One of the frequent topics of discussion I have with affiliate owners is how to develop a staff of professional coaches; full or part-time employees who embody the full essence of a strength & conditioning professional, have entrepreneurial tendencies (though not wanting to be full-time entrepreneurs) and have the ability to communicate on deep levels with those who are seeking a lasting lifestyle change.
In short: coaches who know their shit and are self-motivated to generate their own clientele. They realize that treating your gym as if it was their own is good for their business and understand their role as a coach is much deeper than what’s experienced on the training floor.
And I’ll tell you what…those individuals are few and far between.
There are thousands attending a CrossFit Level 1 certificate course every month. Based on observation (my gym hosts many of these courses), the vast majority of attendees are not participating for their own personal improvement as an athlete. They have the ambition to coach and/or open their own training facility.
However, the current route of the average gym owner looks like this:
Find CF as a consumer —> Attend L1 —> Open up gym and figure the biz stuff out as you go.
We all know the tragic outcome of this scenario.
In my opinion, there is a huge gap in the market as it pertains to education to truly professionalize a coach - both on the supply and the demand side. But in a market where there are hundreds of different courses, clinics and online coaches for weightlifting, gymnastics, and mobility - it would be shocking to learn that there’s a very limited number of options for business and professionalization coaching in comparison.
However, I’m not shocked at all.
The idea that your passion for fitness alone can fuel your business has been widely misinterpreted and foolishly adopted as testament. I’ve made mention of this in other articles and videos, but “just because you’re passionate about something…doesn’t mean you’re actually good at it”.
I believe that the professionalization of our craft can be broken into 3 macro topics.
1. Build Your Foundation on Traditional Academics
There is a certain degree of actual scholastic knowledge you must possess before you can consider yourself a fitness professional. Exercise physiology, anatomy, human biology, nutrition, and kinesiology are a few of the topics that come to mind. If you were not fortunate enough to learn the basics in a university setting, you must seek these resources out and arm yourself with this basic knowledge.
Will you ever need to know the actual components of the Krebs cycle or the name of the rotator cuff muscles in order to make an impact in someone’s life? Probably not. But the marketplace is getting pretty damn full of “fitness professionals” who are completely lacking this piece of the recipe, which creates a huge unique opportunity for one to differentiate themselves in the market.
Also included in this genre are also topics such as programming, energy system training, corrective exercise and the understanding of different strength systems and alike protocols. This is by far the sexier side of the academia required to become a professional and there are amazing resources out there such as Training Think Tank to aid you in these areas.
2. Improve Your Sales Training & Business Systems
Before you can ever demonstrate your fitness knowledge to anyone, you have to be able to sell them on the value of your service. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of being a successful fitness professional. I’m not referring to sleazy, used-car sales tactics, but having a strong grasp on how to structure the sales opportunity is a key skill to learn.
You also need a plan on how you’re going to run your business and map its success. How will you structure your rates, delivery of service, schedule, payroll, and marketing? How are you going to transition your business from the infancy to mature stage over the next 10-years.
The amazing thing about the affiliate model is that there are currently two different gyms, doing things completely opposite of each other and still arriving at the same profitable conclusion. The free market CF concept has proven that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but you have to know what a cat looks like first.
Even though both those gyms are operationally unique, they still embody the same level of professionalism and stay true to their core values that create their brand. Remember, it’s not WHAT you do…it’s HOW you do it that will ultimately determine your success.
Assistance in this area has grown considerably over the past several years. Others like myself have developed reputable business coaching platforms in addition to being full-time gym owners. Do your homework, shop around and find a coach to help you align your business model with the core values of your company.
3. Excel In "People Coaching"
Like it or not, you’re in the people business more than you’re in the fitness business. Once you’ve accepted this realization, you’ll come to terms with the idea that there’s an entirely separate aspect to our craft that requires high-level people skills.
Sports psychology, life coaching and human behavior are highly specified areas of study and it would take years to become a master at any one of them. But we don’t need to be elite level life coaches - we need to be elite level fitness professionals. It’s my contention that your ability to implement basic pillars from these areas can add a third dimension of professionalism within your fitness market.
If you make the claim that you want to change people’s lives, you must realize that it will not happen with 1 hour of physical exercise, 3-5x per week.
To actually make lasting change in someone’s life requires a multi-angle strategy that involves much more than back squats and double-unders.
This is the one element that is most scarce in availability to gym owners. In my personal experience, the Life Coaching course through OPEX was one of the most practical courses to teach this broad and deep topic as it relates to our profession.
In addition, I’d recommend the following books to get you started on how to really understand your clients and most effectively create change within their lives outside the gym:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Values Factor by John Demartini