5 Reasons You Should Take Interns

internsIt was really weird walking into IFAST yesterday.

I came in a bit earlier than usual to get my training session in, but around 9 am, it was more quiet than usual.

The reason, you ask?

Our awesome spring interns (Pat, Conor and Kyle) were no longer with us.

Now my little girl is only two, and the thought of her leaving for college isn’t something I’m trying to imagine any time soon.

But I can only imagine that in some very slight, very strange way, this is the same kind of thing.

I believe the proper term is “empty nest syndrome.”

Regardless, having interns at IFAST has been a critical component not only of our growth, but providing our clients with world-class service on a day-to-day basis.

Last but not least, it’s really helped us dial in what we do as a facility.

I’m a huge believer in internships, and using interns within your training facility. I’m sure this isn’t an exhaustive list, but if you own a facility here are five reasons you should bring interns on.

#1 – It Forces You to Create Coaching Systems

As a business owner, one of the first things you need to do is develop systems.

  • How do you want the phone to be answered?
  • How do you sell a new contract to a client?
  • How do you want clients to schedule appointments?

These are all things you need to standardize via systems.

But when it comes to coaching, especially early on, it’s easy to rely on your instinct and past experience.

The second you take interns, you need to formalize this process.

  • How do you want a certain exercise to be coached and cued?
  • How many cues should an intern give in a given set?
  • How do you want exercises progressed? Or regressed?

The second you take an intern, these are things you need to address. If you don’t, clients will wonder why you progress or regress them in one fashion, but the intern does something differently.

The goal is simple: You want to create a clone of yourself, at least for the next 8, 12 or 16 weeks.

On the first day of their internship at IFAST, I tell our interns the following:

“I have no doubt you are a great coach, and I know you’ll be even better when you’re done.

Regardless of what system or methodology you’ve followed before, when you’re at IFAST, I expect you to think and coach like we do.

If you walk out the door at the end and think I’m a total idiot, or don’t like the way we do things, I’m totally fine with that. Keep in mind this is our system, and if you end up with a different philosophy over the years, I respect and understand that.

But while you’re here you need to follow our system and our approach.”

As we’ve been doing this for five years now, we’ve also standardized the teaching process as well.

Quite simply, there are certain things I want an intern to know before they walk out our door. As a result, we’ve broken down our formal education process week-by-week to look something like this:

  • Exercise coaching (4 weeks).
  • Functional anatomy (3 weeks).
  • Program design (2 weeks).
  • Energy system development (2 weeks).
  • Assessment (3 weeks).

We’ll often use the final 2-3 weeks to fill in the blanks, and address any specific issues this intern class might have.

Quite simply, having interns forces you to run a tighter ship.

#2 – It Makes You Really Learn Stuff

Most clients don’t care why they do things – they just want to get to their end goal.

Whether it’s melting body fat, getting stupid strong, or building muscles that make Thor envious, as long as you’ve got them on the path to success, they’re happy.

Interns? Not so much.

Interns have this pesky question they are always asking…

WHY?

  • Why do you do this?
  • Why does this work?
  • Why don’t you do it this way?

Why, why, why.

And as I parent, I know this day is coming for me, too!

But here’s the cool thing: When someone is always asking you the “why” behind what you’re doing, you get a really strong idea of why stuff works!

Personally, I’ve found that all the why questions has made me a better coach. It’s forced me to look at why I do things, and in some cases, change things up to improve them.

As a self-professed geek, I love learning why things work. And if you don’t know the answer immediately, that’s totally ok. This is a great chance for you to dive-in and improve your knowledge base on a specific question or area you might not be as strong in.

In the end, this is a win-win for both you and the intern.

#3 – It Grows Your Coaching Tree

I remember years ago talking with Carolina Panthers strength coach Joe Kenn.

Here’s a guy that’s been doing this for close to 25 years, and he’s in my Top 5 for guys I look up to and respect.

We were chatting, and he was talking about his coaching tree, and how it had grown or evolved over the years.

What was really cool, though, was how Coach Kenn referred to former interns and coaches as “his guys.”

I don’t know why, but that really rang true with me.

Think about it like this: If someone is willing to come work for you (often for free!), for an extended period of time to learn your style and methodology of coaching, that’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

I know after that conversation I had an even stronger respect for interns, and what they bring to the table.

If someone is willing to intern with you, it’s a really humbling experience. I’m still amazed that someone would want to come to Indianapolis, Indiana, and hang out for 16-weeks just to learn from me.

Except maybe they’re just here to hang out with Bill, Jae and Zach. But I’ll keep telling myself they’re here, at least in part, because of me!

#4 – It Allows You to Give Back

Sometimes I like to reflect on where I’ve come from, and how many people I need to thank for my development over the years.

In the summer of 2000, Wade Russell (the head strength coach at Ball State University at that time) brought me on as a summer intern to work with the athletes at BSU.

Let’s be honest – I had no business working in this field.

Sure, I made good grades, liked lifting weights and was passionate about athletics, but I had no coaching experience at all.

ZERO.

So I owe it to a guy like Wade Russell – who helped me out and gave me a start – to take interns.

We all started somewhere. Someone gave us a shot, and allowed us to get started in this amazing industry.

And if you’re passionate about this field, why wouldn’t you want someone to work with you?

Why wouldn’t you want to take a young, curious individual, and show them how awesome our profession can be?

I would love for more young, aspiring strength coaches and personal trainers to work with someone just like you.

Someone who is committed to their own success, and improving our industry as a whole. Because if you don’t take them, consider some of the individuals that will.

#5 – The Possibility of Hiring

Last but not least, if you run a facility at some point in time you’re probably going to hire staff.

Unless you are cool working 14-16 hour days the rest of your life, it’s impossible to grow without bringing great people in around you.

Internships are the ultimate “probationary period.” Not only do you get 16-weeks of on-the-job training, but you are getting all of that for free!

Perhaps most importantly, when you own a business you realize how critical chemistry is within your team, as well as within your facility.

The right person can make your business explode, and your workdays feel infinitely more awesome.

But the wrong person can not only destroy your business, but making your life a living hell.

Hiring interns is the approach we’ve used at IFAST, and I can tell you without reservation I’m incredibly lucky to have guys like Zach and Jae on our team.

There’s not one day I wake up and have to worry about them flaking out and missing work, or bringing outside drama into the gym.

And beyond that, they’re pretty damn good coaches, too.

Summary

Using interns in your facility is an amazing experience.

In my estimation, there’s no better way to give back to our industry, while helping build your own business, than hiring and developing interns.

And I think this whole thing would be a little bit moot without the following statement.

If you’ve interned at IFAST in the past, thank you.

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to being the best coach or trainer you can possible be.

I am so appreciative of you, your time and talents, and I’m humbled that you’ve chosen to spent a significant time of your life with us.

The only thing that I’d ask of you in the future is to do the same.

Pay it forward, and help someone else become a great coach.

All the best

MR

PS – If you’d like to intern at IFAST at any point in time, please refer to our internship application process. Thanks!

7 Comments

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  1. Couldn’t agree with this more! We just started an internship program, and there’s such a great energy when some is working purely because they want to learn and get better. It’s been a blast and I strongly second your recommendation!

  2. Mike,

    Your articles are a must read for any coach or athlete so thanks for the resource! Quick question for you and your readers, do you think it is necessary for an aspiring coach to intern at some stage in their career, or do you think something like yours and Eric’s Elite Mentorship is enough?I’m thinking more for the older(me!) coach who’s time committments won’t allow for an extended period of time away?Love to hear your opinion or from any of your readers?

    Thanks,

    Gary

    • I think an internship is the single best way to fast-track your progress. However, in your situation where you can’t walk away from a job/position/income, the ETM is definitely a great place to continue learning.

      Great question!
      MR

  3. Really enjoyed the article. I’ve taken on one intern thus far and hired her after her 10 week program. I gave her an assignment that fit her strengths and had her shadow me for the length of the program. She learned quickly and provided me with the statistical data from my Soccer Speed Program that I’ve always wanted. I was never able to get the stats before because I was running everything myself. Now I’m getting ready for a big marketing push and will need more interns! But I haven’t had a ‘system for interns’ just a system for program delivery. I’ll happily use what you’ve shared here to develop a full ‘Intern Program’ for my business. Thank you for Sharing this!

  4. Hi Mike –
    This post came at a perfect time – I’m working right now on composing an email to a gym owner about becoming an intern. This post has helped me understand better what I can bring to the table. I’ve never interned before! It’s not great timing and I totally understand Gary’s point above – I’m in the same position. Thank you again Mike and I look forward to meeting you at the Train Like a Girl Seminar!
    Sincerely, Jen Irons

  5. I am starting an internship today at a local gym here in Utah. I’m grateful to be able to learn from some amazing people. Even though I’m the one interning this post was great and informative of what’s to be expected of me as well. Thank you!

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