That’s the number one tip OPEX CCP Coach Sam Smith has for the thousands of coaches who are suddenly transforming themselves into remote coaches since their gyms closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Create clear expectations for what you’re going to deliver and when. Let your clients know what you’re responsible for and what they’re responsible for,” said Smith, a Crafted Coach who has been working with athletes in a purely remote fashion for the last five years.
"Let each client know exactly what you’re going to provide," he said.
“For example, let them know that you’ll be sending out x on this day and will be available this day at these times. And on their end, they’re going to commit to joining in a minimum three days a week on Zoom call sessions, and they’re going to log their results after the training,” he said.
In other words, make sure there are no grey areas.
“Because as soon as there’s a grey area, it will veer from the path you’re on, and then all of a sudden two weeks go by and people are like, ‘This isn’t for me.’”
And then most importantly, live up to your word.
“Make sure you execute consistently,” Smith.
Smith admits remote coaching comes with its challenges.
“The distance factor is a big piece. It’s easier to have a connection in person and mesh really well,” he said. And there’s a bigger responsibility on the client in a remote setting to check in and be more self-aware and self-motivated, he explained.
The way to work around this is to really get to know your clients and figure out which ones are more self-reliant, and which ones need more hand holding.
“There’s a certain type of personality that works better from a remote setting, so it’s important to recognize some clients might need more touch points than others. Some of my clients are more needy, so it’s an intricate balance between giving them enough touch points, where they feel cared for, but not too many that you’re over saturating them,” he said.
“It’s kind of like giving a child the right amount of attention to help them grow, but not too much that they become fragile.”
Another challenge Smith foresees with gyms moving to remote group classes servicing the people who are inexperienced and need a lot of extra help, like the person “who needs to keep learning how to do an air squat every day,” he said.
He suggests “identifying the lowest hanging fruit” and ensuring you’re providing them the guidance they need to be successful working out on their own in their living room without a coach available for tactic cueing etc.
Coaching remotely means you don’t generally have a specific schedule, and your days can get away from you if you’re not organized, Smith warned.
“When you move to remote coaching, you feel like you have a lot of time on your hands, but it’s a double edged sword. So it’s extremely important for the coach to still maintain a really efficient schedule. Your routine and rhythm needs to be extremely dialed. Your work will pile up on you if you’re not keeping a schedule,” he said.
Smith suggests setting aside specific time each day for programming, for answering emails and texts, for social media, for video reviews etc. Learn how to become an efficient coach in our free coaching course.
Henry Torano is another Crafted Coach with extensive remote coaching experience. He offered these tips for coaches going remote:
1. Make sure every exercise has a demo video.
2. Be clear with prescriptions: Abbreviations save you time up front, but answering questions later on is way more time consuming.
3. Set a day (or time of the week) aside to dedicate your full attention to every client’s results, comments, videos submissions etc.
4. Inquire beyond training results: “You can’t see body language or mood when you’re remote. Ask open-ended questions that will open up a space for truth,” he said.
5. Monthly meetings: “Push for the monthly Zoom check-in. They’re remote clients, but they want a coach, not a programming machine,” Torano said.
CCP Coach Jim Crowell has spent the last two weeks on back-to-back-to-back-to-back (you get the point) calls from gym owners all over the world figuring out best practices to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
He has noticed a lot of gym owners are, understandably so, reacting in a knee-jerk way to stop the bleeding now, as opposed to considering longer term repercussions.
He admits, there’s currently a “massive revenue contraction” at the moment—meaning people aren’t wanting to spend money.
“So you can’t just go out there and create more revenue right now, because there aren’t these big pockets of revenue to make right now,” he said.
On the gym owner’s end, this means: “Stop spending money right now and find those one percent pockets of (new) revenue from people you know (if possible),” he said.
Other than that, at least 80 percent of your efforts must be focused on client retention, Crowell said. And online Zoom group workouts classes aren’t the answer.
“Online classes are a loser,” he said.
Crowell has spoken with dozens of OPEX gym owners, coaches, CrossFit affiliate owners and business consultants in the fitness industry in recent days, and everyone is saying the same thing: People are excited about Zoom group classes for three to seven days, and then most start to peter out.
“Owners need to start thinking about how they’re actually going to care for their clients remotely in a one-on-one way. They need to actually be spending time on these people,” Crowell said.
“And I know people are going to (read that) and just think we’re trying to sell our courses, but this is what I’m hearing across the board (among CrossFit gyms too),” he added.
Now, more than ever, being able to support your clients emotionally is what’s going to allow you to retain them in the long-term, he urged.
“A lot of damage is happening right now, but more damage will happen down the road…Nobody gives a shit about home workouts anymore, so you need to provide value while they’re scared that you’re there to help them. You have to be empathetic and vulnerable,” he explained.
Be empathetic and vulnerable, and do it over and over and over.
“What people remember the most about what happened during hard, emotional times is who was there to help them. They need to know you’ll be there when this thing ends,” Crowell said.
The gym owners and coaches who are doing this right now—who are focusing on one-on-one connections, providing support, and helping clients with their fitness, their stress, their daily habits, their lifestyle, their nutrition—are continuing to have success.
“At least, thus far they’re still retaining their clients…I haven’t heard of any OPEX gyms tell me they have had a precipitous fall of clients yet. That doesn’t mean they won’t, but I think it shows there’s a lot of value in helping people get through a tough time,” he said. Get the skill you need to start supporting your clients here.
Gym owners and coaches are no different than clients: We need a support network as well, Crowell said.
“Coaches (and gym owners) really need to think about building their own support system right now. If you’re stressed and making knee jerk decisions day-by-day, then you won’t make good decisions,” he said.
Crowell added: “So put a support structure in place to help you calm down and make better decisions.”
To teach you the essential knowledge, tools, and systems you need to succeed online we’ve created a free guide, How to Remote Coach Successfully. Download now.