The Single Most Important Trait Of A Successful Coach

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Prior to founding UESCA, I worked in the fitness industry as both a personal trainer and fitness/general manager for Fortune 100 companies. Over 20 + years of observing trainers, I became acutely aware of a singular trait that all of the successful trainers had.

My first personal training job was in NYC at arguably the most high-end, luxury gym at that time. There were 70 full-time trainers, all competing for the same clients. As a near broke college grad who needed to pay an ridiculous sum of money to live in what seemed like 100 sq/ft, I had work a ton of hours just to keep my head above water.

Before the gym let me ‘test’ to become a trainer, I had to perform floor shifts which equated to me roaming around the gym floor helping members with fitness questions, though more often than not, this meant changing TV channels and breaking up fights on the basketball court.

While this wasn’t exactly the glamorous job that I envisioned after being hired, it did allow me plenty of time to observe all of the trainers which proved to be quite the learning experience.

There was this one trainer who I will call Sara, who consistently trained clients straight from 5am through 2pm, Monday through Thursday. She didn’t gossip with the rest of us or complain about the pay or management. Sara was consistently at, or near the top for personal training sales each month.

What astonished me was that she wasn’t in particularly good shape (a benchmark for client acquisition at that time), didn’t really do anything special in terms of her exercise selection for clients and didn’t schmooze with any of the membership directors for clients.

So what made her so desirable?


Despite commuting from NJ to start her day in NYC by 5am… and having 8 to 9 sessions, back-to-back – you never ever saw her look tired or complain. She always had a smile on her face and whether it was her first session or the her last, her energy and enthusiasm never waivered.

Sara keenly understood that her positive energy was key part of the equation and more to the point, that all of her clients deserved the same level of energy. I’m sure that like everyone else, she had good days and bad days but from the client’s perspective, she was always happy and ‘on.’

This trait may seem trivial to some but believe me… it’s not. Having a consistent positive attitude and great energy is the key to being a successful coach. Even if you don’t coach people in-person but via e-mail or phone, trust me – if you’re just going through the motions, your clients will be able to tell.

Remember, clients aren’t just paying you for your knowledge or experience (even if it seems that way). They’re paying for the whole experience and I don’t care if you have a Ph.D in Applied Physiology, if you’re a ‘Debbie the Downer,’ your business will suffer. Keep in mind that as a coach, you don’t just serve as an informational resource… but as a source of inspiration and motivation. 

When I say that Sara had great energy, she wasn’t faking it. She genuinely had great energy! She would engage with her clients, ask them about their day… you know, actually give a sh#t! And you could see her effect on her clients by how they greeted her, as compared to other clients of trainers who looked like they were going in for a root canal.

This also relates to body language and self-awareness. While some trainers would watch TV and, or lean against the wall while training their clients, Sara focused 100% on her clients and never sat or leaned against the wall.

As alluded to above, we all have days that are say, ‘sub-optimal.’ Maybe your boss was a jerk at work or you got in an argument with your significant other… these things happen. But, these things are not your client’s problem. When you sit down to write that training program, hop on a call with your client who wants to qualify for Boston or lead the run group after work – be 100% present and focused at the task at hand, always giving 100%.


Be a Sara! Show up for each and every one of your clients with the same high energy and positivity and watch your business thrive!

Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science/evidence-based endurance sports coaching education company that certifies running and triathlon coaches.

To learn more about our Running Coach Certification and to get a code for $50 off, click here!


Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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