How to Classify a Potential Coach and Hire the Right Type For You

When a potential coach walks through your door, it’s kind of like meeting a first date. The relationship could blossom into an amazing, fulfilling experience that launches you both and your company into growth mode. Or it could lead to nothing. Or it could be a painful setback with an outcome you’d rather avoid.

When we set out on a first date, often there are characteristics we are looking for in the other person to be a life partner. We visualize the “dream spouse”. But who is your “dream coach”? Do you know?

No one will fit the mold perfectly, but you can certainly define things that you want (or don’t want) in a coach that can help you in your decision making and recruiting process. If the goal is keeping a coach for a long time (as introduced in the first article of this series (linked)) this will likely be the most important factor.

After talking to several owners, here are 3 primary traits that I heard referenced multiple times.

  • Fiscal/career needs
  • Mindset or personality
  • Background 

The goal is to gain clarity into what typical variables are within these categories, defining which best suits your needs, and using that information in your recruiting process. This will lead to not only better coach selection, but creating a better situation for that coach to be successful at your gym.

Fiscal needs:

It doesn’t matter how perfect the personality of the coach is for your gym if their life goals don’t match up with what you are able to provide. Here are 3 general categories:

Coaching is a career - career coaches will be more focused on finances and opportunity to grow. Be wary of WHY they are career coaches (more on this below) and if they are candidates to open their own gym.

If they are “career” coaches, are they the primary bread winner for the household? This may influence their financial needs and demands especially as the family needs grow.

Coaching is a side gig - while this might seem like a turnoff if the goal is longevity, a growing segment of the population work from home and can afford a good amount of time in your gym if that role fulfills a personal need for them. You may get great bang for your buck as well since they aren’t as reliant on the income to pay the bills.

Coaching is a short term gig till the next thing - The most common version of this is a student. Clearly this is the least desired in terms of long term retention, but can still play a valuable role in the right situation

Mindset/personality considerations:

“When I’m hiring a coach I worry about attitude and mindset first. Technical coaching skill is probably 3rd on the list of things to consider”
  • Adam Morden, CrossFit Courtenay

Most candidates will focus on the things you want to hear, so don’t breeze over the first answer that jives with your goals and automatically check that box. Think of ways to dig by shaping the question or asking follow up questions that help better define a true personality trait.

I will list many of the characteristics people look for, but the most common one I heard (and it seems the most important) I will start with and spend a little time on.

What is the motivation for coaching?

We all want coaches that get true satisfaction out of helping generate success in their clients. We want this to be the real motivation for them to coach. However, here are some alternate possibilities that we should try to uncover in case they play a bigger role than the potential coach might like to admit.

  • Money - They possess the basics of being a coach and don’t have the options, time or motivation to look for something else. It’s just a band aid. They aren’t truly passionate about it or money plays the largest role in why they coach.
  • The ability to work out more - Most commonly, they want to make it to the Games. Make no mistake, great athletes can be great coaches… but is the client's success most important? Or their own?
  • They want to learn about the business to open their own gym - You may be fine with this and sometimes this mindset yields passionate and invested coaches. That said, it’s always helpful to know ahead of time.

Additional characteristics I heard as highly valued

  • Entrepreneurial mindset - valuable when early on in gym’s growth or for expanding client base (be aware of intent to own their own gym in the future)
  • Growth mindset - always becoming more knowledgeable
  • Motivated and hard worker
  • Compassionate and empathetic
  • Open and honest - not afraid to point out issues
  • Different than YOU - carries complimentary skill sets and brings another perspective to the table

Where the coach comes from (background):

Depending on where your gym lies, your options for acquiring coaches will vary greatly. If you live in a small town with few options, you might have to be less rigid in your criteria than a college town or big city with lots of options.

Through all of the scenarios I encountered, there was a constant everyone seemed to focus on: Hire from within whenever possible. This may seem obvious but when the groundwork is laid it is easier to execute.

First, what you tend to avoid by hiring from your member pool:

  • Preconceived expectations or tendencies from past coaching gigs
  • Influence from a completely different culture
  • The “grass is always greener” mindset
  • The need to interview several candidates to find one good one

Here are a few things you can do to raise opportunity to hire from within:

  • Constantly post and announce opportunity to move up to be a coach within the gym
  • During goal sessions ask about aspirations to coach
  • Publicly value your coaches and demonstrate the benefits of coaching at your gym (make it desirable to your members)
  • Keep your eye on great potential coaches and encourage them to consider and work towards it
  • Once you’ve identified a good target, learn about their life situation and path and help create a scenario for them to achieve their goals as a part of your coaching staff
  • Work on developing coaches even when you don’t currently need them

Level method builds goal sessions into the normal system cycle creating opportunity to help execute strategies to develop great coaches from within

Once you’ve identified and hired your ideal coach, now it’s time put rubber to the road and build that ideal scenario you both intend. The next 3 articles are about just that. More to come!