5 Ways to Combat Coach Burnout

Why Take Care of Your Coaches?

Retaining coaches may at times feel as elusive as catching a greased pig, but here at Freedom in Motion we have researched and learned from experience some effective techniques at catching that slippery swine. There are many reasons a gym (or any business) should want to keep their employees; First, it’s expensive to train new employees and high turnover often results in a decreased sense of morale in the remaining staff. This creates a heavier workload resulting in greater stress. It’s also beneficial in many ways to have a long term staff you can trust and rely on. So what can you do about turnover? Creating a sense of purpose and providing an avenue for personal and professional growth are great ways to start and if all else fails, you can always try groveling. 


Recognizing Burnout

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when one feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Coaching burnout for me looks like me getting frustrated easily with students and not putting in the fun structures because of my time management, or showing up tired from the day before yet needing to take charge in the day.

Nathan Rogers, Co-owner & coach at Freedom in Motion.

It’s important to recognize when you or your coaches are feeling burnt out. In this article we’re going to identify some main causes of burnout and what you can do to help prevent this from afflicting your team.

personal trainer burnout. Photo credit www.theptdc.com

Top-5 Ways to Combat Coach Burnout

  • Creating a Sense of Purpose
  • Daily Context Clearing
  • Task Rotation
  • Self Care
  • Create a Positive Work Culture

Creating a Sense of Purpose

Every job provides a paycheck and of course paying your employees a decent and fair wage is a great way to entice them in, but in order to keep them motivated, happy, and fulfilled, it takes a little something special. According to Zenplanner.com a workplace study showed the number one reason people leave their jobs is lack of opportunities for growth. This does not necessarily mean a tangible rise through the ranks, though that does help, this could also be as simple as tools necessary to achieve mastery in their position or personal growth. Providing effective training for new employees and ongoing training for veterans are a great place to start. 

Another way to create a sense of purpose is if your company actually has a clear mission or long term goal and a strong set a values. This enables employees to feel as if they are working for a company that has some ethical substance and as if they are contributing to something greater than themselves. This mentality fosters a sense of community and connectedness amongst the staff. Creating a way to help employees take more ownership of their work can also inspire loyalty and create a feeling of autonomy. Trusting people and giving them the power to make decisions for themselves often results in people taking ownership of their work, having a sense of pride, and rising to the occasion. Most people enjoy feeling a greater sense of control over their work lives and sometimes income, if you use performance based incentives. 

Daily Context Clearing

People often come into work with a pre existing context for how they will be, emotionally speaking, for the day. Ideally, employees walk into the gym with an amazing upbeat attitude. However, more often coaches arrive with something on their mind from their personal life, or potentially are treating the moment as just another day to get through with no particularly positive or negative energy to accompany them. Enter context clearing.

Context clearing happens during a small staff meeting before the work day begins. The team gathers and takes turns sharing what is on their mind or how they feel for the day within this safe space. After, the leader will help create for everyone a new context for a highly intentional way of being for the day. The team focuses on why they originally fell in love with movement and what joy teaching it to others brings them as individuals. With this joy of play as the context, everyone then verbally declares their new way of being for the day. For example, a coach might say “Today I’m committed to being filled with positive energy and a love for teaching my students how to play with their environment!”

Team bonding & context clearing before class

Nathan Rogers, Operations Manager and Coach at Freedom in motion states:

“Through context clearing we Wake up with the context for life. Clear the air and identify how you were being, and instead, create how you’re going to be for the rest of the day. It’s give your word to be the way you are committed to for the day. Done with a group, your team members can help keep you committed to your intentions for the day.”

Task Rotation

One big cause of coaching burnout is monotony; in order to keep your coaches from feeling like they are starring in a more athletic version of the movie Groundhog Day (a movie in which A cynical TV weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again), it might be a good idea to strategize ways to combat this. Will Deushendorf of West Coast Martial Arts in San Diego has implemented a 3 month rotation of lesson plans at his gym in order to keep his coaches feeling fresh, and is always adding new material in order to change it up. Deushendorf also finds providing positive feedback to his coaches is important. When providing positive feedback it’s most effective when it is genuine, if you tell someone they are doing well when they are doing the same job they always have, or didn’t do anything special that day, it’s less impactful. This goes hand in hand with coach development; if an avenue exists for your coaches to better themselves there should be plenty of opportunities to see them implementing new techniques and becoming better coaches. It’s crucial that in these moments those advancements are recognized in order for the positive feedback to have its greatest possible impact, and help your coaches feel valued.

Justin Taylor founder of Firestorm Freerunning states:

Sometimes people get stuck in a rut teaching the same thing day after day, so we put them through a coaches certification for one of our other sports and give them an opportunity to teach something completely different. Sometimes it’s just this shake-up to the routine that allows them to get out of that burnout funk.

This is an excellent idea that hits two birds with one stone, it allows the coaches do something different providing mental stimulation and an avenue to better themselves as coaches and athletes with the new training. If your gym teaches a variety of different movements this could be a great strategy for preventing burn out. Taylor will also add in office work if the coaches enjoy it in order to break up the coaching segments into smaller parts and let them do something a little different to maintain interest. 

Self Care

Self care is a huge part in doing well at nearly anything in life and its important to create a work environment where people are able to communicate what they need without fear of being reprimanded.

Nick Blake, Co-owner of Freedom in Motion states:

The biggest thing to prevent burnout I’ve done is instilled the discipline that rest and relaxation are necessary to produce high quality work.” 

Nathan Rogers co-owner of Freedom in Motion states: 

The way I can beat burnouts like that are proper sleeping habits, showing up early, and recognizing how grateful I am for having a job that is about teaching the sport I love. And that these students really just want to have fun with what they’re learning and I want to have fun teaching it.

Nathan Rogers stretching during his daily prehab self care routine

Employees who fail to take the time to take care of their bodies,either through their general health or via pre/rehabilitation of their bodies are at a higher risk of burnout.

Create a Positive Work Culture

The social and political environment at your facility is critical to many aspects of your business. Having a workplace where team members may feel empowered to contribute ideas, be self expressed, and feel like they are contributing to the overall progress of the company goes a long way in preventing employee burnout. Once employees begin to feel like their contributions go unnoticed or their opinions don’t matter to management, the everpresent burnout countdown begins to tick ever faster.

Head coach jacob Blake taking feedback from his team during an all-coaches meeting.

Jimmy Davidson, Founder of Freedom in Motion states:

Creating a positive work environment is paramount in our gym. We recognise that it’s up to the leaders in our community to facilitate a highly intentional culture, one where everyone’s voice is heard and where self expression is ever-present.

Keeping the Magic Alive

There are many people who think that making your hobby or passion into a career somehow destroys the magic of it, which could happen unless you’re very intentional about your outlook. In this situation it’s all about mindset, maintaining the element of play in your training and within your work is a great way to take a step back and remember the joy and love you had for it in the first place. Approach each day with the intention of playfulness and exuberance and it’s far more likely to turn out that way. Every job will have its difficulties and it is important to find a job that has difficulties you can tolerate and benefits you truly value. It’s important to focus on and remember the many benefits of working at a gym and being an integral part of a community of athletes. Not to mention unlimited access to the facility before and after hours provides a space for training that not many people have access to. 


 At the end of the day being able to coach other people in a movement practice you love and care about is a pretty cool job. If you are having a lot of turnover at your gym try implementing exit interviews so you know the reasons people are leaving and can give you valuable information as to what is not working at your gym. 

These tips will allow you to hang on to your employees and perhaps keep the magic alive in their own training!

Do you have any other tips on helping coaches stay motivated or retaining employees in general? Let us know in the comments below! If you’re looking for some further guidance and would like to schedule a phone consultation with Freedom in Motion CEO, Jimmy Davidson, just contact him via email at jimmy@freedominmotiongym.com

For more information about our parkour gym, visit www.Freedominmotiongym.com


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