There are an incredible number of skills a coach needs to possess to be an effective leader, instructor, communicator and proxy of your box. Some take hours to master, most take years, but your staff should aim to be constantly improving in all the requisite domains. Coach Glassman has summed it up best as their “give a shit” AKA “care”-factor. However, there are plenty of extremely knowledgeable, well-spoken and technically trained coaches out there who can’t get out of their own way because they are seen as cold and not personable. As the coach of the class your body language MUST say “I’m approachable!”. No matter how much you know or how eloquently you can speak, if you’re viewed as intimidating or unapproachable people are NOT going to feel comfortable asking you for help.
If you feel you’re in the camp I just described the first step I recommend you take is film the classes you teach or have a coach watch and evaluate you during class. Once your class is over, watch your video (yes, the entire class) or debrief with your evaluator. I totally sympathize with the awkwardness you’re going to feel while watching yourself coach but get it over, we’re here to get better. So what are you watching for? Your body language. How much of the class do you spend with a coffee cup in your hand? Do you post up at the front of the room like a statue with your hands in your pockets? Do you work the room with your arms crossed in front of your body? Although everyone’s opinions are subjective, almost everyone can agree that these examples are not the mark of a professional. I recommend you tally up the amount of time you do these things (or similar behaviors) and make an honest assessment of your shortfalls. Not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered.
Ditch the coffee mug
You’re not on a coffee break, you’re on the clock, act like it. Your hands need to be free to demonstrate, make gestures and cue athletes. It shows members you’re involved and ready to help and aren’t just supervising your class.
You’re not a statue
Stop posting up at the whiteboard, or next to the volume knob on the stereo, or god-forbid your cell phone (I’m not even going to waste any additional energy on the cell phone topic other than say: put it away). Walk around the room and interact with your athletes about personal and class related subject. Don’t shout cues from across the room unless there’s a safety concern – walk up to your athletes and coach them.
Get your hands out of your pockets
Whether you agree or not, having your arms crossed arms or yours hands in your pockets makes it look like you couldn’t possibly be bothered. Uncross those arms, take those hands out of your pockets and interact with your crew!
Smiling is the easiest behavior modification you can make and it takes as close to ZERO effort as it gets. The more you smile, the more people are going to want to be around you, listen to you, and therefore, trust you. Smiling also changes your own personal mood, but that’s a topic for another day.
The provided list of changes isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but just simply a few strategies to employ to improve your approachability. There are certainly other ways to develop your personality, and we encourage you to work on them in the same manner in which you look to improve your ability teaching the air squat. Now that you have a few skills to work on, put them into practice, film yourself again, and watch to see how your classes and your interactions within your classes improve.
Written by Matt Sherburne