A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thoughts - June 15 - Certifications?

I know I'm going to catch a little flak on this, but then again, I like to rock the boat of "established principles" a little, so that people can actually wake up from their everyday distractions and think critically on a topic they never did before.

The topic here is coaching "certification".

Let me ask you a question. Which coach would you decide on going to? The one with 5 different certifications to his name? Or the one that your friends recommended after fulfilling their Ironman goals?

One of the things I learned from my father is that "word of mouth" is the most powerful marketing tool one can ever have in promoting his/her business. My father has owned a carpet installation business for 40 years and because of his excellent work never had to spend a cent in advertising at all. On top of that, repeat customers from decades ago still come to him to replace their old carpet with a new one.

I tend to join him in mirroring his business model. I don't advertise much and I let my athletes do the talking. 

At one time, I thought that certification was the way to a successful business. I thought if I had a USAT Triathlon Coach certification, a USA Swimming certification, a USATF Running Certification, and an ISSA fitness trainer certification, that I would look impressive on a business card. Impressive enough for customers to flock to my door.

Business doesn't work that way. People respond to RESULTS, not titles.

The certification process is so simple that anyone with a basic knowledge of training can get them. As long as you have the money to shell out, that piece of paper is as good as yours.

And in order to keep that piece of paper, you continue to shell out the bucks every couple of years on Contiuing Education Credits, which are simply videos that you can purchase online and answer a couple of softball questions to show your knowledge in what the video shows you.

"But don't you get insurance from certification authorities?", you might ask.

Well yes, but with so many holes in them that they look like swiss cheese. For example,  the USA Triathlon Certification provides coaching insurance for their certified coaches...but it only works with athletes who are also USA Triathlon members. 

Now I coach a lot of beginners toward their first triathlon. I'm to force them into a USA Triathlon membership before they even get a chance to participate in the sport?

Let's call most of these certifications what they really are. They are a money-maker all right...for the certification authorities!

All they really have to do is sit back, let some cheap software print out the certificates, then mail it to you.

Once I saw the writing on the wall (and my diminished wallet), I decided to let these expirations expire one at a time. And saved a bundle of money in the process.

Which paid for my own private insurance. And one that covers just about everybody I train.

My dear old Dad was right after all. Base the business by results, not titles. And do such a good job that people will come back to you time and time again, with their friends in tow.

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Last reminder for the New York City Ironman and Ironman Mont Tremblant. Registration opens at noon today. The field will fill very fast, so make sure you're online at exactly 12 noon today or you'll miss out.

Regarding the swims clinics at Great Kills Park. All swim clinics will start at 10AM, when the lifeguard is on duty. The transitions clinics will be an hour afterward, after the swim clinics are over. The cost is only $15 to attend and are great for those who either have a fear for the open water, want to improve on your sight-seeing, or want to become more effective in not-so-perfect conditions.

Friday Night Group Trail Runs are at the High Rock Parking Lot starting the week. They are free to join, and all abilities are welcome. The run starts at 7pm.

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