What is Silent Coaching, And Why Should You Care? [COACHES' READ}

We all have experienced that one (or many) times when someone questions your ability to achieve something.

When I decided I was going to become a personal trainer four years ago, I was met with doubt. Same goes when I became a coach to classes recently. 

“How are you going to communicate?”

“Maybe you should only focus on Deaf/HoH people like you…”

“How will they understand you?”

Of course…it was terrifying! But “There’s a way,” I believed.

Over the years, I took a weakness and turned it into my advantage. It was developed over time of learning movements through visual learning, proprioception, and my heightened Central Nervous System. I was constantly trying to piece together which muscles looked like they were firing, which one I should engage and when during certain movements. Now, with classes at my current gym Mountain Strong that has no Deaf/HoH members yet, I’m continuing to find solutions!

Combine this with knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL) and body language, observing other good (and not so good) coaches, sensitivity to making inclusiveness part of fitness culture…

Silent Coaching was born! 

It’s a concept I want you to add to your coaching toolbox, and one I want you to help me expand.

The goal is to have you become a more inclusive, empathetic, and effective communicator. 

Silent Coaching is:

  • Being in your client’s shoes IN the moment during the class or session. This requires laser focus. You can’t coach if you don’t empathize with what the client is feeling physically or mentally. 

  • A mix of non-verbal coaching, hand gestures, metaphors, eye contact, cueing through tools like forks and PVC pipes.

  • Making the environment conductive for a educational and happy class/session.

  • Creating an inclusive atmosphere by making sure the athletes feel recognized and accepted. You will be creating an accessible style of coaching.

Fitness should be accessible to every person. After all, sweat is the great equalizer.

I can’t teach you to be fluent in ASL. Just like another language, it takes years. 

But we all share the same languages of vulnerability, empathy and body awareness in fitness. 

So we’re going to capitalize on those qualities to make us all a better coach. 

Teaching you this level of intimacy with exercise will help with emotional intelligence and helping the client / athlete increase their body awareness. 

So, I’ll be sharing cues and strategies I use while coaching individuals and classes to maximize their learning and promote inclusion specifically in class. 

Inspiration came and continues to come from all kind of places: Personal experience, closing my eyes and visualizing ways to communicate through feel and no sound, observing other coaches like Dan John and James Mills, and using ASL to create metaphors.

So far, this is the “database” I’ve started to build, and with your help, let’s collaborate.

  • Going Silent. Literally. This one is funny to watch sometimes.

  • Medicine Ball Throw and Catch: Stick Your Landing for Olympic lifts

  • Assess the class with the three thumbs: Up, halfway, down - to better read the class

  • Stick tapping: Cue “breathing” and “Let go of air in your belly” during workout/squats/etc with individuals instead of shouting it to everybody.

  • Forking for Tension: A metaphor made real with the bench press, via Dan John 

  • The Belly High Five: Teaching Hip Extension for Olympic lifts

  • 1 - 2 Silent Demo/ “Eye Doctor Technique.” CLEARLY show “yes” and “no” gesture for movements you want the athlete to avoid, and what is the goal? Avoid demo-ing muttiple points of performance while talking constantly.

  • Communicating to class about your plan: Athletes on scale of 1 - 5 (1 being less confident to 5 super as confident) split up so I know who to interact with the most, and intentionally, so no one feels ignored. 

  • Signing Bow and Arrow to demonstrate the hinge, via Dan John 

  • Drawing a string/shirt towards ceiling to emphasize chest opening up during spinal waves, via James Mills

  • Frankenstein holds: Learned via Joel Seedman, and is howI teach the front squat. Also effective with pistol squat core activation!

  • Asking for eye contact. Simple.

  • More to come!

    Photo by Andrew Miller

Anne Reuss