I started this official coaching journey back in January of 2016. I began working with my dear friend Judy, who graciously allowed me to use her as a guinea pig. Fortunately, it went great and I didn’t break her. It helps that she’s supremely coachable and a great runner. So yeah, maybe that’s a little bit of cheating, but she did really help me hone my coaching skills to start. This was great, but I knew in order to further grow a coaching business and continue to gain knowledge, I would need some actual certifications.
Below, I’ll list my certifications in the order I received them and my thoughts on each one. Keep in mind, I spaced all of these out due to pricing and how/when they were scheduled.
USA Track and Field Level I Coaching I started with USATF for a few reasons, the first was that it was not super expensive ($240) and didn’t require I take any time off of work. I also wanted to get something sooner rather than later in the running specific area. While RRCA was top of my list for certifications there wasn’t one being offered at this time.
This two day course takes place on a Saturday and Sunday, which was perfect while I was working full time. It was very straight forward and the material was easily digested. The instructors had tons of years of experience and I enjoyed this course. The material on physiology was a great place to start as a new coach. The only downside here was the length of time spent on field events as I will never teach someone how to throw a javelin, discus, or shot put. (And lord help them if I do!) This is not to blame that on the course AT ALL, it’s a track and field course, but I do think if you are interested in just running, especially endurance running, maybe skip this one. The test wasn’t too tough and was all multiple choice, open book, online.
US Masters Swimming Level I and II Coaching As I continued on my learning journey I opted for this course next. It’s only one day – BONUS and it was also fairly affordable. I think this course is geared toward folks who already have a lot of swimming in their background. I wouldn’t take this if you are just starting out in the sport as I think there is a learning curve to this point. I didn’t find this course too difficult and while I did enjoy it, I don’t remember learning a whole lot from it. Not to say that I know everything about swimming, because obviously I don’t, but I feel as though I’ve learned a lot more just being mentored by the head coach at my pool and Coach Nick from Tribal Multisport. The test was also multiple choice and I think open book, but you took it right at the class and got your certificate the same day. This was the least costly ($180) and least time consuming of my certifications.
Road Runners Clubs of America Level I Coaching Working my way up the chain, in terms of cost and hours, the RRCA course is two full (I mean FULL) days at $325. I really enjoyed this course and appreciated that the one in my city was attended by lots of familiar faces. This course is really geared toward 5Ks and over and I think it’s very beneficial for running coaches. It was nice to see that some of the old school ideas I had learned when I started running (Never run the day before your long run! Ha!) have changed and are much more up to date than I had feared going in. There was an online multiple choice test that was a little bit tricky, but it was open book and I felt very prepared for it based on the course structure. The instructor was humorous and kept us interested. The group project was a nice way to break up the monotony of listening to an instructor all day.
USA Triathlon Level I Coaching This was my last certification course so it’s a bit fresher in my mind. This course was also a very FULL two days. At about $600 (which includes a background screening fee) and a pretty in depth application process (they require a resume) this was the most costly and time consuming of the certifications.
I’m glad I saved this course for last. I felt more prepared to sit and learn, and while I do think it’s a solid course, I didn’t feel quite as prepared for the test as I was in the previous courses. Maybe because I’m a newer triathlon coach, or maybe because the course isn’t really designed to help you pass the test. The test is online and open book, only we didn’t ever look at the book in the class. This was odd to me, but there is something to be said about not being spoon-fed answers ahead of time. The test has a multiple choice section, a short answer section, and a build custom training plans for a made up athlete section. The training plan build portion was tougher than I expected. All in all, I think this course is beneficial for new coaches and I’m glad I got the certification.
And there you have it. Will I keep all of them active? Probably not. But I love learning more about this sport and know there’s a lot more I still need to learn. These courses were a great reminder that some of our hard and fast rules can change and to be open minded about what’s out there. They were also a great reminder that I never want to go back to school full time, I’ll take my learning in two days at time thank-you-very-much. Ha!
Feel free to ask questions in the comments about any of them. Thanks for reading!