For anyone who works in the private sector, despite how great you believe your training methods are or how great your sales pitch is, your clients don’t speak strength and conditioning. This is a good thing, because if they did then you would be out of a job.

But with that good also comes bad. At Showtime Strength & Performance we work with athletes ages 10 and up. Very few of our athletes have an extensive background in strength training. What this means is that the motivation that works for a competitive strength athlete will not work for them. I have learned several times that 15-year-old softball players generally don't care about a new squat PR. This creates a challenge for private sector coaches to keep athletes motivated to train. To be a successful trainer, private sector coach, or coach in a school setting, you must motivate your athletes to want to get better. What it comes down to is finding ways to intrinsically motivate your athletes with words or actions that have absolutely nothing to do with training. There will be coaches with better programs, facilities, athletes, etc., but only you can dictate how you communicate with your athletes. Over the last five years, I have made a list of simple words or actions to help enhance communication to athletes.

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Writer Simon Sinek once said, “The smartest people are the scientists who can communicate with the truck drivers and the truck drivers who can communicate with scientist when needed.” You're only perceived as smart as you can effectively communicate your message.

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Know Names

This should be a given, but when you get a large group of athletes at once it can be tough at times to get names down quickly. Introduce yourself to each athlete individually when you meet them and learn their names. If an athlete realizes you haven't taken the time to learn their name, what message are you sending about how much you care?


As soon as you learn their name, give them a nickname. Make it something personal and unique to them. Does this seem goofy? Maybe it is. While training a team, I had a mom reach out to me through email to let me know giving her daughter a nickname in front of everyone made her day because it showed that someone took time for her, which made her feel accepted and like she belonged. Never make it a negative nickname or something the athletes are self-conscious about. Always make it fun and positive.

“Hi, how is your day?”

When athletes come to you, simply smile at them and say, “Hi, how is your day?” You would be amazed at what this can do for an athlete, even when you can tell by their demeanor they're not having a great day. This helps them know that someone genuinely cares about them. It also will give you a chance to know more about the athletes you're working with.

"How do you feel?"

Athletes train hard, go to practice, have school, maintain relationships, etc. Just by asking how they feel prior, during, or after a training session shows that you care about how they're feeling. You might even learn about issues that the athlete might have that a movement screening can’t pick up.

"How do you like this part of the program?"

Ask them how they like different aspects of the training plan. This doesn't mean that you scrap a program if an athlete doesn't like something you do, but if you can help incorporate what the athletes like with what you as a strength coach like, it will be a recipe for success.

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High Fives

High fives, secret handshakes, and fist bumps are awesome ways to keep athletes involved. The more fun you can make the high fives or handshakes, the more fun your athletes will have.

Give Them Ownership

We let athletes choose their hypertrophy and injury prevention circuits as long as it pertains to the training session and their needs. This allows them to have ownership over their workout and also lets them do what they want to do. Youth athletes are told what to do all day. Let them choose something and they will be happier with you for it.

Go to Games

If you train athletes, it is pretty easy to go to their events. Just one a season goes a long way to let them know that you want to see them succeed at something they’re passionate about. You will learn more about your athletes as you watch them on their field/court where they feel the most comfortable. Most athletes don't start out naturally feeling comfortable in the weight room. Don't be afraid to meet them where they feel comfortable. This will help you also get a better understanding of what your athlete needs in training.

Take Selfies

Athletes love pictures. Make it a fun and cool thing to get a selfie after a game or a hard training session. Why does this work? I'm not sure, but my guess is because it’s nearly impossible to get a good selfie without being shaky or cutting someone out of the picture.

Let Them Teach You

Let your athletes teach you about their sport, their interests in life, and more. Ask athletes how certain movements make them feel. We’ve also had athletes show us different apps or social media platforms and how to use them.

These are just 10 ways to increase the efficiency of your athlete’s training. None of these have to do with Prilepin’s chart or buying better equipment. Some of these I learned from other great coaches and some just happened naturally at our facility. If you let your athletes have control and input over their program, they will buy in and compete harder. There have been days with our high school and college athletes that they have been programmed for a max effort movement, but after talking with them and assessing their mental state, we switched the intensity range. We have also had athletes who were programmed for speed or volume work, but were having a great day and wanted to take a max. This where the communication comes into play to get the most positive effects from the training. If you have any ideas or strategies that you used, please let us know!

Nick Showman is the Owner of Showtime Strength & Performance in Newark, Oh and the owner of the Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Association. Prior to Showtime, he was an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Denison University, Granville High School, and Total Athletic Development.