On Coaching: Part 6

Forget What You Don’t Know!

There are a million things we don’t know. We don’t even know all the stuff we don’t know. Don’t obsess on that. You know enough to get people to exercise. You know enough to teach people. If for whatever reason, you’re called on to work outside your comfort zone and teach something you don’t know, give it your best shot. Highlight the things you do know. As a teacher and a coach you have to be confident and assertive. People expect you to teach them and show them something. Don’t stress, just do your best. You don’t have to wait until you can deadlift 500 pounds before teaching someone how to deadlift. Robert Heinlein said, “when one teaches, two learn.” Grab a friend and a pvc pipe and show them how to overhead squat. You will both walk away richer for the experience.

Probably the most agonizing experience as a coach or a teacher is when you have your own coaches or teachers in your class. As a yoga teacher and a CrossFit coach, I have had the pleasure and terror of having many of my favorite coaches and teachers take my classes. When this happens, and it will, here are a few things to keep in mind to reassure yourself:

1) Nobody wants to see you fail. In fact, people generally want you to succeed. People come to your class because they want a good workout and they want to have a good time and they don’t want to have to do all the thinking for themselves. This is true of teachers and coaches as much as anybody else. Know that everyone is rooting for you to teach well and don’t stress.

2) Be yourself. If a coach or teacher comes to your class it’s because they like you. So being yourself is the easiest way to fulfill their expectations.

3) Use more experienced people to bolster you, but don’t abdicate responsibility. Having another knowledgeable teacher or coach in the room is almost always a benefit to you. When you say something like “CrossFit is the best thing for little old ladies.” You can turn to the other coach and say, “isn’t that true?” and usually they will back you up, give credence to your claim and say something like “I had two little old ladies that I trained and they both lived to be 100!” Then everyone looks good.

Having another expert in the class means you can always draw upon their knowledge and expertise. If you are having a particularly hard time teaching someone to squat, ask the other coach, “have you ever seen this before and what did you do?” If they fix the problem then again everyone wins. But, like I said, don’t abdicate responsibility. You want to make both of you look like an awesome team, not just hand someone the baton and walk away.

Worst case scenario: punt! You can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes and if you really don’t know what you’re doing, then everyone will figure it out. Don’t try to fake your way through something and make yourself look like an idiot. Be honest and forthcoming and work with people to make them better. Keep things simple and straightforward. Have fun and teach and share information. Be open to learning as you go and just do your best. Don’t wait until you know more, just get out there and get people to exercise.

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One Comment

  1. tylerdurden April 20, 2010 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Further on the point of teaching others. Jonathan Fields has a great piece about “guru fatigue.” You don’t have to be an all-knowing superstar to be a coach. You just need to be real and share your information.


    Check it out.

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