Top Notch Skill Sets of Great Coaches and Personal Trainers

Personal Training

Top Notch Skill Sets of Great Coaches and Personal Trainers

by Hayley Hollander

Looking back through sports history, there are many great athletes that leave us awestruck in their capacity and accomplishments - from Michael Jordan, to Wayne Gretzky, to Mia Hamm, to Serena Williams, and the list continues. Think of a sport, and behind it is a decorated athlete who has pushed the limits and inspired us.

Great athletes relate their success to hard work and dedication. They master skills and techniques that allow them to perform at a high level. Many of their stories start with some form of overcoming struggles, while having a relentless attitude to pursue their dream.Their pure desire to be the best led them to the top of the podium time and time again.

Now direct your mindset from athlete to coach. There are many similarities between successful athletes and top-notch coaches and personal trainers. Some coaches, like the athlete’s they serve, possess grit and desire to deliver the best so that those they train come out on top. In fact, that same passion shows up in what we believe are the top five skill sets that set them apart from the rest.

1. Create Raving Fans!

Getting the crowd involved in the game is just as important as scoring the winning basket; it makes all the difference in the world when the crowd is cheering for you. It can drive your opponents crazy, and also give you the confidence and motivation to push through. However, the fans only cheer if we give them something to go crazy over.

The best personal trainers, whether coaching a group or one on one, can read their audience. This vital skill set allows them to create experiences that are fun and enjoyable for the client. They recognize when to sprinkle in some motivation, when to tweak the program if it’s not working, and most importantly, they are not afraid to ask the crowd to get involved.

Coach to client communication is vital to being able to tackle the obstacles necessary to achieve a goal. Communication starts when you show those you serve that you understand where they are coming from and that their experience is important to you. Developing rapport with clients helps to facilitate deeper connections and understanding of what each person will need to succeed.

When we connect with clients emotionally and engage with them as humans, they become our fans and are willing to try anything we might ask of them. So, don’t be afraid to get the crowd up on their feet and get them cheering for you by establishing good communication.

2. Wear your heart on your sleeve

Athlete’s who show their emotions, also show they are human. Human’s can relate to other humans: you smile, I smile, you cry, I cry.

The Olympics brings people from all over the world together to compete. Athletes have worked for years and sometimes decades to get to there, yet a singular event may last only seconds. Emotions flood out of these athletes and we become compassionate for them, both in triumph and defeat.

The same can be said of coaches who share their emotions. Often when you see a coach get excited about a play, or upset about a call, or enthusiastic about the next drill, you want to get right in there with them and scream, cry, or jump up and down.

Wearing your heart on your sleeve puts coaches and personal trainers at an empathetic level with their clients. Emotions are like magnets and help us to connect with one another. Showing that you are human when you coach invites our clients to be authentic in who they are. This turn helps us as coaches, to reflect the same emotions back that our clients are feeling. When we mirror our client while recognizing them for their efforts and motivating them to reach further, they feel supported. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you feel supported by others.

3. Tweak On Demand

Athletes are constantly adjusting to the opposition. What's more, as soon as they adjust, their opponent makes another change, and it becomes this back and forth game of who can make just the right move and at just the right time until the time is up. Those who master the tweak first are almost always the winner.

But before the game is over call a TIME OUT!!!

As a coach and personal trainer you’ve got to call a time out and adjust when needed. When something isn’t working, or your client has mastered the skill, adjust!  Whether in a group or one on one, the best personal trainers are armed with many ways to tweak and adjust programs and movements on demand. 

Although our client’s might be tracking their success through their waistline instead of on a scoreboard, we must always be ready to tweak. Whether we need immediate adjustments for the success of an individual movement within the workout, or need to adjust the acute variables of a workout to get the desired response, coaches should always be looking at how to make the right adjustments.

The SAID Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) teaches us that we must make tweaks to our programs in order to continue to progress our clients toward their goals. As the body adapts to each new demand we give it, we must tweak it again. This action is how we progress.

Just as athletes adjust to their opposition, when we master the skill of ‘tweaking on demand’ we are likely to come out on top, both in success of the movement and outcome towards the goal(s).

4. Create a Masterpiece

There are many ways to look at an athlete’s time in a sport; whether it’s a single game, a season, or a career. Collectively their time in the sport can be viewed by shelves filled with trophies representing their many accomplishments, yet what is hard to represent are the single games and individual triumphs that alone could be a considered their own masterpieces.

In any sport, to win a championship, you must win a series of games. Without one of those wins however, the result is not the same. Thus, every game matters.

We could say the same thing about personal training. When a client gets to their goal, it is because of many days, weeks, and months of hard work added up. The result would not be the same if any of those single days of hard work did not occur. Every session matters.

Focusing on delivering the best each day will add up for you and your client. Deliver on the small details, and show up every day with passion, energy, and a desire to be better than the day before. When we put in the work to make every day a masterpiece, we end up with a championship.

5. Follow up

If you’ve ever watched the World Cup and one of the teams is awarded a penalty kick, you will see that the first thing the rest of the teammates do when the shot is taken is to make a mad sprint to follow the ball into the goal. Why? They don’t want to miss out on the chance of securing a goal in case there is a block and a ricochet.

A lot can be learned from penalty kicks. 

Many times in life we are given opportunities to take a shot on goal, yet what we neglect to do is to follow our shot. As soon as the ball goes into play, anything can happen: it could hit the post, it could ricochet of off the keeper, the keeper could knock it to a teammate and it takes a faulty bounce, the ref could say the keeper did not stay on the line. 

Personal trainers who follow up with clients, whether it’s an appointment reminder, a check-in, or to ask for client satisfaction, find that they never miss the winning goal.  Coaches who continually practice this skill set of following up are rewarded with feedback, confirmation, and referrals. Practicing this skill set leads to further business opportunities and continues to establish a client-focused purpose.

Follow up and you never know if it will be the winning goal!

The Playbook

The playbook of sport and life mirror each other well. When we focus on practicing skills and techniques that better serve our clients, we recognize that implementing one small thing at a time helps each play.  You don’t know the outcome until you try… so run the play!

  1. #Fans
  2.  #Heartsleeves
  3.  #Tweak
  4. #Masterpiece
  5.  #Penaltykicks


Author Information

Hayley Hollander
Hayley Hollander's picture

Hayley Hollander is an international coach, educator, business leader, and overall passionate mover. She is an Education Director for the Gray Institute, a Precor Master Coach, and Co-founder of Pivotal; a global development company empowering people to fulfill their greatest potential. With 18 years in the movement industry she brings experience as a Fitness Director, Director of Training and Education, Business owner, and International Educator. Her in-depth knowledge and experience has helped to develop and create curriculums and programs that are used all over the world. She has taught over 500+ workshops, educated over 5,000+ coaches around the world, and helped to develop and train 150+ Educators in the movement industry. Hayley holds a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education with a minor in Mathematics. She is a GIFT Fellow, CAFS, 3DMAPS, EXOS Performance Specialist, and is PTA Global Certified.

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