The Coaching Manifesto: 6 Rules for Achieving Excellence

As with any career, people become coaches and trainers for a variety of reasons. Some reasons are nobler, like surviving cancer and wanting to help others. Some are more practical, like coaching as a career because you’ve always been an athlete. Some more aspirational, like seeing yourself as an entrepreneur and a small gym business as a path. Regardless of how you came to coaching, now you are one and it’s time to make yourself a good one.


As with your own training, there’s no point in coaching half-assed. There are far too many bad and mediocre trainers and coaches in the world. The following six rules aren’t easy, but they are simple. If you take them on, you will put yourself ahead of the game.


You will be a better coach and, resultantly, your clients will be happier. I call this The Coaching Manifesto. I learned these rules in bits and pieces over the years. I present them to you here as a whole, because as I pieced them together it made all the difference for me.


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1. Educate Yourself

This is the first rule for a reason. This rule goes into effect the day you decide to be a coach and remains in effect until the day you hang it up.


There is not a single day in between where you shouldn’t be continuing to learn.


Take classes, attend seminars, read books, observe other coaches, watch videos – learn, learn, learn. New information emerges on a daily basis from journals, from researchers, and from working with your own clients. Learn something every day and never stop.


2. Know Your Client

Your clients are one resource for your learning, but in order to learn from them you must know them.


How can you teach people until you understand them and their goals? You can’t tell them what to do until you know who they are and what they want.


What are your clients’ injuries, histories, and motivations? You know their stated goals, but do you know their actual goals? Do you know what makes them tick? How amazing if you could see your clients so clearly that you could help them see themselves.


Know your client – better than they know themselves – but without judgment. Know their bodies, know their minds, and show them the mirror. Then share your knowledge and show them how you’re going to help.


3. Know Yourself

We can’t really ask others to look in the mirror and makes changes if we’re not willing to look at ourselves in the cold, hard light. To truly know others, you must know yourself.


Even communicating becomes easier if we know ourselves. If we don’t see ourselves clearly, then we take so many things personally. We think a client’s upset is with us, when it’s really about his or her own frustrations.


If you know your client, and know yourself, you know the true root of the problem and it’s solution is simple.


Knowing yourself also means knowing your weaknesses and solving your own problems. If we are educating ourselves on a daily basis, we need to know what we don’t know. This means acknowledging the gaps in our abilities and making constant progress toward filling them.


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4. Get Over Yourself

This is a corollary to “Know Yourself.” Once you know yourself, then it’s time to get over yourself.


Yes, it’s great you can do a one-arm push-up. Do you need to do them in front of your clients for no reason? No. Let go of your ego and your need for attention when you’re coaching.


It’s not about you. The less it’s about you the better a coach you will be. It’s not about you when your client is upset. It’s not about you when your client is happy. It’s just not about you.


They did it. Not you. You are simply a conduit. Ego adds impurities and makes you a bad conductor of learning and progress.


5. Don’t Be Married to the Method

Learning and progress are possible using just about any method of training. It’s de rigueur in the fitness industry to claim your system is better than others, but typically it’s not. Coaching is good or coaching is bad.


You’re a good teacher or a bad teacher, whether your dumbbell is pink, you’re wearing a singlet, or you’re using sandbags.


If someone is saying their system is the best, they’re probably trying to sell you something. Don’t worry about the best system; just be the best coach at whatever you do. In general, people should work a little harder, pick up a little more, and move a little faster.


They should train strength, cardio, and flexibility. Call it whatever you want, but the body is the human body and there are only so many useful things you can do to it and with it. Be committed to the results, not any guru or method.


6. Do No Harm

Everything you do with your clients should result in something productive and positive. People don’t come to you to get injured. They come to you to build themselves up to loftier goals – sometimes those goals look like world championships and sometimes those look like running a mile without stopping. Whatever their level of fitness, it is your utmost responsibility to your clients to keep them safe and keep them training.


If you know your clients, you know what they should and shouldn’t be doing. If you know yourself, you won’t take it personally when you’re honest with them and they get upset. If you let go of the method, you’ll find ways to adapt the training for them. If you educate yourself you can explain why this is the best path for them.


You can’t follow just one of these rules and be an excellent trainer or coach. If you follow them all, you will be excellent, your clients will be excellent, and you will be the conduit for health and fitness you wish to be. Try taking number one to heart right now and see how it evolves for you.


Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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