• MT Duvall

Hiring a pageant coach 101

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

In nearly all realms of development, coaches exist. A coach, as a noun, is defined as "one who instructs or trains." As a verb, to coach is defined as "to train intensively (as by instruction and demonstration)." To be a coach requires expertise in a particular subject or topic as well as an ability to teach.

Nowadays, there is almost a saturation of coaches in pageantry. Once a very niche field, more and more competitors, queens, and parents have stepped forward to offer coaching services to pageant girls across the country and internationally.

When I started Pageants 2 Go back in 2005, I already had experience as both a small business owner and a tutor/mentor. Though I was 18, I had owned and operated a web design business for a couple of years, worked as a volunteer tutor with the Volunteers in Public Schools program, and served as a Troop Leader of a local Girl Scout Troop. While I didn't know it at the time, these experiences set me up for my future professional career in ways I couldn't imagine. Though I was pursuing an undergraduate degree in law, I was already being called to teaching and mentoring.

P2G was created as a way for me to continue to share the expertise I had as a pageant competitor and handle the many inquiries for help I was receiving while operating the now-defunct 'Unofficial National American Miss Message Boards' (ya'll, this was BEFORE Facebook). At that point, P2G offered 3 core services: introduction writing, speech writing, and farewell videos. Now, I may be wrong, but there wasn't really anyone doing what I was doing at that point in time. I was the first person to send vocal recordings with things I had written to help contestants with delivery. I was the only person creating and producing farewell videos specifically for pageant contestants. And I was doing these things for next to nothing. I believe my first intros were $5 (my, how far we've come!). There were some big coaches in the game at that point: Don Baker being the biggest and then, really the only player in the NAM coaching game, Ashley Swathwood (who you all now know as the owner/operator of Ashley Rene's). Within a couple of years of operating P2G, I worked alongside Ashley, offering behind-the-scenes services to her clients, from intro writing to mock interviews. It was my first foray into coaching. In 2012, I added holistic coaching to my repertoire of services and haven't looked back. It's been nearly 16 years that Pageants 2 Go has operated and 9 years since I've independently offered coaching. Long story short: it's been a while! I have worked with over 1000 clients since 2005, coached hundreds of winners spanning back through 2005, and have seen many of my clients go on and create their own derivative coaching businesses.

With so many coaches, it can be overwhelming to decide who to hire. Do you hire an interview coach and a walking coach? Do you hire someone who offers holistic preparation? How do you know who is the best? These are all important questions to ask yourself before delving into the search for a pageant coach. Here are my top 3 tips for finding (and keeping!) the perfect coach for you.

1) Check Their Track Record

Have you ever seen a new coach pop up who is boasting decades of experience and hundreds of winners but you know they just launched their business? I cannot tell you how many times I see someone count from their first pageant to come up with the number of years they've coached. Now, listen, I know child prodigies exist, BUT... if your coach is in their early or mid-twenties and says they've coached for over a decade, I really encourage you to do the math. Now, I started COMPETING in 1994. I can say: 'I have 27 years of experience in pageantry.' And that's totally true. If I said 'I have 27 years of coaching experience' --- that is not true. I think there are many qualified coaches who are just starting out in their businesses. What is unfortunate is when they are misleading about their years of experience as a coach. Ask yourself: if this coach is dishonest in their personal bio, how likely is it that their client list is also exaggerated? I also encourage you to look into coaches who claim exorbitant numbers of winners in short periods of time. Ask yourself: How many clients are they working with? Is it possible for them to have truly provided holistic coaching to all of them? To what extent did they coach these girls? And what about all the girls they worked with who didn't win? Numbers are great, but context is better. Don't be shy in asking a potential coach more about their track record, years of experience, and client list.

2) Do An Introductory Session

Most coaches will offer you a free introductory session to get to know one another and determine whether or not you are a good fit for one another. Doing a complimentary session helps you to get to know a coach and what they can offer you. It is also a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have, understand how many of your fellow competitors they'll also be working with (a good coach won't name names but will be honest in letting you know how many girls they will take on per competition), and find out how they set their availability. When you hire a coach, you are hiring a teacher. They should demonstrate to you not just their expertise in the subject but an ability to understand and cater to you as a learner. Be wary of coaches who want to change who you are. Coaches who tell you that you HAVE TO wear XZY or say ABC is likely not going to provide you a positive and growth-inspiring experience. There are many fabulous coaches: you need to find the right coach for YOU. (PS: You might want to check out some of our recs for walking coaches here!)

3) Practice Good Pageant Etiquette

When you find your perfect coach, show them the same respect that you expect from them. Key pageant etiquette regarding coaching includes being transparent with your coach(es) about how you are utilizing their services and who is on your team. Remember that your coach is working hard for you and for their business. As a coach, there is nothing worse than pouring your heart and soul into a girl who goes on to win and winds up on the pages of every other pageant coach under the sun. There is nothing wrong with utilizing a team approach to your prep. But your team will only truly benefit you to the fullest when everyone knows who's on the roster. This is especially important for coaches that ask for exclusivity or other coaching disclosures - similar to the types of things you are asked to sign as a titleholder representing a particular system. You are not serving yourself or coaching professionals by being secretive or dishonest, and it can create a lot of unnecessary drama.

Now, what if you worked with a coach last season and they are celebrating your success as though you were their current client? First, I'd argue that coach needs to learn a lesson in etiquette themselves. Second, it is your job to set the record straight. If you have not given permission to a coach to post your image or celebrate your title, you are well within your rights to request they remove it if it is falsely representing their contributions and they did not previously receive your permission to post about their role in your success.

Looking to start your research and find the perfect pageant coach? You might consider starting your search by reviewing The Pageant Planet's Top 10 Pageant Coaches for 2020.

Click here to download a free checklist to help you when selecting a pageant coach.

You can learn more about my approach to coaching by visiting my website.

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