Functional Training Zones

Hiring the Right Personal Trainer or Sports Performance Coach

By: Bill Parisi

Whenever you ask a club owner, or an owner of any business for that matter, how they are doing, the same question always seems to come up, "If I could only find good, quality trainers." My answer to the club owner is, "Maybe you are looking in the wrong places."

The number of personal trainers have grown over 40% since 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition, personal training was listed as one of the top 15 most desirable fields in which to work. This will spark further growth in more individuals participating in personal training. Why not at your club?

When hiring a trainer, one of two things can go wrong: you hire the wrong individual, or you hire the right person, but fail to either give them the tools to succeed or to live up to the promises you made during the 'courting stage.' In either case, the employee will inevitably leave. A bad hire can cost your company up to 24 times the person’s salary according to Brad Smart, Ph.D. in his book Topgrading.

One of the easiest things you can do is to profile your top people and determine what specifically makes them the best. Are the skills of your best trainers inherent or teachable? What makes certain trainers the worst?

Most owners will hire trainers based on educational background, experience and certification. I have found that these are the least important criteria to building a successful training department. Here is my list of hiring criteria, in order of importance:

• Attitude
• Aptitude
• Cultural Fit
• Certification
• Educational background
• Experience

You might be shocked to see certification, educational background and experience at the bottom of the list. Sometimes the most educated and experienced trainers are the most self-promoting, egotistical people that will eventually destroy your team. Let me tell you a story to share the point I am trying to make.

Back in the Renaissance period in France, a group of people were building a magnificent cathedral. It was a blistering, hot, summer day and one man was performing some quality control work. This foreman walked up to the first stonecutter and said, "Can I ask you what you are doing?"

The first stonecutter looked up and said, "Can I ask you a question? Are you stupid?
What does it look like I am doing? It is blistering hot, I have been out here since sun up, and I will be out here until sundown. I am taking these big bulky rocks and breaking them into perfectly small squares!!! This is tedious work and you have the audacity to ask me what I am doing"? He finished by saying, "If you do not mind, I would like to get back to my work because this job pays fairly well and my family depends on it"!

With that, the foreman, who was shocked at the first stonecutter’s reply, walked over to the second stonecutter and said, "Can I ask you what you are doing"?

The second stonecutter said, "Can’t you see, I am cutting the most perfect stones in all of France, because I am the best stonecutter in all of France?"

Those words seemed to be a little more encouraging to the foreman. Finally the foreman approached the third stonecutter and said, "What are you doing?"

The third stonecutter said, "Can’t you see my friend?! We are all building the most magnificent cathedral in all of France, for God!" 

Now the question to you, the club owner, or manager is, if you could only hire one person of the three, who would it be? Most would agree it would be stonecutter number three. This man sees the forest through the trees. Now, here is the real question, if you had to let one person go, who would it be? For me, it would be stonecutter number two; without question. This is the trainer, that in his or her mind, it is all about them. They think they have built your business. This person will destroy your team. For those of you who picked stonecutter number one, well he might just have needed the right coaching to help him see the forest through the trees; like number three did. It is the job of the manager and owner to cultivate team members and build real relationships with employees. Stonecutter number one said "his work paid fairly well and his family depended on it". This is very important, and it is likely you can turn this person with effective coaching.

I write and share this story with real experience. Some of our best and most valued producers were once bank tellers, painters, and even laborers. You have an opportunity to really change someone’s life – if they have the right attitude and aptitude to learn. Anyone possessing these quantities can get certified and become a successful personal trainer for your organization.

Bill Parisi is the Founder & Managing Partner of the Parisi Speed School. Visit to learn more.

(December 2014)