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Effective is better than popular

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Effective is better than popular

I read an interesting article recently (which for once was not about the coronavirus).

The article, on the BBC website, concerned the (for some) controversial training of the French rugby squad by its head coach, Fabien Galthie. The article outlines the criticisms of Galthie by some players and the impact his training methods have had on the team and its performance.

According to some of his critics, Galthie is a skilled play tactician, if at times aggressive in his training methods.

I found the article interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that it reminds me of my experiences playing the game (and some of the coaches I have worked with over the years) and how I approach my training of clients, both in and out of the gym.

To my mind, personal training like rugby is as much about the mindset as it is about the methods that are used to reach optimal fitness. Galthie, for example, appears to want his players to think the same way as he does and to share a collective mindset that is focused on peak performance and success on the pitch. What I take from the above BBC article is that Galthie believes the behaviour of his team members affects the team as a whole and the results of the team as a direct result of that behaviour. As a result, he presses down on the team in a way that may appear harsh to some observers.

As with most things, context is everything.

Of course, the rugby pitch and changing room are specific places, very different from the environments that most of us are familiar with. The principles at play for Galthie, however, are similar to the choices a lot of us make which in turn affects our own lives.

When you find yourself in the position of someone like Galthie, what you discover very quickly is that you are the Commander in Chief and, because of that, you should not seek to, or indeed need to be liked. What you need to be is effective in the role, an inspirational leader and a reliable resource for those you are responsible for. To achieve this, building an honest relationship with your team is vital.

In the course of my training, I apply this principle whenever I can. So, to give an example, if a client is not giving focus or effort when exercising I tell them, clearly and without vagary, to raise the client's awareness of how to improve and get the results that he or she needs. 

Such oversight and detachment are crucial in encouraging better performance and change, even if such observations or criticisms can sometimes be stark. Many people, when exercising or thinking about fitness, can become concerned with how they look (or think they look) rather than how they feel or should feel.

The latter is more important because training is about building strength and fitness, from which personal confidence flows.

The responsibility of a competent and inspirational personal trainer in this context is to build a positive attitude, consistent focus and an understanding of solid technique to achieve realistic goals. It is not to pamper, or indeed, to be popular for popularity’s sake.

As perhaps Galthie has discovered over the years.


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