Earlier this year I began the arduous task of passing the hardest test any Irish person will ever have to take: the Irish Driving Test (okay it's at least on par with the Leaving Cert). As a coach, my job is mostly a teaching profession. I teach people how to move their bodies, as well as provide some tips on how to make the rest of their lives conducive to their goals. I pride myself on constantly trying to up-skill my teaching and communication abilities to help the people I work with.
Yesterday was my first driving lesson, and it reminded me of the importance of having a good teacher when it comes to getting better at anything, be it training, an instrument or driving a car. Without going into too much boring detail, the instructor was crap. The sad thing is that many people would not question the competence of the teacher, and instead blame themselves. How many people have been turned off the gym and made to think they're hopeless just because some 'coach' wasn't skilled enough to teach them?
So below is a checklist of things you should expect from anyone calling themselves a coach or trainer. If they don't meet the standard, then get a different one! Your health and fitness is too important to be entrusted in the hands of someone who doesn't care about it.
1. They should be qualified.
Generally speaking, a formal degree in the area will be of higher quality than a PT course done over a few weeks. There are good coaches with the latter, but they are unfortunately often the exception. People who care about this job will invest in their education, be it through college or conferences/seminars/certifications.
2. They should walk the walk.
If someone can't get results for themselves, then they are missing a huge chunk of experience needed for teaching others. Don't learn how to squat from a guy who gets buried by a 60kg bar.
3. They are teachers, not cheerleaders.
There's an old saying that goes "If you don't know what to do just shout". A little motivation is fine, but if the only things coming out of your coach's mouth are motivational slogans and the number rep you're on, then they have no idea what they're doing.
4. They scale things to your ability.
Nobody walks into the gym on the first day and is strong. A coach expecting anything more from you is unacceptable. Your first few sessions should be done with a weight light enough for you to learn proper technique
5. They are positive and encouraging.
Your time in the gym should be challenging but enjoyable. Having a good relationship with your coach is paramount for this. The coach getting angry or blaming you is a huge no-no. They should praise you for when you do well, and provide encouragement and solutions for when you're struggling.
Don't sell yourself short with a bad coach, and don't let one bad experience shape your opinion of what you can achieve.