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  • Michael Richards

My top 5 biggest screw ups as a coach and private facility owner.

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

1. I tried to be Eric Cressey


Actually, I tried to be Cressey Sports Performance. If you listened to a recent podcast interview I did with Gerry Defilippo owner of Challenger Strength in New Jersey (You really should, phenomenal podcast) you may have heard me mention in the last two minutes of the podcast my biggest failure as a private strength facility owner. I completed the elite baseball mentorship at Eric Cressey‘s location in Hudson Massachusetts, came back to Arkansas and did exactly what he told us all not to do. Mr. Cressey warned us to use the information we learned at the mentorship like a buffet. Pick what you want and what you can use don’t try to use everything and completely overhaul your operations. Well I don’t need to tell you really anything else for you to know exactly what happened. I did not heed his advice and it sucked. The worst part about all of it is the fact that my clients were happy when we stopped doing it, that tells you how bad it was. But, I will say this it gave me a very clear picture of what needs to happen, what tools I need to have in place, and the things I need to know I can and can’t do in order to be successful now.


2. I stopped belong that irritated, ”know-it-all” coach.

No one wants to do business with someone that “comes off” on Social Media as irritable or pissed off all the time.

One of the most unique aspects of this field is the fact that if we practically required to display our work on various social media outlets. As well as offer our opinions and create discussions on those same social media outlets. This, unlike any other field lends itself to people disagreeing. And the smart coaches like you and me seeing a lot and I mean a lot of really,really stupid crap. It’s completely unavoidable and it is going to make you want to pull your hair out one single strand at a time. That’s fine

It is also fine to discuss your disagreements with said method.

Where I see a lot of coaches go wrong is they do not know their audience very well. Your audience does not understand your passion. They do not understand, for the most part that your condescension is .....passion that just....sounds.....A LOT like condescension(No really, cool the jets on the condescension). But it is technically coming from a good place right??

You want what’s best for each and every athlete and you know what you are watching is complete eyewash. You are simply trying to help everyone understand that.

But here in lies the problem, the people who understand what you are saying, aren’t purchasing your training programs. They already work for a team or own their own weight room for the most part. Occasionally you run across parents that have done their homework and understand the value of strength training for young athletes over practically everything else but they are few and far between.

Here is the thing you really need to understand, probably 9 out of 10 potential customers that read your blogs, social media posts, etc. have absolutely no idea how large of a gap there is between certain things that go on at certain gyms/training facilities versus other gym/training facilities.

To them, they’re young athlete going to a training facility and doing anything short of sitting in the lobby is good and productive for that athletes career. You and I know how misguided that is of course. Remember they are misguided because it’s not what they do for a living.

I am misguided when my air-conditioner breaks down or my electricity goes out and I don’t give a crap how it works for the most part (especially electricity because it scares me to death).

Keep in mind, to the uninformed potential customer initially considering getting their child involved in an athletic development program:

- Price

- Availability

- And unfortunately even “awesomeness”

Will often trump efficiency of the training program.

Sensationalism also plays a large role into it. The parent sees cool drills on Instagram, they feel, and that is a very important word, like that is what he meet athletes do therefore they want their child to do it. And again remember it is not their job to be informed on this so don’t go telling yourself how stupid they are. Yes it sounds stupid to you and I but it’s just how it works. Of course you and I know how silly Burton maxes are for teenage athletes and quite frankly potentially dangerous but there is so much miss leading information out there to a person who is not in this industry how could they know the truth. So now that you understand that we need to move to the main point I am digging at. You have to control your irritability in regard to this stuff. Here is why as I said a few sentences ago the actual measurable productivity of the training program is farther down the totem pole so to speak than most of us realize. So when you take to social media and bag on that facility down the street, and how they’ve got eight-year-olds running through agility ladders and strapped to vertical maxes and all that other eyewash, even though you have incredibly valid points you just come off as a condescending jack ass with a belly full of sour grapes


3. I let past failures scare me


As I mentioned previously I tried to make my gym Cressey sports performance. It was a huge embarrassing failure. The funny part is, nobody even really realizes how bad it was except for me. Not even my wife. But I know enough for all of them. That still haunts me to this day I have been trying to get our gym to a true semi-private model for quite some time. It has taken a very long time and a lot of work. Most of that is due to the fact that I did not have the right staff in place, and even if I did I wasn’t that great at training them. But I also noticed there was constantly a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I wouldn’t be able to do that. Because I had already failed at it once. I am constantly talking to our athletes about how they cannot allow that to happen. Pretty hypocritical if you ask me but we are all human so I digress.

Through all of that, I am very happy to report that we are finally moving in the right direction regarding my desire for a semi private model. The 16-year-old and ups are currently following that model and it is going very well but I will always wonder how if I could’ve pulled it off quicker had I not let the past go.


4. (Early on) I didn’t get rid of athletes that trashed our culture


I am not your typical coach in fact there is a small portion of me that cringes when I hear someone called me that simply because I don’t feel like I have really earned the title I am not the type of person to hover over someone and make sure they do everything to my exact specifications, it’s just not in my personality. There are some who would say that is poor coaching and I do on the outside looking in, see where they could feel that way but I am not a micromanager I believe in teaching people how to function and be self-sufficient I believe in giving in Bill and helping kids figure out how to achieve it. I am just not a micro manager when it comes to coaching athlete. Ask my assistant Jackie, and she will tell you that I’m very much a micromanager with other aspects of my life. But I digress, my style of coaching Lynn 12 to 9 out of 10 kids that walk in the door more like 99 out of 100 probably, but occasionally you get the kids the athlete that lead someone standing there making sure he does everything he supposed to do 100% of the time. I am not that guy. We are a bad fit from the very beginning. This is the exact reason that I do not do general population work outs. General population people usually need babysat(ones that do not are already working out in a CrossFit box)and I cannot stand baby sitting. I need the athlete that is looking for tools, the way, the opportunity, not someone to force them to doing what is right.

If that type of coaching style lends well to your personality then you will do fine with that Actually,but I will not.

Regardless, The point is, you need athletes that fit your coaching style. It’s hard at first because you are trying to keep the lights on but you have to stay the course as best you can. If you let to many people stick around that clearly don’t match your mission, you begin to attract more and more of those type of people.

If you do not have the right clients, you will not get results. And results are the only advertisements that work in this business.


5. Running sales to bring new customers through the door


In Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why he explains about manipulations that businesses use to drive customer purchase. Most companies use price manipulation, without going full book report mode on you, I’ll just say it’s a bad idea. Because you make yourself a commodity. Plus once you do it, your business becomes addicted to it just like a heroine addict. “Numbers are down! Just one more ‘Buy one month get next 1/2 off sale’ and we will be good. But, you know that is not true. When you attract customers that way, you attract customers that will dry up, when the price slashing dries up. You did not earn any loyalty. The cream ALWAYS rises to the top. Results and Customer Service, always win. Always.