1 – They got their weekend certification 2 weeks ago.
Personal training and to a lesser but saddeningly increasing degree “strength and conditioning” are industries and not professions (I have Ashley Jones to thank for the idea).
A profession is a long-term skilled career that takes a long well-documented path to warrant calling yourself a member of the trade. For instance to become a Doctor or a practicing lawyer there is an established career path you need to complete to be able to use the term. A 5-year degree followed by a 2-3 year Junior period in your career coupled with the need to be a member of a ratifying or governing body ensure that there is a minimum standard of practitioner.
Within an “industry” such as being a cake sales person, life coach, cross-fit “coach” or personal trainer you need to undertake very low barrier to entry steps before becoming a fully fledged member. Such as opening up your own space or attending a weekend course.
2 – They have accomplished nothing with their clients or athletes.
Coaching someone in any realm of endeavor requires an engagement with the coaching process. This means iterating training/programming and then reviewing your processes with objective and subjective feedback from both athlete and coach.
It doesn’t involve pulling out a series of random workouts or “WODS” out of your arse and putting them into a notebook or whiteboard.
You can tell someone reviews their processes and continually looks to improve on their iteration because their clients or athletes will be achieving things of note. If they coach lifters, then those lifters will be progressing and winning things, if they work with weekend warriors who want to look better those people will be getting leaner in short they will be consistently getting results.
3 – They don’t have any creative or physical outlets that they are passionate about.
No matter the field or person I have come across the people who are truly outstanding at what they do tend to have some form of hobby be it physical, creative or mental that they obsess over or try to develop.
Real coaches want to affect change in others so naturally they normally want to affect change in themselves as well. This change can be brought about from a blog where they scatter or try to hone their own thoughts, through their involvement in a lifting sport or maybe playing in a band.
Good coaches have a growth mindset and it is almost impossible for people of this nature not to have some form of outlet that isn’t just attached to their own profession.
4 – They don’t engage.
One of the more crystallising experiences I have had came from an interaction I had with a good friend and colleague where he asked the question –
“What makes you a great strength and conditioning coach”
I responded that I thought a great strength and conditioning coach affected positive change with the people the worked with.
He believed that being a great strength and conditioning coach meant working with the elite of the elite being the level of athlete you coach defined you.
I fail to see the merit in this thought process, for me It’s about making a difference in any positive way you can that defines the coach. I have worked with many elite athletes in my time and I have always found simply working with someone who actively wants to be there and improve to be the rewarding part of my working life. Some of the best athletes I have ever worked with in terms of achievement have been some of the least rewarding to work with.
5 – They don’t lead.
A real coach is a leader whilst a personal trainer or someone who is in it to get the monetary reward are a boss. When you enter into your session if your trainer is sitting back drinking a coffee while they get you to do aimless and random physical activities chances are you’ve landed yourself a boss.
When you are working with a coach the long term outcomes are what drive your processes it’s not about putting on 10lbs of muscle in 8 weeks. It’s about how to become better at your chosen activity year on year, decade on decade.
A good coach will instil in you the confidence and behaviours you need to succeed whilst a personal trainer or short term profiteer will tell you to do stuff with little to no rationale.
After working with a good coach for a couple of months you should be capable of heading off and doing your own thing and be better equipped to do so than when you started if you have been working with someone for a couple of months and are still none the wiser than when you started about how to organise your training processes than you are paying for a boss.