How to Grow Beyond the One to Five Athlete Barrier

How to Grow Beyond the One to Five Athlete Barrier

Moving beyond just coaching friends and family is a big step in growing an endurance coaching business. Here are a few steps you need to take to level up.

All coaches go through a process of development. One key moment is breaking through the “just coaching friends and family” barrier. Sure, it’s fun to test out coaching, offering discounted “mate’s rates” or even offering family members your training advice free of charge, but inevitably, once you get a taste of coaching successful athletes, you’re going to start thinking about how you can grow. 

However, growing beyond the initial one to five athletes isn’t always easy. A few of the most common problems include not being able to find new leads, struggling with high athlete turnover, or having a slow onboarding time. Here are a few tips on how to address these challenges and ultimately overcome the one to five athlete barrier.

Start with the Basics

The first step in overcoming this point in your career is identifying what is holding you back and setting concrete goals. As coaches, it may sound obvious, since goal setting is so deeply ingrained in what we do, but without realistic goals, business growth will continue to be an aspiration rather than an achievable outcome. You need to think about how many athletes you can realistically add to your roster and a clear timeline for that growth trajectory. Can you take on another two athletes in the next month? What about 10 in six months? What about 100 within the year? 

It’s also important to ask yourself about your current limitations. If you can understand, clarify, and identify the answers to these questions, you will also be able to identify what specific problems you need to solve first. 

Finding New Athletes

If you are struggling to find new athletes, you could spend loads of time and money on social media and google, or you can use cheaper methods of creating new leads! 

  • If you have a local club, let people know you are taking on some new athletes.
  • Speak to your current athletes and ask them to recommend a friend or do some social media tagging for their training and images. 
  • Look at coaching directories – TrainingPeaks has one, as do most governing bodies—what can you do to get yourself into them? 
  • Speak to a local race and ask if they could post or share a link about delivering specific training sessions leading up to the event.
  • Speak to local bike shops, ride groups, swim clubs, coffee shops etc.

These are just a few ideas of how to find new athletes. There are certainly more, and they may not all work, but this is where your local knowledge of your area counts. Think about where you want to go and where you could find athletes. 

High Turnover

If you have done all the work to find a new athlete, the best thing to do is to keep them! A high turnover means you have a high time cost associated with each athlete and a short amount of time to make the lead profitable. It is easier to increase the number of athletes you coach to eight if you only need to find three more clients and maintain those from the previous racing season, rather than find six to grow plus replace those who dropped. You need to consider why they are leaving (is it you or is it them?) and then understand from those who stay for a long time why they are staying. 

One great way to assess this is by creating an end-of-season wrap-up form and an exit interview form. If you keep these brief and ask highly targeted questions, you should be able to glean invaluable information regarding your turnover. Use the info you learn to shape and adapt your coaching business as you grow.

Struggling with Time Management

This is probably one of the most significant limiters for most coaches. A new athlete requires a substantial onboarding investment and often coaches end up putting too much time processing each new lead. An indicator of a more experienced coach compared to a newer one is that they can efficiently and seamlessly integrate a new athlete, and then return to focusing on communication and building out training plans. 

Often, new coaches lack the systems and the processes to be efficient with their time, and as a result, their bottom line suffers. This is especially true for a coach trying to break through the one to five athlete barrier. It’s helpful to examine exactly how you are spending each of your coaching hours and adjust your pricing accordingly. The process should look like this:

  1. Audit the time you are spending on your packages.
  2. Evaluate your hourly rate for coaching.
  3. Ask yourself, is this what you want to charge? Adjust the hours per package or the price to be in line with what it should be (in your mind.)
  4. Commit to that pricing structure. 

These points will help you build a pricing structure to ensure you provide a consistent and fair service to athletes. Most importantly, make sure your pricing structure lends itself to profitability when you increase athlete numbers.

By going through these steps above, you are already evolving your business. You are beginning to understand what makes it work, what you and your clients want, and how you can grow it. Remember all coaching businesses ebb and flow with their athlete quantities. Don’t do anything too drastic—hold fast to your plans as you put them in place and stay true to your end goal. After all, we are coaches. We know that it’s all about the process!

Philip Hatzis

Philip Hatzis is the founder and head coach of Tri Training Harder, a UK based coaching company with a base in Portugal. Tri Training Harder believes in preparing athletes for their extraordinary dreams by empowered, highly-skilled coaching. Tri Training Harder helps to put passionate coaches in front of motivated athletes. Receive training and racing tips by following Tri Training Harder on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.