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Becoming Coach

I’ve been staring at the screen for a little while now wondering what to write about for today’s blog post, I’ve plenty to say, I’m just a little unfocused. So I decided to waste a little time browsing Facebook, which always provides inspiration in one form or another.

Today it the topic, once again, of becoming Coach.

Browsing through a photo album I was tagged in, I decided to look at the page of the person who tagged me, in doing so I noticed that they are hosting an Agatsu Kettlebell Certification in the coming months. This is cool, Agatsu run a decent course, in my opinion not a patch on the information offered by Steve Cotter, but still good. On the persons wall another person had asked a question, they were interested in attending the course, but had no experience with kettlebells and wanted to pad out their CV. The kind reply came back that no, experience is not necessary. Or in other words, any monkey can walk into a weekend certification and then begin teaching classes the very next day.

That’s like passing your driving test and immediately going out and teaching others to drive.

I’ve said it time and again, and I’ll probably never stop saying it, if you wish to train people, you MUST have experience. Two days on a course is not good enough, fourteen hours of tuition will not give you the requisite skills to go from novice to instructor. Teaching, be it exercise or anything else, to a group or an individual, is a skill. Without an in-depth knowledge of the topic being taught, it is impossible to teach properly.

My areas of expertise are Martial Arts and Conditioning training, I first stood in front of a class aged 15 as an assistant to my own instructor. That was 19 years ago (I suddenly feel old). I’ll happily tell you that I was crap. I had 5 years of training experience, I held a brown belt in Karate but I was a hopeless coach. I honestly don’t believe I became a good coach until I hit my late 20’s. By this time I’d been teaching martial arts for over ten years and fitness for around 5. At 34, I’m still learning and improving.

One thing I have always stood by is that I will not teach something that I’m not comfortable doing myself. Take kettlebells for example. I started practicing the kettle in around 2005/6, I didn’t teach them to anyone other than my training partner until 2009. Why? in 2009 I attended a course under former world champion and record holding kettlebell lifter Vasilly Ginko, he told me to teach, so I started. By the time I taught my first client I had three years of kettlebell experience under my belt. Now, ANOTHER 3 years on, I’m still learning.

I guess the point I’m making is this. A weekend certification, even a 6 month instructor course is meaningless unless you have put in the hard yards before and after. Coaching is a combination of education (ie courses attended) and experience (as both instructor and practitioner). This all may sound a bit catch 22, but all it really requires is patience. There are several excellent resources in Ireland at the moment, coaches that are active and experienced in the field, if you are looking to move into the world of teaching and coaching, I highly recommend you do your homework and approach these guys and ask for a few pointers. The good coaches are always willing to help out, the bad ones are usually too afraid of the competition.

I’ve used kettlebells as an example through this post, but my views apply to anything. Becoming a role model is a huge part of coaching, if you can’t demonstrate and communicate a deep knowledge of your chosen topic, you’ll never earn the respect of your audience.

If you wish to take an instructor certification, get some experience behind you. You owe it to the people who will come to you expecting to meet an expert.

At this point I’m supposed to tell you all about my own instructor program. and yes, I do offer one, no one has ever taken it and all being well very few ever will. Why? because it takes at least 6 months to complete and culminates in the prospect having to stand in front of one of my classes and be judged by the students. It’s more of a mentorship than a certification, most who apply will never finish, those that do, even fewer will pass.


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