Did you know the NUMBER ONE reason you don’t have more baby boomer athletes in your Box is they’re intimidated??
They’re worried you as a Coach may not understand their lifestyle or their goals. They may be concerned that you’re not qualified to train them through their aches and pains. So how do we gain their trust and confidence? Building rapport and trust within the baby boomer demographic can be challenging, but the reward can be fulfilling professionally as well as financially.
Older clients are definitely a different species, but definitely a demographic in need of exactly what we provide. The mentality of an older athlete is COMPLETELY different than younger CrossFit athletes. They want to be functional within their limitations and be motivated to push past them at the same time. Most are just trying to regain a portion of their youth without getting injured. The fact that they showed up to your gym is a huge statement. They are putting themselves out there and they are interviewing you, whether you realize it or not, and hoping you can help them. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. Gaining rapport is of utmost importance.
So, how do you gain rapport in a short time frame while keeping your class moving? An easy way to start is to compliment the referral source. Most likely your prospective athlete didn’t just walk in off the street. They were probably referred by one of your current athletes. You can use your relationship with your current athlete to create a connection with the prospective member. The sense of community you have established within our Box is what makes that connection so powerful. There is an immediate sense of comfort when prospective clients feel that community. Remember something special about that athlete and compliment them. Complimenting your referring member can help eliminate any concerns of possibly falling through the cracks in a mass of athletes.
For example: “Bob referred you. He is a great guy and I hear he’s a good golfer. We have been able to make a big difference in his life. Hopefully, we can do the same for you. Are you one of his golf buddies?”
This needs to be genuine and authentic. They need to know immediately you know your athletes, care about them and take an interest in them. People also like to hear compliments about their friends or family because it validates them as well. Next, ask a question about them and their hobbies. Showing interest in them shows you’re focused on them and their needs. You should see them start to visibly relax as they get comfortable. You’re making a potentially scary place seem warm and inviting now. Remember, people love to feel important to others, no matter their age.
Once you’ve made a connection with the client on a personal basis, you’ll need to verbally obtain some health information. Health information from a waiver is about legalities. Health information from the prospective athlete is about training, limitations and scaling. This is the knowledge the trainer needs, not the lawyers. It also shows concern because you cared enough to ask. So, what information do you need? Try to keep the verbal medical history concise. You may not need to hear their entire medical history. Asking direct and specific questions shows you’re attentive and solution-oriented. Reassure them by repeating their concerns and offering quick scaling options should their pre-existing conditions or range of motion limit them. The main concerns are about mobility, cardiovascular and respiratory function. You just want to make sure that it is safe for the person to exercise at what intensity level and what limitations they have to scale appropriately. You will need to gain more information from them as you train them. With a good eye, you will pick up cues about their posture and ability or inability to move efficiently. Be sure to tell them the things you notice as you are training them. It continues to build your rapport and their confidence in you.
The most important point to remember — especially with an older athlete is — IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. They’re looking to improve their quality of life, not their Fran time. Remember motion is energy and if they can’t move, there’s no energy. Many of us take this for granted and that’s where you may need to modify your approach with this clientele. You must connect with them first to build trust and understand their concerns before you can help create a plan to push them through their limitations.
By Phillip E Carlyle, DC, CCWP, BCIM. He is the creator of Spinalfit and a board certified wellness physician. For more information, call 912.638.5909.