Coach, Trainer, or Entertainer

This is the title of a recent article posted at breakingmuscle.com, and I believe it sums up the fitness industry perfectly. Here is my spin on the topic…

Person after person wanting ‘in’ on the fitness industry comes calling themselves a coach, even a hi performance coach. Perhaps they have taken a weekend course to become a fitness trainer, or perhaps they have completed a marathon, or an iron distance triathlon and now believe that they have all that is needed in order to claim their share of the fitness industry.

Many call themselves a coach but are anything but….

The Entertainer

An entertainer is one who may have been an athlete, perhaps even an athlete who achieved at a National even International level, and as a result can do some pretty ‘flashy’ stuff… in the gym, in the pool, on the track, on a bike. And this is how the entertainer ‘coaches’: they demonstrate showing off what they can do – since they are the ‘entertainer’ – and then it is up to their apprentices to replicate. To them this is training and this is what they ‘sell’ as training to their athletes; if you can do what I can do, then you will be as good as I am.

Without considering individual ability level, skill level or capacity of their athletes, the entertainer simply throws you into the ring and encourages you to ‘fight hard’. As a result, most athletes who work with an ‘entertainer’ type coach fail to achieve much if anything, most ending up either injured/ill.

As an aside… the typical triathlon coach is an entertainer: they lived to cross an ironman triathlon finish line, and now ‘sell’ training plans which are little more than their own re-purposed training plan. In a mindset of this is what I did, therefore if you do it too… then you too will cross a finish line. These coaches provide minor variations to their training so they can call what they sell to be individualized training, but without any actual education or experience all they can do is throw cliche after cliche at their athletes – e.g. try hard, give it your best, I believe in you – in hopes that their positivity will push their athletes to success.

The Trainer

A trainer is someone who knows how to instruct a beginner in the safe use of gym equipment, and/or the safe execution of a generic exercise (e.g. the bench press). That is all that a trainer knows how to do, and that is all that a trainer should do; but that is not what trainers do (as in personal trainers at your local health club/gym). Trainers typically proclaim themselves as ‘all-knowing’. Having taken a course that took one whole weekend from their life, they end up believing that they’ve seen it all now, and know it all, and since they are ‘experts’ in the use of gym equipment and the performance of simple basic generic exercises… they figure themselves as to be hi performance coaches, or as strength & conditioning coaches, and some throw in for free expertise in nutrition, even injury prevention, and some go as far as to proclaim themselves as life coaches (yet none have any credentials in the health sciences, rehab medicine or psychotherapy).

Without the education or experience to truly understand health, let alone pathology, trainers ignorance leads to arrogance. They know what they know and figuring that that is all that there is to know about the human body, they take on a persona of health & fitness guru. And it works because to the general public… a trainer does know more than they do.

If any professional – as in health professional – made claims the way trainers do, they would undoubtedly end up with a malpractice or fraud complaint to their regulatory body with an investigation and disciplinary action coming swiftly. No health professional can make claims anywhere close to the claims the typical trainer makes, yet how many trainers think themselves as being ‘professionals’. Without a regulatory body to keep claims in check, and to keep trainers in check… the level of bullshit amongst trainers has truly reached epic proportions.

The Coach

A coach is a true professional, one who assesses each and every athlete to identify their own specific skill sets, as well as deficiencies. A coach is often a former athlete who failed to achieve greatly in sport, and it is as a result of their failure that they were led into researching, experimenting, and to the experiences and the education to fully comprehend how and why they failed to progress beyond a particular point. As a result, these individuals are unequivocally capable of coaching others beyond their prior limits.

Whereas entertainers and trainers are self absorbed, coaches are those who typically failed in sport (to the level they expected of themselves) and unsatisfied with that failure sought to learn, and then unsatisfied with the limits they experienced selflessly want to share what they have learnt to uplift another generation of athlete.

Whereas entertainers and trainers are in the industry for either profit or popularity or both, coaches are in the industry because of their love of the sport, as a result of their love of progress be it their own or that of others.

Whereas entertainers and trainers are intimidated and threatened by the potential and the successes of the athletes they work with, coaches live for their athletes to surpass their achievements.

A coach is an entirely different breed of individual.

If you want to find your potential as an athlete, take the time to find a coach, and don’t waste a moment of your life with those who call themselves coaches yet are nothing more than entertainers or trainers.