Updated: Sep 27, 2019
The last year has been one of the most productive and encouraging times of my entire life, but it has also been one of the most challenging and humbling experiences as well. When I decided to become a coach I knew it would take some grind and some grit but it wasn't until I was in the trenches that I saw just how much work it took to be good trainer/coach. To everyone out there who thinks working in the health, fitness, and performance world is a walk in the park - think again! It takes a special type of individual to be successful in this field and there are many qualities or characteristics that determine how successful a person will be. Some of the most important ones in my opinion would be the three P’s - patience, perseverance, and professionalism. This article is dedicated to all those who may decide to pursue a career in the fitness industry, those who may just be entering into the industry, AND those who consider themselves to be well versed or “expert” coaches . In a nutshell, here are the top 5 lessons I’ve taken away from my first year as a coach:
1. Humans First
What every person must understand, across ALL industries and career paths, is that interacting with other human beings can be extremely challenging. This is due to the simple fact that everyone has different emotional and cognitive needs. Treating every person that walks through the facility doors as if they are a human first and a “client” or “customer” second, will establish an effective working relationship from the get-go.
2. Empathy and Experience
Empathy only comes with experience, and experience only comes with TIME. The degree to which a coach can effectively motivate and push his/her athletes has a lot to do with being able to relate to those athletes and put yourself in their shoes. For all of you new coaches - only in time will you be able to master the skills of this trade, young Padawan. :-) Once you realize and accept that, enjoy the ride as it can be a ton of fun!
3. Mindset, Attitude, & Personability
If you think clients come to train with you simply because of your coaching ability or letters after your name you're wrong! Take a better look at the big picture of the coach-client relationship and you will see that bringing the energy to each session in a fun, exciting format is JUST as important as bringing the knowledge about movement patterns and physiological responses or adaptations. People can find all that "stuff" online anyways, but what they can't get from a book or on the internet is a coach who can literally pat them on the back, shout words of encouragement and bring the boom to every workout as soon as that client/athlete walks through the doors. Yeah they want the smarts but what they really need is someone to believe in them every day and motivate them to get through those tough workouts, that's what they really pay for and if you don't have it they will go somewhere else to find it.
4. Continuous Education & Networking
In the previous paragraph it was noted that it takes an equal approach between energy and knowledge to set the tone for a training session. Overall, as a coach or trainer you will only ever be as good as you set yourself up to be. With continuing to educate yourself, networking with other coaches, and pushing the envelope in terms of professional development and certifications you will also improve and continue to offer a better service to those you work with. You must be a lifelong learner to truly be successful in this field.
5. Social Media
Maybe not such an important aspect of coaching just 10 or so years ago, but now one of the biggest pieces to coaching, is a coaches’ presence on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). You don't have to be on social media every hour of every day but checking in and posting content is helpful to building an audience and a professional network as well as challenging yourself and your knowledge as a coach to put up valuable and educational material for others. Navigating social media for the newbie is a skill that requires the three P’s (patience, perseverance, and professionalism).
I have three pieces of advice for this:
Someone that wants to be a coach - It’s not ALL about the training hours. A big piece of coaching is building your network of health and fitness professionals by posting and interacting with others, asking questions and learning.
Someone that just became a coach - Create content, and do it not for the world, but for yourself and your athletes/clients, otherwise there is fear you are not contributing something “meaningful” or “inventive”. Chances are, you probably will not reinvent the wheel as a first year coach. ;-)
Someone that is an experienced coach - Provide your knowledge informatively for the purpose of educating others . Be a mentor. Share with the community your mistakes, not only your successes.
Not everyone is cut from the same cloth, and that is especially the case for professional coaches who invest an enormous amount of time into the people they work with. It takes a strong mental warrior to be a coach who is truly dedicated to making changes in people’s lives and this first year has been an eye-opener in that regard. Moving forward I will continue to reflect on my experiences, raising the bar for personal standards, and maintain sincere, meaningful relationships with those I am trying to positively impact.