Interviewing Members and the Value of their Answers

Whenever a new athlete becomes a member of my gym, I always like to have a conversation where I ask some questions.  This provides me with a general pathway by which to coach them and allow us to make the most of the time they spend with us.  Here are some typical questions with an explanation of why the answers are helpful. 


Do you know how to perform snatches and cleans and jerks?

The answers can vary from “just power snatches” to “only for Crossfit” or “for a couple of years”.  At our diagnostic session I will get a more thorough answer.  If the answer is “no” I realize that the early training will be very much remedial.

Where have you been training?

If they’ve been training at a gym well known to me and whose programs are well established, I know that we can begin moving forward without hesitation. 

Who’s been coaching you?

Again I know a considerable number of capable coaches and if the new member has been coached by one of them I immediately surmise where they will fit into my program.  If the name of their coach is unknown to me or if it’s been online, the diagnostic session will give me much more valuable information as to how to proceed. 

What sports have you played? If the answer is “none”, that sets them on one pathway.  If they’ve played an asymmetrical sport (baseball, tennis, racquetball), I know we will have to correct some bilateral imbalances.  For some reason I’ve found tennis players to have ankle mobility problems.  Also individual sport athletes have a psyche more suited to weightlifting.

Would you consider yourself a lifestyle athlete?  A “yes” here tells me that we will not have to spend much time teaching them how to prioritize sport training in their life.  A “no” would tell us just the reverse.

Were your parents athletes, and if so what sports? This gives me a hint as to how much support or interference the parents might provide and also whether or not sports were valued within the family.  Parents with a long background in sport are usually much more tolerant of the hiccups in progress.

Would you like to compete in weightlifting?  A solid, strong “yes” here can be a good indicator of confidence and focus.  At times, however, it can be an indicator of unrealistic expectations. 

Have you attended college or university?  An affirmative can indicate a pre-occupation with education and career, and that sports were not a priority during youth.  It can be an indicator of strong focus and good work habits.

What was your major? The more I know about an individual’s interests, the better I can communicate and explain.  Those with a major in the sciences can more easily understand the technical aspects of training.  Musicians, actors and dancers can relate to the performance aspect of the sport.  Some majors are adept at using the word processing aspects of the mind and understand more fully when an extensive vocabulary is involved. 

What sort of work do you?  It’s helpful to me to know if the athlete is involved in a physically demanding job or if they are spending a lot of time in Los Angeles’ traffic congestion.  The fatigue from these two factors can greatly influence the severity of training. 

Of course, as we move along together I will have more involved conversations with my athletes and discover new ways that I can more effectively communicate with them.Getting comfortable with your athletes’ psyches is just another way to finding new ways to get in touch with them and that can make coaching that much more impactful.