What makes a good coach?
I have recently done some reflecting on what makes a coach a good coach. This train of thought started a couple weeks ago when I went for my weekly training session at a local branch of a big box gym. I have been meeting with a trainer for almost a year and a half now. I started out with twice per week, later moved up to three times per week, and I’m currently with a trainer once per week. I started working with a trainer (aka coach) because I was telling myself that it was the only way I was going to do any kind of strength training. I could go to the gym on my own and get on the treadmill or the elliptical machine, but the various weight machines, free weights, kettle bells, stability balls, etc., were intimidating to say the least. I already felt self-conscious just walking into the gym and I figured if people were looking at me or laughing at me when I was doing something I was familiar with, they would do so much more if I attempted on my own to do something I was completely unfamiliar with.
Let me back up a little bit and explain a little more about this self-consciousness I experienced back then, which I have since learned is a form of pride. I didn’t want to join this gym at first because one whole wall is windows and I was worried about people watching me make a fool of myself when I was working out in any way. My sister-in-law pointed out to me that this gym is right next door to a McDonald’s and that the people walking or driving by are not paying any attention to me in the gym. She said they were likely hoping I, or anyone else in the gym, wasn’t watching them walk into McDonald’s next door or pull into the drive-thru.
So, I joined the gym and quickly realized my sister-in-law was right. Not only did people outside of the gym not pay attention to people in the gym, people INSIDE the gym didn’t pay attention to people inside the gym. Once I was inside the gym, I no longer thought about what was going on just outside the gym. I did wonder often what other people were thinking inside the gym, but this gym has a television connected to each piece of cardio equipment so I would just plug in my earbuds, find something interesting to watch, and start walking.
After a month or so, I became interested in exploring some strength training and I knew I needed to work with a trainer to stay consistent and to learn proper form. I didn’t trust myself to go on my own, and I certainly didn’t think of myself as someone worth working hard for. The first six months of working with a trainer were pretty good. I didn’t release much weight and my measurements didn’t change much, but I gained strength. I went from barely being able to do a couple of push ups on my knees to doing 10-12 on my feet. This was quite an accomplishment for someone who always claimed to have the weakest arms in the world.
Periodically, the trainer/coach would ask me to step on the scale to check my weight, check my BMI, and take measurements. In the second six month period she also added in taking pictures, which is something I am very uncomfortable with. The second time the trainer took my picture she recognized that I was uncomfortable with this and it was the first time I perceived a different attitude in her. She has not asked to take pictures since then, nor has she weighed me, taken measurements, or even mentioned doing any type of assessment. Under different circumstances, I may have felt only relief about this. Instead, I feel a mix of relief and also disappointment. I feel relief because I really don’t find it helpful to have my picture taken in front of other people because it is evidence to me of where I have not measured up to where I think I should be by this point. I felt disappointment because I think the trainer has given up on me and is just going through the motions of each training session because I have already paid for them. We make small talk a little bit and she answers questions when I ask them, but I no longer feel like she is invested in me succeeding.
Sometime last summer I had the opportunity to visit Impact Fitness in Baraboo, WI. I noticed right away that there is something different and special about this gym. Every person I have met there has welcomed me and accepted me, just as I am. The focus is primarily on who you are on the inside instead of on how you look on the outside. Yes, this is a gym with a focus on fitness, but the clear message here is that lasting changes on the outside start with lasting changes on the inside. There is no judgment and no one there is going to find your answers for you. They believe in you and know you already have your own answers, even when you can’t see that for yourself – yet. Stay connected to the people at Impact Fitness, and you will begin a journey to finding out who you really are and loving the person you find inside.
So, what makes a good coach? To me, it is someone who remembers my name, is invested in me meeting my goals and finding my own answers. It is someone who helps me learn that I have value and worth, regardless of my size. It is someone who will ask me questions to challenge me and help me dig deep when I need to, and someone who will point out and celebrate my successes right along with me. The best example of this I have found so far are the people at Impact Fitness.