By Jim Ferris
If you asked me in 1997, as a college freshman, where I thought the profession would be today or where I would be, I would not have even been close with my prediction. Over my two decades in the field, I have witnessed the growth and power behind social media, the rise of entrepreneurism, multi-level marketing companies selling every kind of magic potion or piece of equipment you can think of, endless specialized certifications in every possible category that falls under the fitness/performance umbrella and beyond, online coaching/mentoring with Skype for a price, and so much more.
I am excited for the profession. I am happy to see the earning potential giving people financial opportunity and the freedom to live more-balanced lives. I am also worried about how fast and business-driven the industry is becoming. The industry is getting divided by letters after our names and/or the products and associations we pay for or potentially earn a profit from.
Filter the Online Information and Get Real Education
I am not an expert and I am far from perfect. I make mistakes, I have weaknesses, I miss the target sometimes. My focus is simply to do what I personally have to do to make fewer mistakes, strengthen my weaknesses, and make my misses less noticeable. I am just a coach with lots of experience at many levels and positions throughout this field who pays attention to the current trends. I am not someone who dictates or forces.
I want to help influence conscious, educated, and open thinkers. I just want to share my views and opinions with an industry that is being driven more by quick business and financial potential and less by results and long-term success. Don’t get me wrong, everyone deserves to maximize their business potential, but I see the process of success skipping major steps for quick dollars. There is a lack of education, experience, and guidance.
As an example, to get a driver’s license, you first need to pass a written test before you can get your driver’s permit. Then, there is a specific amount of time you have to wait before you can attempt to get your license. The fitness industry is quite the opposite now for many entering the field. It’s like you can just go pick out a car of your choice and it drive away. Some people can get away with this, but too many of them crash and burn after that fresh car smell disappears.A good coach is simply a good coach based on metrics like results and progress, says @GYM_Ferris. Click To Tweet
I do not think you have to train 10,000 sessions or hours before you can write, speak, or educate. I just do not want coaches thinking they have to write and speak to be successful. A good coach is simply a good coach based on metrics like results and progress. I have learned over the years and changed my opinion on many things. I truly believe writing and speaking can actually help you become a better coach, but you have to do it at a pace that works for you. I am 19 years in and would say that is a major weakness for me. I am okay with it. I know what I bring to the table, and I know what I need to do to continue to develop.
The lack of education and training experience is very troublesome. Ask a coach to show you what their training model is, and many will show you pictures from their Instagram account, where they’re in some weird pose doing a duck-face Zoolander look with some crazy filter and a hashtag. The videos and content you can see on social media are frightening. Form, exercise selection, etc. are all ignored and get camouflaged by music and filters. We need structure. We need results. If we don’t have them, we will continue to be an entertainment industry instead of a results industry.
Are coaches educated enough? Are coaches experienced enough? Have coaches been in the game long enough to teach or mentor? Are coaches doing business with good morals? I am not here to judge anyone. I am not here to point fingers. I am not here to dictate. I am simply here to share and hopefully help shed light on topics that will push our industry, as a whole, in the right direction. I want to see everyone succeed.The videos and content on social media are frightening. Form, exercise selection, etc. are all ignored and camouflaged by music and filters. We need structure. We need results, says @GYM_Ferris. Click To Tweet
You Have to Go on Your Own Journey – Not Someone Else’s
The journey to be a successful coach is simply not the same as it once was. That is both a good and bad thing. Going to college to receive an undergraduate degree, doing multiple internships, going to grad school, and working multiple side jobs to make ends meet is a story many of us in the industry share and tell with our own twist to it. If you wanted to work in the college or professional ranks, you simply had to do things a specific way.
The independent coaching and specialized fields are growing fast, with private coaching, boot camps, sports performance, fat loss experts, boutique fitness instructors, and more. I do not expect it to stop. The consumer seems to enjoy the options. Instead of fighting or arguing against it all, can we help make it better? Can we raise the bar on the foundation of education for all? We will not be able to do it by ignoring it. The way we can address it probably starts with networking and helping locally.
My journey is my own. It helped mold me into who I am today. When I help mentor coaches, I do not want them to go through what I went through. I want to help them avoid mistakes, save time, and save money. I want to take the guesswork out of as much as possible.
I did not sleep in my 20s. I did not make much money in my 20s. I am partially to blame for that because I was not thinking outside the box much and my time was simply limited. I bartended 2-3 nights a week until 2 a.m. and clocked in to work as a coach at 7 a.m. with an oversized Dunkin Donuts coffee in my hand.
Back in 2002, there were maybe three sports performance training gyms around the Philadelphia area. I was a young and hungry intern looking to make his mark at the best one. I knew this was my shot. What other options did I have? Not many. I could not scroll on my Nextel back then and just browse whatever I wanted.
I had no network. I had no real idea of where the industry would lead me. I was just going along for the ride. I had my foot in the door working for a very successful sports agent, Steve Mountain, and I knew I had to put in the time or else I would probably end up applying to the local YMCA or LA Fitness for an entry-level position. That would mean walking new people through the introductory machine workout series for eight hours a day at minimum wage.
Let’s face it: Many of us came from an era where we felt like we were Frodo Baggins on a long, risky, uncertain journey to Mount Doom where, if he was wearing a Fitbit, it would have hit 100,000,000 steps easily. In today’s world, you can just deliver that ring via FedEx while swiping right or watching a Netflix series.
I guess you can say I profited from my experience in the NBA, which helped transition me easily into private practice through access to a strong network of players, coaches, and agents. I did not have a business model. I just had clients, day in and day out. I just coached. I still coach. I just do it with a better training model, supported by a better business model that makes those I work with better and allows me to have a life.
How the Iron Game Has Changed for Coaches
The industry has changed so much, especially for the people entering it now. For many, their coaching timeline is to retire from the coaching floor in five years so they can focus on their business and brand, and write their book. Yes, that is probably an exaggeration, but I think you get my point. Nobody I entered the field with was writing a book or blogging much 20 years ago. We were just coaching every single day because we loved it. We were not really business people and that was probably missing from our undergrad curriculum.
I do not know about you, but my college experience was pretty science-based and did not address much about the potential career paths or business reality that we would have to face. I think the business side today is so much better. We can create careers for people instead of jiggling and bouncing jobs. But the timeline is being pushed too fast. This is why we continue to see coaches and businesses fail. There is no model. There are no results. There is just a surge of something, and it dies out because it was just some hot trend. This is not an easy field to succeed in if you do not have the education, experience, training model, and business model to keep you in the game.
In today’s world, you can quit your 9-5 job on Friday, take an online trainer course on Saturday morning, order equipment with one-day delivery on Amazon, wake up on Sunday morning, and post on your social media that you are starting a boot camp in your garage Monday morning. PS—If you like and share the post, you get a discount on a supplement line that has a top-secret proprietary blend that is yummy in the tummy.
The initial earning potential of a coach/trainer is much better today and that is truly great to see. I do not want to see future generations go through what many of us went through. I want to see careers and lifestyles improve for everyone. Balance was and still is a struggle for many. We work odd hours, weekends, and holidays with no set income. There needs to be a business model that complements your training model so you can maximize your life-outside-work model. This will be different for everyone, but there are ways to get it done and do it with respectful business morals.There needs to be a business model that complements your training model so you can maximize your life-outside-work model, says @GYM_Ferris. Click To Tweet
Upon entering the field, imagine not training anyone for your first four years. You simply studied, observed, assisted, and volunteered. That is not the case anymore. Now you can just jump in with minimal experience and call yourself whatever title you want. We have to find a way that education, exposure, and experience can be gained the right way. We need young coaches to be okay with being Robin before they can be Batman.
We rush things because social media is so fast and so many “online” specialists are trying to sell you what they think is right. One’s personal opinion and experience is not the end all, be all. I simply suggest you follow, read, and invest in more than one certification and/or coach. Too often, I see people calling something or someone “the best.” That has no validation for me when you have only learned from one source.
We need to help create conscious, educated thinkers, instead of just following a format because that is how “someone” built success in the ’60s, ’70’s, or ’80s. Everyone’s starting point is different today, depending on where they are in life, as well as their educational journey, personal experiences, finances, and location. I was once told that if I wanted to train celebrities, I should move to L.A. If I wanted to train Amish people, I should move to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
Preparing the Future by Enjoying Coaching Every Day
I look to help build and influence coaches to have an old-school mentality with a new-school way of thinking. Evolution is a part of life and we all must recognize that what got us here will not keep us here. We have to continue to push forward together. This is not about us. It is about the people who invest their time and money in us. We have to raise the bar of professionalism in all spectrums of what we do.I look to help build and influence coaches to have an old-school mentality with a new-school way of thinking, says @GYM_Ferris. Click To Tweet
I have discussions with high school kids and young professionals all the time, and I am not even sure a four-year college degree in exercise science is even the answer if you just want to go work in the private sector. If you really want that college experience, I honestly recommend a degree in another field and possibly getting a minor in the field. Or just study a recommended list of material, intern at a few places, and find a few solid mentors to study under. Save the student loan money if you can. You can be a really successful coach with the right guidance and experience.
It is still very uncomfortable for me to have these conversations because when people look up to you for your guidance and opinion, you do not want to let them down or mislead them. Where is the industry going to even be in 10 years? I have no idea. I just know that if you can produce results and treat people well, the odds are in your favor to succeed.
The journey, the ups and downs, the success and failures, will be different for all of us. It took me almost 20 years to get to a well-balanced business model. My passion is coaching, and I do it 40+ hours a week via private sessions, small group, team training, and mentoring. I hit the trails or golf on the weekends and spend time with my beautiful wife. I am doing what I always wanted to do, and I hope to inspire and help others get to where they want to be. I am a success story. I am proof that you can make a career in this field if you work hard, have good business morals, and do things the right way.
Have an Open Mind and Eyes
I respect thinkers. I respect other professional views. I am open to discussions and professionally debating. Our industry needs help. You can be part of the problem or part of the solution, and I choose to be part of the solution. I want to listen to what others say because they come from an education and experience journey that I did not have.Your success defines my success, and I will do all I can to help you succeed, says @GYM_Ferris. Click To Tweet
In the comment area below, I ask that you respond and share your answers and thoughts. This is not about being right; this is about being helpful to others. My hope is that this will open the eyes of many out there who are starting out or are simply lost. The purpose of training is to train with purpose. Your success defines my success, and I will do all I can to help you succeed.