The coach-client relationship is a unique one, so it is of top priority to choose the right person to help you reach your goal. After all, not only is there a significant financial investment, but you will also be entrusting them with your dream — whether it be athletic, entrepreneurial, or an overall vision for your life. In my case, I had a dream. A crazy dream: Qualify for the Boston Marathon. I was a good-plus runner, but to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I was going to have to cut over 30 min. off my marathon time, and I had spent the last four marathons stagnating at around the same finishing time and then suffering from chronic injury. Fortunately, my first coach was the right coach. While I thought I had just lucked out, after listening to a high performance podcast featuring best-selling author and leadership speaker David Horsager, it turns out there are some key points that made this partnership work so well. It begins with building the trust necessary to reach one’s goal, and that requires a solid framework based on competency, character, and connection.

Me and my coach…after he smoked me in a 10K.

Competency. Luckily, it is not difficult to research a person’s qualifications, see examples of their work, and even read reviews from former clients. This criteria was an easy one for my coach to fulfill as he was a referral. I had seen the impact he had made on a friend who was already a fast runner but was now fitter and faster than she had ever been, even though she was now in her 50s. He is also a second-generation track coach, and his own athletic background and diverse clientele indicated that he knew how to get me faster. Finally, both my coach and mentors continue to be students themselves, which further speaks to their competency. Knows what he is doing…Check.

Character. Listen, I am selective about who is around me. I realize there are situations where we do not get to be, such as work and certain social situations, but this was my choice. The person I selected as my coach was going to be working closely with me 2-3 times a week, and that is a significant influence, so how they conduct themselves not only with me, but also generally in life, is important. While my coach is extremely human, the deciding factor is that we share the same faith, and he ultimately submits to the same authority that I do. And in that way, even when there are bumps in the road due to either side of the partnership, it always gets back on track.

Connection. Sometimes it’s just not a fit. Luckily, my coach’s personality and the way we communicate suits me, which is to say that I do well with people who are direct as I was raised by an Asian Tiger Mom. In addition, my coach’s commitment to the achievement of my goals manifests itself in his knowledge of me. The right coach does not follow a one-size-fits-all format. My coach can sense when I need a break even though I want to gut through something, and he will for sure call me out when I am phoning it in or cruising on a workout. Both are because he cares and knows where I am.

This was the blueprint to building the trust necessary to reach my goal. However, it’s not just applicable to athletes. There are business coaches, as well, and it is the same structure that has helped maintain my mentor relationships of both 27 and 14 years — I just didn’t know it. If you find yourself stalled or fumbling your way towards your goal, then a good coach and/or mentor is invaluable. Look for someone knowledgeable in your field, who conducts themselves with integrity, and who you feel comfortable receiving guidance from. Do your due diligence and be choosy. The right person will help you recognize your potential and have a positive impact that reaches beyond your field of play. It has mine.

Goal achieved!