Written by: Kevin Cann
I coach quite a few other coaches/personal trainers. Many of them voice their uncertainty with where they want their careers to go in the future. Many are currently unhappy in their current positions and they look for advice on what to do. Because of this, I decided to write this article.
I have been doing some type of personal training/coaching for over 10 years. I didn’t always know what I wanted to do in this field. I have worked pretty much everywhere during this time. I have worked at commercial gyms, I worked with kids, I have worked with high school and college athletes, adult fitness classes, you name it I have probably done it.
I have even taught at 2 schools for people that want to become personal trainers. There was a period of time about 5 years ago that I did not want to continue my career in this field. The pay sucked, the hours suck, and I was just generally unhappy with where I was at.
I felt that I should have been better off in my career considering I had experience and a graduate degree. To say it was frustrating was a major understatement. At that point 5 years ago, I decided to stop training people and take a job teaching.
I took 8 months off from coaching altogether. My hours ended up getting cut so I needed to find a part time job to make ends meet. I reached out to my network of friends/colleagues to see what was out there.
I ended up at Total Performance Sports (TPS). I started here part time coaching the adult fitness classes and doing some 1 on 1 personal training. About a year into my tenure at TPS, I got promoted to Director of Strength and Conditioning/Head Coach.
A good portion of the member population were competitive powerlifters. I felt as the head coach, I should probably learn something about the sport. At the time I was still doing the mma stuff with a few friends 3 days per week, so I was not even lifting.
However, a few weeks later the mma thing ended as people moved and had life things come up. After a few weeks of fucking around in the gym I decided to sign up for a meet. What better way to learn about the sport than just doing it?
This competition was in October, so I had roughly 5 months to pick up a barbell for the first time in years and compete. Around this time Boris Sheiko and Mikhail Kokylaev came to TPS to give a seminar. This was great timing as I could learn from a legend in the sport as I was just starting out.
There was so much information given out at this seminar that I was a little overwhelmed. A lot of it was very different from what I was used to. The entire coaching staff at TPS are multiply/Westside lifters. My wheels were turning.
He also did a practical portion of the seminar. Here he taught the lifts very different than how I was taught. I remember talking to Fred Hatfield and him telling me that the Russians did not share any of their “good stuff” with us.
I thought about the information that Sheiko presented and did some research for a bit after the seminar. Finally, that fall I decided to reach out to him to see if I could get some coaching. We started working together in October of 2016.
Just having him tell me information was not enough. I needed to see how it works in the real world. Danielle Bond was an intern at TPS at the time and I made her train with me so I could apply these principles.
Danielle’s numbers went from 205/never had benched/275 to 330/190/390 in Orlando Florida at USAPL Nationals last year. She has hit even larger numbers in the gym. To say it worked is an understatement.
I coached Danielle solo for a year before I even took on another powerlifting client and this happened more by chance. Kerry Sachs had walked into my office at TPS looking for coaching. She had some strong lifts but needed some work. She competed in the USAPL. TPS had a group that competed in RPS that did Westside style training. This was not exactly a great fit for Kerry and she could not make the times work anyways.
I decided to pair Kerry up with Danielle. A year ago Kerry hit 231lbs on a squat at a local meet. 12 month later she hit 281lbs at the Arnold. Again, we saw awesome progress while following Sheiko’s principles. Dave, Nick, and Kina were quick to follow and have similar progress.
People began to notice and became interested in coaching. The group grew rapidly after 2017 USAPL Nationals. You would think this growth would be great, but remember the title of this article?
It is one thing to train a couple of people differently, it is an entirely different thing to have a major chunk of the member base getting coaching and doing things differently. I no longer was a good fit for a Westside/multiply gym.
I thought I was walking into a sales meeting, but instead I walked into a meeting where I was told that “I think you should take PPS elsewhere.” I busted my ass to grow something worthwhile, and it worked, but I still got fired. This field is not an easy one to be in.
That same day I was introduced to Jeff Butterworth of RX Strength Training in Somerville. We chatted, and he was very open and welcoming of different training styles, just how it should be. This was a much better fit for us.
I moved PPS over to RX. The more positive training environment I definitely think plays a major role in the amount of success the lifters have had in hitting big PRs. This is something I should have identified earlier, but you live and you learn. Hopefully other coaches can learn from this too.
I now have the best job in America. I am a full time powerlifting coach. At TPS, I still had other managerial tasks that I had to complete. Not anymore. I am able to focus 100% of my attention on developing my lifters.
Not only that, but PPS is a family. We all got fired and moved together. Going through that situation has only brought us closer together as a team. We got each other’s backs and we lift for the PPS name on our shirts. Because of this, this team will accomplish great things.
I am told by my athletes that work in the field “I would love to do what you do.” Here is how I got here. I didn’t wake up at 18 years old and say, “I want to be a powerlifting coach.” I tried everything, and even thought about quitting altogether at one point.
It took me wanting to quit and actually quitting for a period of time, moving to Boston, needing more income, getting a promotion because the previous head coach fell off the map, my mma friends moving away, signing up for a meet, meeting Sheiko, having Danielle intern at TPS, and having Kerry walk into my office, and finally getting fired. Almost makes me think that I was meant to do this.
For those of you out there that want something out of this field, go get it. If you don’t you will never make it very long in this field. This can be the best job ever and also the worst job in the right circumstances. Don’t settle on some job you hate.
I honestly wonder where I would be if those circumstances were never put together. I have the best team that now extends to both coasts of the US and even Germany, in the best training environment, and surrounded myself by some of the best coaches like my coach, Boris Sheiko, and now with a monthly conversation with Ryan Gleason and Zac Cooper. This was not the case 6 months ago. We are now in a better position to develop as athletes and myself to develop as a coach.
I hope this helps some of you in this field feeling lost right now. I am more than open to talk with anyone too and help out in any way I can.