Onboarding New Athletes
After an athlete has made the decision to engage a coach, the onboarding process will be their first experience of working with their new coach. It is an opportunity for coaches to make a good impression and build early rapport and trust with a new athlete. Failing to meet expectations at this critical stage, when the athlete is most enthusiastic about their new coach, could have lasting consequences for the athlete-coach relationship.
Well-executed onboarding doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming or involved, just timely, professional and organised. Poor onboarding is the opposite - slow, sloppy and disorganised. We’ve compiled some tips to help coaches set-up their onboarding process and create the foundation for an enduring and satisfying relationship with their athletes.
Goals of the Onboarding Process
An effective onboarding process will achieve the following:
Create the framework for the coach-athlete relationship
Clarify the expectations of the athlete and coach alike
Collect and provide relevant information and resources
Establish the training history, condition and goals of the athlete
Set the foundation for season and session planning
Clarify next steps for athlete and coach
Elements of the Onboarding Process
Precisely how you onboard new athletes is up to you, but most onboarding processes will involve the following elements:
Onboarding paperwork (contract, questionnaire, resources for the new athlete)
Onboarding call (establishing goals, expectations and constraints)
Administrative arrangements (invoicing, filing, calendar management etc)
Season planning (and follow-up)
The below illustration sets out an example onboarding process (this may vary from coach to coach, depending on their own preferences and the type of athlete they coach).
How to Improve your Onboarding Flow
An initial investment of time to set up templates for the onboarding process will save coaches time in the long run and ensure that new athletes are set up efficiently and effectively.
Consider using templates for the following elements of the onboarding flow:
Contract (this should go without saying)
Initial email to the new athlete once they have signed up
New athlete questionnaire/survey
New athlete resources, tips and guides (think - “how to upload historical training data to TrainingPeaks/Today’sPlan”, “how to work effectively with your new coach”, “what to include in your comments on TrainingPeaks”, “recommended tools” - these could be combined in single New Athlete Handbook)
Use the Right Tools
There is no need to manually repeat each step of the onboarding process with every new athlete. With the right tools, the role of the coach after setting up the initial onboarding flow will be to review the information provided by the new athlete, field questions, and attend the onboarding call.
Below are some example tools that can be used to streamline and automate your onboarding flow:
Use your Calendar
Finally, you can use your calendar to ensure that you remain on top of tasks with each new athlete (and to keep track of commitments to each of your athletes). Examples of things to calendarise when you onboard a new athlete include:
Recurring reminders to prompt you to review your athlete’s training for the week or month
Reminders to update or set a new training plan
Reminders to review HR and power zones
Weekly or monthly catch-up calls or communication
Important upcoming events for your athlete
One of the main complaints that can cause an athlete to look for a new coach are consistently late training programs. Issues like these can easily be avoided with a series of reminders in the coach’s calendar (so long as that calendar is regularly checked).
The first impression given by a coach lays the foundation for a lasting, successful relationship with their athletes. The onboarding process, when used effectively, will establish trust, set clear expectations, and ensure both parties are on the same page. With the right strategies, such as using templates and the appropriate digital tools, coaches can simplify and optimize the onboarding experience. By investing time upfront in setting up a systematic onboarding process and staying organized through tools like calendars, coaches can ensure that they consistently meet and exceed their athletes' expectations.