Being a Coach… Not a Friend

Who’s in control of the session? You, or the client?

Have you ever had that client who wouldn’t listen? You tell them one thing, but then they turn around and do the exact opposite. I think we’ve all had a client or two like that if you’ve been training clients for a period of time. If you haven’t, I expect you’ll have one walk in the door fairly soon. It happens all the time. The person coming in to get help thinks they know what they should and shouldn’t do.

The most common question I get doesn’t relate to screening, programming, red lighting, correctives, or any other training related variable. The question I get asked at least double any other question is…How do I get my clients to “buy in” or listen to me?

I understand I’m in a different situation than a heavy majority of the people reading this. Since I own my own gym, I can be pretty blunt when it comes down to this. My business is doing just fine and I’m not in a constant struggle to pay the bills, so this helps give me the confidence to act in the manner I do. I have the confidence to tell them to listen and follow the process, or they can just go find somewhere else to train because apparently they know more than me. However, my coaches that work for me, and hundreds of other trainers are not in this situation. You may be starting a new business, working your butt off to get new clients, or working at a facility that provides you with the clients, and making the clients happy is the most important thing you can do. You’re right…you do need to make your clients happy. I’m not going to argue with that. However, I am going to say that you need to be their coach first…friend second.

being a coach

Most of this boils down to client education. Be prepared for this to happen and plan how you will attack the situation the next time it comes around. Don’t let it happen. Don’t let the client run all over you. They came to you for help, so be a coach. Do you think Usain Bolt tells his coach what he’s going to do to prepare for the upcoming Olympics? I highly doubt it. He’s already bought in to the program, and his coach is going to set him up for success if he follows the plan. He may not like everything he’s doing, but he’s going to listen because he knows the coach is looking out for him.

I’m definitely not saying to be as blunt as I am, or the coaching staff that works for me for that matter. Don’t just allow them to do something you know they shouldn’t be doing. That’s called being a friend. A friend cares about emotions and how you feel. I friend may let you do something they may not approve of 100% because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. A friend is there for support. A coach on the other hand will not allow for such a behavior. A coach will stop that attitude and detrimental behavior right in it’s tracks. A coach can still be a friend. A coach can still care about feelings and the emotions of their clients and athletes. However, a coach has to draw the line between being a friend and being a coach.

What I suggest doing is to improve how you are educating your clients. You may have to sit them down and have a personal one-on-one talk as to why you do what you do. They want to know the reasons. If you’re a good coach, you’re going to be making your clients do things they don’t like doing. That’s just the process of training. If we’re always working on our strengths and doing things that are enjoyable, that means we’re neglecting what we really need to work on…their dysfunctions and weaknesses. A good coach needs to be able to point out those weaknesses, create a plan to correct and improve on them, and finally have the will power to stick it out. If you start improving the education and explaining the “why” behind your training, compliance will always go up. ALWAYS! Believe it or not, most people like being told what to do. They may complain a little, but at the end of the day, they know that you’re doing your job and coaching them. You’re not just there to be a friend.

After you start improving the education within your clientele, they will all start to “buy in” to what you’re doing. If they buy in to your program, you will also have a much better chance at building a solid relationship with that client. I am really good friends with a lot of my clients. We have events we go to together. I go out for beers with them occasionally. I’m definitely on the friendship level with them, but I never let that distract me from being a coach.

Build your own personal knowledge and always work on improving the education of your clients. They will start to understand more, and then they will start to refer more. Everyone likes talking about something they feel they have a good understanding with, and nobody likes to talk or share with others if they don’t know much about the particular subject. Improving education will not only build your reputation as being a great coach and leader, but it will lay the foundation to build a solid business and having your calendar booked solid…day in, day out.

Jared Woolever