What Makes a Great Coach?
There are many different styles of coaching that can produce great results: but there are particular traits that all great coaches possess regardless of their strengths, weaknesses, and unique delivery styles.
1. Knowledge, and the ability to apply it
There is a huge difference between knowing and applying.
Great coaches must not only have a solid and thorough depth of knowledge; they must also be able to apply what they know effectively when teaching others.
You could have completed numerous courses and read dozens of books, but if you can’t connect the dots and apply these learnings to the client, this knowledge is useless.
On the flip side, a coach who lacks the necessary technical knowledge may come across as low in confidence – lacking the necessary skills or ability to deal competently with a range of situations. The art of coaching well is to blend both the knowledge and the application to best serve the individual in front of you.
Clients work with us to help them improve their lives, and it’s our responsibility as fitness professionals to do this with integrity, consistency, and respect. Successful coaches understand that everything they do should be delivered with a high standard of professionalism.
From your appearance and punctuality, to your work ethic, communication skills, and your drive to improve, every aspect of your behaviour plays an important part in your role as a trusted professional.
A great coach inspires others with their energy and passion. They’re ‘on’ all of the time, regardless of what’s going on in their lives. Successful coaches are truly passionate about helping others in the best way they can.
To be among the best, coaches need to be truly invested in helping others and in honing their craft.
The early mornings and late finishes make coaching a tough gig at the best of times; without true dedication, your energy will drop and client experience will suffer.
4. An open mind
Great coaches have a continued hunger for improvement, seeking out advice and criticism to help them develop and grow. Successful coaches need to be able to filter all the available information to find what’s valuable, and assimilate the learning in a way that benefits themselves, their gym, and the fitness consumer. Don’t be the coach who believes they’ve “completed” everything.
Being able to successfully communicate the training material and technique, work with various personality types, ask the right questions at the right time, and listen effectively are all fundamental skills for excellent coaching.
A great coach is a great communicator. Of all the points listed here, this may be the most important.
6. Role modelling
It’s important that you ‘walk the talk’. Whether you like to admit it or not, clients will look to you as a role model; your actions, lifestyle and behaviour need to be consistent with the messages you are delivering. This helps massively with client ‘buy in’.
This doesn’t mean that you have to live the perfect life – coaches are humans too. But always remember to hold yourself to the same standards that you preach to others.
The fitness industry is inundated with quick fixes and gimmicks. Great coaches don’t look for shortcuts for their own development or for their clients. They meet the client where they’re currently at in their journey and give them the tools they need to succeed in the long term. This can take time, and requires you as the coach to support them throughout.
Patience is also vital for you in your development journey as a coach. Learning about and refining your craft is a gradual, ongoing process: one that needs constant attention, and can’t be rushed.
Successful coaches are able to think on their feet. They’ve built a foundation of experience from working with a range of clients in a variety of scenarios – this arms them with the skills and approaches they need to coach the client they have in front of them, not a generic and disconnected ideal. This rule hold true not just for the technical side, but also for the ‘softer’ skills of coaching: being able to adapt your communication to different personality types, for example.
Being honest, truthful and transparent with clients is a skill that enables coaches to build genuine connections. A great coach doesn’t give false promises and is able to help clients set realistic goals and expectations.
Transparency and authenticity are often harder than they sound. Having the difficult conversations required of you as a coach and a fitness professional can be one of the most challenging parts of the job. But without them, your clients’ results will suffer in the long-term, and so will your relationship with them.
10. Dedication and hard work
This is an essential component for success in any field, and coaching is no exception.
Great coaches spend time developing themselves, travel to learn from others, and don’t expect to be handed success. They have high standards and recognise that reaching these consistently requires graft. To be a great coach, you need to put in the hours on the gym floor. There’s no short cut to get around this.