Shadowing Is Not an Internship Programme

About the Author

Chet Morjaria

Putting a coach through an “internship programme” that is mostly shadowing and then getting them to coach classes is like putting an athlete through a “training programme” that is mostly watching someone else squat, bench, and deadlift and then getting them to enter a powerlifting meet.

I see too many internship programmes that look something like this:

  1. X hours shadowing.
  2. Some chances to take the warm up.
  3. A couple of one-to-one debriefs.
  4. A few supervised sessions.
  5. —-> Coaching classes.

This is said with no judgement, as always. Simply to provide an opportunity to reflect on whether this is a framework fit for purpose.

This type of programme is often:

  • Time-consuming – we need to develop interns in a way which progressively empowers the intern to free up time for you.
  • Created “on the fly” – we need to develop interns in a way which allows for structure, planning, and setting expectations.
  • Undocumented – we need to develop interns in a way which allow for consistent roll out of this training for each intern now, and each intern in the future.
  • Process driven – we need to develop interns in a way which create understanding around the commonalities and universalities of what works and what doesn’t.

How to Teach Your Interns

Here are the 3 key components of an effective internship programme:

Teach PRINCIPLES

This takes more than shadowing. It takes an internship programme that creates understanding around the principles of:

  • Brain and body
  • Intensity and volume
  • Force and speed
  • Regression and progression
  • Coaching and Cueing

…to name just a few.

This doesn’t have to take a long time. We teach these principles in 2-days on our Coaching Elements course. It does mean some classroom-based time – this is missing from so many internship programmes. But this classroom time can’t be just throwing information at them. It takes a considered teaching approach in terms of putting the theory together in a way that is allow the interns to understand that these are the universal elements of coaching, and everything else stems from here.

Teach SYSTEMS

Principles are incredibly useful. But we need to bridge the gap between those concepts and how to put them into action when coaching on the gym floor. This is where systems come in. For example, if we are talking about movement we should look at:

  • Assessment and evaluation systems
  • Fault-triage and prioritisation systems
  • Correction and cueing systems

There is no one-right way of doing any of the above things. That’s the beauty of a system. And this is where your uniqueness of coaching approach comes in. You can create gym-specific systems that lean on your experience and expertise to give the interns an empowering coaching framework. In other words, systems which are based on the principles you have taught them, but which give them the means to apply the learning in the most relevant manner for each coaching situation.

Teach TEACHING

Teaching the mechanics of movement is one thing. Teaching coaches how to teach is something else. Simply teaching movement key performance points along with fault-spotting and correction creates new coaches who just want to fix people. And coaches are not fixers. Because this would imply that people are “broken”.

Non-optimal movement doesn’t mean someone is broken, or needs fixing. An intern who focuses on “fixing things” doesn’t create the feeling we are striving for with the members.  Good coaching makes members feel good, and gives them ownership of their fitness journey. This is entirely possible at the same time as improving movement, it just needs to be asked (there’s a clue) in the right way.

Coaches are guides, communicators, and facilitators. And if we are to develop great coaches, then our internship programme must reflect this paradigm of the coach, from the start.

One Question

Does your internship programme genuinely develop your interns into the coaches you need them to be?
If not, then take action on the above to make it so.
And if you want help, just email me at chet@strengtheducation.com.


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