supervisor is a kind of coach if you want as you learn your trade with him. At least that’s how I see it.