What do you think of when you think of a coach?
Do you think of a grizzled old man on the sidelines screaming at the ref?
Do you think of a friendly and relatable mother of two who makes everyone feel welcome in the gym?
Do you think of yourself?
Whichever image popped into your mind, there was likely a common thread tying it to the image that popped into everyone else’s head.
A person who tells other people what to do.
Specifically, they’re telling them what to do to achieve a goal.
It’s the image of the all-knowing coach with all the answers that trips most people up in their efforts to become world-class fitness professionals.
If you’re world-class, that must mean you have all the answers, right?
Now that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know your stuff. It means you need to know how to help your clients find the answers themselves, and that only happens if you’re a skillful listener.
Wait, how does listening lead to your clients achieving their goals and finding answers to their questions along the way?
Here’s the rub, your clients will tell you things. It’s your job to decipher the meaning behind the story rather than just the words they’re saying.
For example, if you have a client who wants to lose weight before he gets married in 10 months, there might be more to the story.
Why does he want to lose the weight?
It could be as simple as wanting to look on the big day.
It could also be something more complicated like him feeling self-conscious that the “fat version” of himself isn’t worthy of his bride-to-be.
The sets and reps of the programs for both scenarios would likely be identical. However, the conversations would be drastically different.
Consider which would be more valuable:
Losing all the weight he wanted to shed before the wedding without any personal growth.
Losing 80% of the weight he wanted to drop and gaining a healthy relationship with his body that doesn’t associate body composition with worthiness.
The second option is obviously more valuable, but why?
It’s more valuable because it sets him up for long-term success.
Instead of him drawing a line in the sand and saying, “I will only feel worthy and love my body if it looks like this.” He abandons the line altogether in favor of accepting his body as a teammate and a valuable piece of who he is.
None of that happens if the coach doesn’t listen.
If the conversation stops at, “I want to lose weight for my wedding,” none of the other important things come out.
If the coach is willing to dig deeper and hold space for the client, the truth comes out.
“What do you believe you’ll gain by losing that much weight before your wedding?”
“How will losing weight change the way you see yourself?”
When world-class fitness professionals are willing to listen, they give their clients opportunities to have needed conversations that no one else is willing to have.
They have the opportunity to see opportunities for growth and happiness, hiding in the shadows of their blind spots.
You won’t change anyone's life with a better squatting cue, but you can and will if you learn to listen to what your clients are really telling you when they say they need help with their health and fitness.