By Phil Hueston, NASM-PES; IYCA-YFS
“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24
Usually when a writer begins a piece with a Bible quote, the eyes of his readers roll and the “here we go” mutterings begin.
Stop it. Stop it now.
There is deep wisdom to be found in the writings of the Bible, whether you are a believer or not.
After all, the Golden Rule we all teach our kids is straight out of the Bible, isn’t it?
So why would I begin my writing here with that quote? Because I am using it to make a point about learning.
So you’re a “Youth Fitness Pro.” You “know” your stuff: youth fitness, sports performance training and how to make athletes better. The “X’s and O’s,” so to speak.
You’ve read the books. You’ve acquired the certifications (you have the cool letters after your name to prove it!) You’ve attended the seminars where you’ve passed snide remarks about the presenters’ knowledge, evidence and even their speaking style to anyone who would listen.
You’ve found or created a “system” for successful training of youth athletes – you even act as if it sprang from you organically. You communicate it as if this be-all, end-all “magic bullet” is something that didn’t come from the work of the thousands of researchers, trainers and coaches who came before them.
Who knows, maybe the answers formed in your alphabet cereal one morning as the sun beamed through a stained-glass window to give you the “sign.”
You feel really, really smart. You carry a sort of “my way is best” attitude that is the spitting image of the smug, “better than thou” attitude of the prototypical Biblical rich man.
How do I know this? I was nearly one of “those” coaches.
I’d experienced just enough success very early in my work with youth athletes to inflate my ego and walk around with the “I got this” attitude. I started to dismiss the work of others and lean on what I thought was enough knowledge and experience to make me the “go to” trainer in youth sports and performance.
I was becoming an egotistical jerk who thought he knew all the answers.
Then I started actually spending time around some of the people whose knowledge and experience I took for granted. I discovered something that changed my perspective forever.
These successful trainers, coaches and presenters genuinely cared more about their clients and the people they served than they could ever care about being RIGHT. They were humble, they were available to those they serve and they genuinely cared about whether I was getting better.
And man, were these people ever smart! Whip-crack, “holy cow” kind of.
I found myself looking more and more to what they knew for answers to challenging questions and less and less to what I “knew.” Their knowledge base became my knowledge base. Their experience expanded and multiplied my own.
An amazing thing happened…I got smarter and I started serving my “tribe” more effectively. I also started connecting in deeper and better ways with my clients.
I started asking better questions, doing better research and delivering better results than I’d ever imagined! I developed an appreciation for the massive body of knowledge that was still to be explored – by all of us – in this field.
That is the difference between being the camel and getting stuck in the eye of the needle and finding your way to the “promised land.”
Our “promised land” lies in the direction of being connected to a world of people, knowledge, resources and wisdom that can help us fulfill our purpose at its deepest and most meaningful level: help kids and youth athletes (and everyone else we work with) become the best they can be while helping them love the journey – while we become financially secure and successful in doing so.
In the scripture quote above, it’s not necessarily the wealth of the rich man that will keep him from the Promised Land; it is the attitude of superiority, sense of entitlement and the dismissal of those around him that sets him up for failure. It is the deadly sin of hubris – “overbearing pride, presumption or arrogance.”
The same holds true for you, and for me.
When we develop an attitude of superiority, that feeling that “I’m right and that’s it,” we set ourselves up to be shown to be lacking. Suddenly, a situation arises for which you have no ready answer. Instead of having the humility to say “I don’t know,” you dismiss the importance of a clients’ question or concern or, worse, reflexively give an incomplete or incorrect response. Fail.
And who suffers? Our clients.
This air of superiority creates a very narrow circle of advisors and causes others to refrain from offering opinions or correcting us when we are in error. It leads to failures in critical thinking and allows us to settle for poor research and half-solutions. Fail…again.
A sense of entitlement may be the most dangerous of the traits of the “rich man.” This attitude prevents you from being grateful for the people who want to help you succeed and leads to a kind of isolation from the people who are likely to be your strongest allies, if you would simply allow them to do so. Fail waiting to happen.
Dismissing those around us is a by-product of the air of superiority and the sense of entitlement. It’s impossible to be grateful for those for whom you hold no regard.
So how do we reach the “Promised Land” of having the knowledge, resources and support to help our clients succeed and become financially successful at the same time?
Here are 6 ways to get started:
1. Know your strengths – This is not an excuse to pat yourself on the back. Knowing your strengths means knowing how you can begin to serve others while working to get better. If your background is in Olympic lifts, start there. Do you have a deep love and knowledge of mobility? There is your strength…and how you can serve right now.
2. Love your weaknesses – That’s right. LOVE your weaknesses. Years ago, I was really good at strength development and power training. Speed and agility? Have you ever seen me? Let’s just say that I’m no gazelle. My body was built to throw heavy stuff around. My athletes needed SAQ development as well. I chose to love the fact that I needed more knowledge in that area. I looked for every opportunity, every resource on the subject I could get. As a result, my weakness became a strength for me, and my athletes got better.
3. Steal good stuff – Yes, steal ideas that work. Ok, steal might be a bit off. Take great ideas that make you a better coach. Incorporate them into your toolbox. Then show the humility to give credit and praise to the person or people from whom you stole them. Let your clients know how much you respect the person you got an idea from by acknowledging that it’s good and how much you agree with it.
4. Challenge the status quo – Don’t be afraid to ask “why.” A lot. In the fitness and performance world, what we “know” changes quite frequently. Step aerobics, Shake Weights, body part isolation for athletes…trends and ideas change fast.
Real knowledge changes fast in our world, too. Much of what we believed as Gospel 10 or even 5 years ago has been challenged and sometimes disproven by science. Anyone remember “Heart Rate Zone Training?”
5. Challenge the presenters and the knowledge-bringers – Just because someone is on stage doesn’t mean they have finished learning. Just the opposite. It also doesn’t mean the learning is a one-way street. Challenge their claims, their research and the things they claim as truth. Challenge them if you think they are off or wrong. Challenge them if you want them to bring a deeper explanation of their subject matter. Challenge them if you want to understand them better. But check your ego at the door. Challenge them out of respect and a sense of communal improvement and development. I have learned some of my best stuff (stolen, by the way) from presenters and writers whom I’ve challenged.
“As iron sharpens iron, so does a man sharpen another man.” – Proverbs 27:17
6. Follow the Kaizen Path – Get just a little better each day. If you set your ego aside and accept that you cannot possibly know and understand all that is necessary to be great and serve your clients well, you will realize that others are there to help you. Listen to their ideas, challenge them and come up with some ideas of your own for them to challenge. In that way, we all get a little better each day, and the people we serve are the ones who benefit.
1% improvement a day or even each week leads to massive and continuing improvement over time.
The truth is that great coaches earn great success. Coaches who think they know it all or don’t need any help or are somehow “entitled” to success rarely find success. Unfortunately, the clients of those coaches rarely find success, either.
If you can avoid the deadly traits of the “rich man” trainer or coach, you might just be the camel who passes through the eye of the needle into the “promised land” of happy and successful clients and the kind of success that is earned by helping them reach that state.
Phil Hueston is the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy and Co-Head Coach at Athletic Revolution – Toms River, NJ. He has been, and continues to be, a sought after Sports Performance Trainer and Consultant to teams and athletes at the Youth Sports, high school, collegiate and professional levels.
Since his entrance into the fitness industry in 1998, he has questioned the status quo, challenged the conventional wisdom of the fitness industry and used the answers to make his clients better, bigger, faster and stronger.
Not just another pretty trainer, Phil has been called a “master motivator and trainer of high school athletes” and a “key player in the Youth Fitness industry.”
He works with athletes, “mathletes” and “non-letes” from 6 to 18, helping them all reach their performance potential and maximize their “fun quotient.”
Phil recognized early on that the ONLY task of Sports Fitness Professionals is the improvement of their clients’ sports performance and their enjoyment of the process! He has worked with 1000’s of athletes, assisting them on their journeys to collegiate sports, Division 1 scholarships, pro and semi-pro sports careers and even the first round of the NHL Draft.
Recently, Phil was named IYCA Member of the Year for 2012-2013. He has also co-authored 2 books, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance, which reached #1 Best- Seller status in two separate literary categories, and The IYCA Big Book of Programs.
Coach Phil can be reached through his company’s website,
Great article. I like the analogy of getting to the “Promised Land” – great tips too on how to get there. I enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for sharing Coach Phil.
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Thanks so much for the article, great stuff!
Also, thanks so much for having the courage to use Biblical quotes in the first place.
Blessings to you Coach!