You can learn from anyone, from anything, and at any time.
This is true now more than ever.
Consider this: We’ve had to step out of our comfort zone as in-person strength coaches, personal trainers, and fitness professionals.
No more high-fives, fist bumps, or congratulatory pats on the back with our athletes and clients.
No more being able to spontaneously chat, interact, and catch up. This is all done now via Zoom video meetings, FaceTime sessions, phone calls, and the like.
No matter. As a fitness professional, you have two options: Grow, develop, and become better during these times of uncertainty, or lose momentum and get left behind.
OUR CURRENT LANDSCAPE
Trust me, I get it.
I’m in the same exact position you’re in.
Let’s be upfront and honest: This crisis and the changes it has brought about in everyone’s lives sucks and isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t possibilities.
What’s possible is based on what you’re willing to do to succeed. If your goal is to help your athletes find success, then I’m certain you’ll be just as relentless as I am to leave no stones unturned.
Currently, we’re all stuck behind computer screens, laptops, and smartphones trying to “train” people. Does it really suck that bad, though?
I’m not so sure it does, which leads me to my next point …
HOW TO GROW AND DEVELOP
A big part of growth and development, from both a personal and a professional standpoint, often comes from uncertainty and is accompanied by an abundance of challenges.
Please explain to me how that is any different from the scenario we’re experiencing right now.
My point exactly.
Now that we’ve cleared the decks, let’s look at specific ways you can become better at your job and develop long-lasting skills to help your athletes crush their goals.
Coaching and providing technique feedback behind a screen offers you the ability to see everything that’s going on, much like you would during an in-person training session. However, you now have the opportunity to dial in your communication skills.
A requirement of high-level coaching is strong communication skills that allow for buy-in and trust to be built. Cueing is another layer in the coaching and communication process, so understanding proper ways to cue enables you to expand your coaching toolbox.
Let’s face it: Not every cue is going to work for every athlete. That’s why we must develop an individualized form of cueing and communication during coaching at this time, the same way we would create an individualized training program.
Providing coaching feedback and cues behind a screen really forces you to hone in on the little details and sharpen what you say. Finding ways to make what you say digestible and easy to understand for your athletes is the difference between finding success and falling short.
Dial in your cueing and communication for better coaching and results. This will help you become a better coach for the long term, long after the current crisis is over.
LEAN ON EDUCATION
Some argue that education in training and exercise is irrelevant during these tough times.
These are likely the same people who don’t have a social media platform yet constantly talk about how having an Instagram account isn’t important.
I think we can all agree that both of those things are, at least to a certain extent, important now.
OK, I hear the detractors a bit; but I also beg to differ, since people can use training to anchor themselves and create a routine worth following.
Ultimately, it’s the training and exercise education from us that provides a pathway for our athletes to prosper. It is within this pathway that they become empowered to eventually navigate on their own, build self-efficacy, and will themselves forward.
The cool thing about education is that it comes in many forms. You must understand your audience to know what they’re looking for. The acronym “KYP” has always stuck with me—which means “Know your personnel.”
Basically, less is more. I had to learn this the hard way.
Luckily, I’ve been using social media for quite some time now, which means that I’ve failed over and over again. This has allowed me many opportunities to learn from my mistakes and get better.
By using education as the tool that guides your athletes, you’re essentially showing them why they came to you in the first place: to learn a new skill they didn’t have before. It doesn’t matter if the new skill is to improve movement quality, develop better exercise technique, or even achieve a specific lifting PR—they’re all skills nonetheless.
Another way to keep your athletes informed is to write blog articles. This gives them an opportunity to learn more about your expertise and how you can best support their training goals. Here’s an example of something I recently wrote to engage our audience a bit more with respect to athletic development within the high school and college population: “The Positive Impact of Strength Training for High School & College Athletes.”
The last piece of education you can provide to your athletes would be some form of video content. This can be transmitted through a webinar series or even on your YouTube channel of exercises. My YouTube channel is something I’ve curated over the years and now enjoys more than 1,000 videos. I’m very thankful to have this channel available to my audience, especially during these stressful times.
Finally, it’s important to remain consistent in your approach to educating your audience. Like anything in life, consistency is key.
PROVIDE UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT
Demonstrating support for your athletes is a no-brainer.
However, I believe many coaches and trainers are scrambling to find the best way to do that right now.
I’ll be straightforward with you: There isn’t a “best” way. Just show them that you care by your actions. Show them that you’re there for them.
Big numbers of clients, or subscribers, or page views do not create an actual community all by themselves. A community, at heart, is knit together with the fibers of support. I’m not referring just to supporting your athlete’s training goals or supporting them as a friend. Rather, I’m referring to being there for them as a voice of reason, a helping hand, and a support system they can trust.
Showing support goes beyond the exciting and joyous moments; it’s about showing up for one another even when times are tough. True character is shown not when the lights are on but in the darkness when no one else is watching.
Being supportive toward your athletes can be as easy as shooting them a quick text to check in about life and see how they’re doing, without any mention of training or exercise. Other forms of support during these times can come in larger contexts—for example, through a happy hour call.
Happy hour calls are great because they promote fun interaction, laughs, community, and most of all support. It’s a simple way to invite your athletes to a get-together outside the training realm to just kick it and enjoy each other’s company.Whatever you do to show support, just make sure it’s unconditional and that you’re there for your athletes through the good and the bad times. That’s what great coaches do.
BUILD LEADERSHIP SKILLS
To lead is to understand. To understand is to show vulnerability, even when it seems most difficult to do.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a true testament of your will and also of how much you care for your athletes. Leading from the front is important. But sometimes you need to follow someone else’s lead to gain the trust that is crucial in building a successful relationship long term.
Understanding the need at hand and being able to step up to the challenge isn’t a task created for everyone. Leadership is defined by those who are prepared to be leaned on in times of struggle, sought after for guidance, and trusted to lift up those around them.
If I were an athlete right now, this is exactly what I would be looking for in my coach.
If I were a coach right now, I would be adhering to these foundational principles and doing everything in my power to see my people succeed.
Just know that we’re all in this same boat together, and that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. It allows you to be more relatable to your athletes. It gives you a better ability to listen, to understand, and to guide.
And guiding is the very foundation of what coaches do.