Six years ago a 21 year old Casey graduated from college. With a fresh degree in Business Administration, a couple nifty personal training certifications, and an ego that filled the entire state of Vermont, he was ready to take on the world.

Needless to say, I fell captive to myths and bullshit just like every other young gun in the Fitness Industry has (whether they are willing to admit it or not). 

What helped reel me back was being surrounded by seasoned veterans of the game. My first industry interaction was five, 14 hour days, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, at Parisi Speed School headquarters where I trained with Founder Bill Parisi, Chief of Operations, Martin Rooney, and Chief Educator, John Cirilo.

John Cirilo (left) and Martin Rooney (right). Two of the most influential Strength Coaches that have impacted my coaching style. 

John Cirilo (left) and Martin Rooney (right). Two of the most influential Strength Coaches that have impacted my coaching style. 

This is where being a young and VERY impressionable Strength Coach paid off. These guys set the tone as to what this industry is all about. To appreciate and understand the value of community. Acknowledge and understand the lies that are pumped into our world every day. They also taught me the value and importance of a strong network. All points that I have never taken for granted.

I like to think that six humbling years into my coaching career I am even further away from figuring it all out. Rather, with each year that has gone by, it has left me with a lesson that if followed, will contribute to success in this ever expanding industry.

I can’t think of a better topic to make my inaugural post on CoachCaseyLee.com. I hope these six lessons resonate with you as they have with me.

On Business: You sell an experience, not fitness.

Every year I learn something new about business (fitness or not) and it always makes me question what I learned in four years of undergrad. I always hear big business authors and moguls talk about ‘storytelling’ through your marketing. I honestly thought I understood it. It wasn’t until this past winter when a parent of an athlete I coach reached out to tell me that her daughter was all smiles and couldn’t stop talking about our training session. It was in that moment I had the ‘ah-ha’ and realized that everything in my business needed to be geared around the customer experience. Whether it's branding, how you handle the initial inquiry call, or a community outreach, it is all a reflection of the customer experience you are going to provide. 

 On Ego: No one cares what your certifications are, they care if you can help them or not.

I’ve never once been asked what the letters after my name stand for. I actually have taken them off my business card. 9/10 people train with me because they have heard from a friend that I helped them reach their goals. I’m not saying certifications are worthless, but I now spend my continuing education money on experiences with industry professionals rather than letters that I can put on my LinkedIn account.

On Communication: Remove the word “no” from your vocabulary.

In January I joined a group called Strength Faction (www.StrengthFaction.com) and heard one of the founders, Todd Bumgardner, mention a phrase I had never heard of. Unconditional Positive Regard. Developed by psychologist Carl Rogers, unconditional positive regard is the act of accepting and supporting a person regardless of what that person says or does. Again, this was something I thought I initially understood. The more and more I focused on incorporating this belief into my day to day, the more I realized it was a much deeper concept.

Trying to strip this concept down, I found a great starting point was eliminating the word ‘no’ from my coaching and communications. This is still a work in progress, but has done wonders in helping me slow down my thoughts and think more about I verbally communicate as well as my body language with clients and co-workers.

On Education: You learn the most  from people outside your industry.

Last summer I helped my parents build a deck off their house. I spent well over 10 hours working with my Dad, a General Contractor, with well over 35 years of experience. This was my first interaction working side by side with a true master of their craft. I wrote about the entire experience HERE. To keep a long story short, seek out professionals who demonstrate a high level of mastery in their craft. Those individuals can offer great insight on mental fortitude and self discipline, and are humble enough to explain the mistakes they have made along the way.

On Training: Get ruthlessly good at the most basic concepts.

Last December I was fortunate to meet a gentleman named Neal Snyder at What’s New Coach (www.WhatsNewCoach.com) and be interviewed for his website. One of the questions he asked me was how my coaching and programming has changed over the last year. Without a doubt it was stripping away all the ‘fluff’ and having my clients achieve mastery with the most basic movement patterns; squat, hinge, push, pull, carry.

Early on in my career my training philosophy was to start an individual as high as I could on my progression tree. My biggest fear was having a client get bored doing the most basic movements so I favored moves with a high level of sex appeal. Now, I start almost everyone with the lowest possible regression of a movement until they have demonstrated competence in that movement. Some fly through it, some take time. Let’s face it, dead bugs aren’t the most sexy exercise in our arsenal.

But back to an earlier lesson, coaching an amazing client experience has almost nothing to do with the exercise selection you choose.  

On Coaching: The best coaching ‘cue’ is a high five.

Having graduated with a degree in business administration, I lack the X’s and O’s when it comes to the cellular breakdown of a muscle contraction, lever systems, and fascial lines. This was something I felt would put me at a massive disadvantage when coaching. It wasn’t until I started coaching 7,8, and 9 year olds in our Jump Start program that I realized I was so far from the truth. These kids taught me that no matter who much I knew about anatomy or how spot on my cueing was, they only cared about one thing. Fun. The easiest way to have fun with a kid who can barely form complete sentences? High fives. The international sign of awesomeness. The success of a training session isn’t measured by how many pounds you lift or how fast you sprint down a track, but rather how many smiles you receive and high fives you give.

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