When it comes to choosing a coach, what is it that makes you decide who is right for you?
There are many coaches, some more specific than others. Some have Triathlon, Road, Mountain or Track specific backgrounds. Clearly, if you're a cyclist shooting for a podium in the 1 kilometer Time Trial (Kilo), choosing a Triathlon focused coach may not be ideal. Even an event as short as the Kilo is complex beyond imagination. Competing at the top levels will require detailed and precise training in whatever event or events you choose. Additionally, a good coach can help you choose which events you are likely to be successful in. A well educated and experienced coach, with the proper tools, can analyze you and your data to identify strengths and weaknesses and the possibility of training those strengths and weaknesses to success.
So how do you research a coach?
A lot of athletes already use some sort of data analysis or coaching software like Training Peaks. They may have coaching directories where you can find information about coaches. Then there is always the various search engines, Google etc. The source that I recommend and value most is USA Cycling's "Find a Coach" page. It allows you to look up coaches and see at which level they are certified. Having a certified coach is important and proves that a coach posses at least the minimum knowledge/skills to coach you successfully. It also can show you what special certifications they may have as well as their continuing education courses. This is only part of it though. The rest requires a significant time investment by you. You should be fine with that though since you will be spending a fair amount of money but also investing serious amounts of time doing what this person directs. You don't want to get 200 hours into training to find out this relationship wasn't the right choice. So pick up the phone and call the potential coach. Get them on Skype or FaceTime and see their face. Get some coffee time in and get a feel for them. This may be the most serious relationship that you have ever been in.
What makes one coach more valuable than the other?
This is completely dependent on the athlete. Bottom line, this where you make the rules. No coach gets to say, "I'm better than coach so and so because..." However, you get to say "My coach is better because they fit ME." Admittedly though, some things do take time to see, whether it be the good or the bad. Some athletes may value a coach that has similar religious or political views. The key thing here is to find what matters to you most in your daily life and see how you can apply those things to choosing a coach. It is after all, a relationship. You will see ups and downs together. If you're a sensitive soul, you may want a very kind hearted person. If you're the hard charging, win at all costs, strong willed type, you may want a coach with a bit stronger personality. Another big block to check is communication. Do you want a coach that calls you out every time you take a turn wrong or do you want one that lets you discover things on your own? How about oversight? Do you like having someone to answer to when you miss a workout, or would it make you feel more guilty? (Thats a trick question) Some things may not be cut and dry. Most of this can be adapted to by any qualified coach and is usually part of the process. Imagine how much more natural it is when your ideals meet up from the start. Value is what you get for both your money and your time. You decide if the coach is worth either.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas to help make a better decision. I always encourage anyone to contact me any time. I love meeting new people and I value you considering me in your decision. Even if I don't get the opportunity to coach you.