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Why New Coaches Should Not Teach Beginners

Katie Hogan Coaching

Photo Credit: Michael Ochnicki

In the world of professional sports, the most experienced coaches are most often the ones working with the best and most experienced athletes. At first glance, this seems logical, but considering the years of training and practice that these athletes have put it, I would argue that the amount of actual coaching that they would require on a daily basis is minimal. They’ve spent their years learning from their mistakes and fine-tuning the nuances of their sport or position. It seems that all that’s left for many of them to do, is show up and play.

On the other side of this there are the coaches who know little to nothing about the sport that they are assigned to teach to beginner level athletes. Without a deep understanding of the sport and years learning from their mistakes, these coaches are at a huge disadvantage when tasked with instilling the fundamentals in their young and aspiring athletes. In many cases, and not for lack of trying or caring, these coaches are unsuccessful in building that solid base from which all future coaching can be built off.

We too have it backwards. In many of the gyms I have trained in and visited, the entry-level trainers are given the job of teaching the “on-ramp” or fundamentals groups. As a new trainer myself, the first class I was assigned to teach was a beginner level group.

By pairing the least experienced coaches with the even less experienced, uncoordinated and/or deconditioned clients we are creating an environment where it is difficult or nearly impossible for the athlete or the coach to succeed in his/her role.

Katie Hogan Coaching

Photo Credit: Michael Ochnicki

The coach’s job is to teach, to impart his knowledge and experience, to simplify the process and to create a direct line to the objective of improving the athlete’s movement; to get people moving safely and efficiently thereby keeping them motivated to train. On the other hand, the athlete’s job is to learn, to absorb all the information that he can, and start moving to the best of his ability.

In an ideal world, the most talented and experienced trainers would be teaching the fundamentals and intro classes to give both athlete and coach the best chance at success. A good coach needs to not only recognise poor movements, habits, and tendencies in his athlete, but also carry the knowledge of how to FIX that error and how to explain so clearly and concisely.

To ask this of any new trainer is unfair. New coaches would benefit most by shadowing more experienced coaches as they teach and correct newer clients. When taking on their first roles as coaches, I think they would fit in best in an intermediate level class where athletes have a basic understanding of movement but are still not moving as well as they could. Here a new trainer can practice communicating with his athletes who are at least familiar with the movements and will likely still be able to understand what the coach is asking of them.

While there are many logistics involved in assigning trainers to different classes at a gym, I think it is worth considering who is laying the foundation at your gym and if it is in the best interest of the clients and the trainers to keep them there.

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The Rx Review is an independent fitness website, reporting on the Sport of Fitness, functional fitness news, The CrossFit Games, health and diet related information, and also provides reviews on sports performance products.