by Kirk Ream
As coaches, it’s not uncommon for us to dream of attracting new members, expanding our facility or even opening additional locations. This desire to become bigger and reach more people is normal in fitness professionals; it’s just what happens when you combine a love of people, exercise and entrepreneurship. In fact, if you aren’t dreaming big, I’d encourage you to take some time and let your imagination run wild for a bit. Start dreaming big and making plans to make those dreams a reality.
But as important as our own expansion plans are, they pale in comparison to our responsibility to our young champions. Our number one priority in training our athletes should be to expand their vision. As much as we want to make what we do about proper exercise selection, progression and intensity, the truth is that it’s not just about those things. It’s much bigger, tougher and more important than that. Until we grasp the importance of this concept, we’ll continue to struggle to make a real impact on these young athletes’ lives and in our community. There are 3 ways in which we should be expanding the vision of our clients on a daily basis.
1. Expand the vision of their abilities. Most of us are experts at this. We pride ourselves in being able to take any athlete, regardless of previous exercise experience, and turn them into elite training subjects. We have the knowledge and ability to design and implement programs that will improve speed, strength, power and recovery. In our minds, it’s not a question of “if” they become better; it’s about “when.”
Unfortunately, to a young athlete, they don’t realize any of this. We may try our best to explain that if they follow our program they’ll become the best young athlete they can be and will live up to their potential, but talking rarely works. By the time we begin training a champion, their mind is already filled with the negative self-talk they’ve heard most of their lives. Their coaches, parents, girlfriends, boyfriends and fans have told them who they are and what they will become. Unfortunately, many of these words have not been helpful. Most have been hurtful.
As coaches, we must constantly encourage and reward the young athlete as they reach new levels. Many of us will bring attention to major milestones, but a properly designed program builds in new successes into every session. Accomplishing more repetitions, harder progressions and greater effort should be rewarded with high-fives, verbal encouragement and public acknowledgement. As they see, hear and feel the belief we have in them, they will begin to expand their belief in themselves, regardless of what they hear outside of our facility.
2. Expand the vision of their importance – Many of our athletes have already begun to form thoughts and opinions about their role in life. They’ve been labeled by their peers as the basketball player, the football star, the champion tennis player or the uncoordinated kid. As coaches we are doing these kids a disservice by allowing them to have these limiting thoughts.
As excited as we are to watch them excel in their sports and fitness, we must remind them that this is only part of who they are. Their athletic abilities (or lack thereof) are a small component of their makeup. Each of our champions has been blessed with an amazing amount of gifts and talents that need to acknowledged and developed. Part of our job is to help our athletes envision themselves bigger than the labels that have been imposed on them at such a young age. Although they are currently known for certain talents at this point in their life, there will come a time where these labels disappear and they will wonder who they are and what they are here for.
As we intentionally bring awareness to their abilities to communicate, help others, make decisions and lead, we expand their vision of their importance in life. They are no longer just “this” or “that” but a person of depth and character that can positively impact the world around them.
3. Expand the vision of community. As coaches, we realize the importance of community. We deeply believe in the power of groups to provide encouragement, accountability and results. Unfortunately many of the young athlete we will work with have been immersed in a “me” first culture from a very young age.
Many studies show that a child can be “branded” as young as age 2. If this is true, that means that the 16 year old basketball player that you are currently training may have been consuming messages like “Have it Your Way”, “It’s All About Me” for the last 14 years. He or she may believe that community is only there to serve them and should be used to help them meet their goals in life.
As coaches we must begin to help these young athlete understand that community is and will be an important part of their lives. They need to learn the benefits of giving and serving others as well as being served. Life and sport is about give and take and unfortunately many individuals today are only learning the “take” side of things.
As we expand the vision of community, we not only set up our athletes to be successful on teams and in sport but as contributors later in life.
Coaching young clients can be very rewarding. Watching the young athlete change, grow and improve in our facilities give us much to be proud about. But as we help expand the vision of their abilities, themselves and their community, we’ll being preparing them to be successful long after they’ve participated in their last session with us. And this is what we are really trying to do.