"What makes a great coach?"
Ever since I started coaching, I continually ask myself this question. The answer was never set; it keeps on changing and expanding with my experience.
I've had many different mentors and coaches ever since I was in high school. They are life mentors, MMA coaches, weightlifting coaches, CrossFit coaches, business mentors and coaches who coach me how to coach (if that makes sense). I was quite fortunate to have these people guiding me through my life.
After becoming a coach myself in 2012(Crossfit, Weightlifting, Sports Performance and Personal Training), I had the pleasure of working with some great coaches and some bad ones.
What I'm sharing here is a collection of my beliefs in the qualities that a great coach must possess.
Tell the truth
One of the biggest mistakes I made as a coach was not telling the truth to myself and my clients.
When I started coaching, I was full of insecurity. Because I didn't know everything (I still don't), I acted as if I was the source of knowledge. I remember sitting down and having a consult with one of clients who had a hard time losing weight despite her strict adherence to Paleo diet (it was popular and did show great result in weight loss). So instead of looking at other variables such as lifestyle stress level, hormone function, gut health or even overall caloric intake, I simply concluded she wasn't training hard enough.
You see, a coach is in charge of somebody's health - a person's most valuable asset. Even with your the best intention in mind, a lie you tell could ruin a person. The lie usually starts within you.
Manage your clients' expectations
This goes along with "telling the truth."
Managing your clients' expectation will require you to tell your clients things they may not want to hear but need to.
I remember what my first weightlifting coach said to me after I snatched 100kg for the first time like it was just yesterday:
"That was a great lift," he said with Mr. Miyagi's voice. "But that's just one lift. Once you can do that weekly, then you have hope for Nationals."
It wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear after a huge PR but it was exactly the words I HAVE TO hear.
Your clients are NOT your friends.
I understand that group activities outside of your training can strengthen bonds and create deep understanding. However, the line become blurred.
You always have to put your clients' best interests above all. Personal relationship can cloud your judgement. Your decisions may no longer be objective. The standard of your conduct is now much less professional.
What happens if the friendship with your clients go south? How will you impose those standards for your clients on your now so-called "friend"? Do you want to answer text/call during your personal time?
Speak in your clients' tongues
As technical experts, we, the coaches, are cursed with knowledge. That curse inhibit us from speaking like normal people.
The best coaches I've seen are the one that can relate to any individual athlete effortlessly using the simplest and layman words that get the messages through.
Sure, these anatomy terms and buzz words like "TFL," "serratus," "core," "erector spinaes" and "anterior pelvic tilt" are concise and give you credibility but it confuses those clients who wants nothing other than being strong or fit. Unless, you have the hyper-curious ones then by all mean.
Have yourself a coach
Or at least don't stop learning.
Personally, I realized that there is a sense of joy in knowing that there are so much out there to learn. There's a sense excitement in discovering new knowledge.
If you've mastered lifting mechanics, perhaps you should take a look into micro-biology and nutrition. Muscular contraction and energy production have to come from somewhere. Lifting techniques are important but it's not the whole picture. What really happens then when your clients' techniques break down all of the sudden?
A wise man once said: "There's no enlightenment. You can't achieve enlightenment; you just become less stupid."
To all my coaches out there, keep doing great work. Remember that you are in charge of your client's greatest asset - their health and performance. So be responsible and precise with your words.