Over the last 4 years I have interviewed a lot of people who were interested in becoming strength coaches as well has having worked with a large number of actual coaches. Below is a list of the 5 essential characteristics individuals must hold in order to be successful in the industry.
Passion for working with people. Passion is contagious. If a coach is passionate when they engage their athletes, there’s a very good chance that they will be able to boost the performance of the athletes and help to create better training experiences, results and compliance to the demands of year round training. The inverse is absolutely true – a coach who lacks passion will lower the performance of their athletes. Passion may not be enough to reach all of the people you train but it is absolutely critical for reaching those people who can be reached.
See gaining knowledge and experiences as valuable uses of your time. Unless you are really good, very experienced or you own the training center, there’s a good chance that the money you earn will be kind of low. For this reason, you need to be able to see the value that time with the athletes, creating programs and running the center. These experiences are what will make you a better coach and allow you to demand more money in the future. You will not learn everything you need to know at school and don’t really have a choice but to gain years of experience before you can consider yourself a professional. If you don’t hold your professional development in a high regard, this industry isn’t the right one for you.
The ability to accept that other people know more than you. Given that you are there to learn and gain experience, you need to be open to just how little you know about particular things. Part of this is regarding others as experts or as more expert than you are.
The ability to listen and hear what other people are saying. This applies to feedback you receive about your coaching and especially the feedback / verbal reports from your clients. With your athletes and clients, you need to know if they are feeling a movement the way they are supposed to feel it, if they are experiencing any pain vs. work and if they are working with the required intensity. With reference to your coaching actions, you need to be able to hear what people are saying in order for you to make the call on the appropriateness of your coaching. You need to be able to hear the bad, because these are the things that you will need to change in order to move your abilities forward. As important is hearing the good as these things will let you know that you are doing the right stuff as well as making your job very rewarding.
A willingness to try new things and follow the advice you give to other people BEFORE you give it to them. There is a story about Ghandie that illustrates this well. A women brought her some to Ghandie and said “Ghandie, please tell my son to stop eating sugar” to which Ghandie said “bring him back in 2 weeks.” The women shrugged her shoulders, left with her son and returned two weeks later. Upon arriving, Ghandie looked at the boy and said “stop eating sugar.” The boy agreed and as they turned to leave the women looked at Ghandie saying “why didn’t you say that two weeks ago?” Ghandie replied “two weeks ago I was still eating sugar.” I think this is more important than almost everything because you cannot come from a place of authority if you have not done what you are asking your athletes to do. This doesn’t mean that you need to have won a world championship in order to coach a world class athlete but it does mean that you need to have done contrast training if you are going to be programming it for your athletes
So there you have it, 5 characteristics that you MUST have if you are going to start to work and excel in the strength coaching industry. If you are missing any of these, take a moment to consider your decision to move into this area of work. It may not be the right fit for you.