With so much movement happening amongst professional runners signing new contracts, or college kids transferring, it got me considering all the various reasons why an athlete should change their coaching situation in the middle of their career.
Growing up with a childhood hero like Derek Jeter, I always valued the dedication to one franchise he exhibited throughout his career. But if you thought that was the formative experience that shaped my outlook on the topic, think again.
During my seven years with the New Jersey-New York Track Club, coach Gagliano literally always screamed the words “LOYALTY!” in my ear. Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to be in a circumstance where they’re eternally happy and blessed to be greeted each day with the booming voice of a Bronx-bred ex-football coach, and there are plenty of legitimate reasons to make a change.
Someone whose opinion I respect a great deal once shared that they think it’s a good idea to change coaches every three to four years regardless of how it’s going. The idea is that the body adapts to what it’s fed and if the variables being used to stress the body are no longer a surprise, then fitness will stagnate. This is something that great coaches are well aware of and protect themselves against. With that in mind, I think there are three good, broadly applicable reasons to go in a new direction:
- You are running slow – This one is obvious since the entire point is to go fast. Athletes and coaches should be permitted a one-year grace period before any judgment is made about either of their abilities. There’s a commonly held sentiment that if a college freshman can just match their personal bests from high school then that’s a successful year. When you are trying a different system in a new environment there might be an adjustment period and it might take a moment to figure each other out. If after a few years things haven’t clicked, then most reasonable coaches would be understanding and support the desire to find a better fit.
- You aren’t happy – I believe that most happy runners are fast runners, but the opposite may not always be true. Occasionally athletes make a deal with the devil to run fast and although their times on paper may give the impression that things are working out, behind each personal best is a lot of misery. Whether that’s unhealthy eating habits, intra-team rivalries, an abusive relationship, homesickness, or something else, being comfortable is how you sustain long-term success.
- You want more money – While we may idolize the purity of running, it’s okay to make decisions that prioritize financial gains. That may mean scholarship money in college or a better contract as a professional. On paper, a big number might give the best first impression, but the length and bonus potential is worth considering. Ultimately, athletes are going to make the most when they’re winning the most – follow the decisions that will produce fast times.
Treat your career like a Choose Your Own Adventure book and take ownership of each decision. You’re the one who has to live with your personal bests and bank account for the rest of your life!
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