First, let me explain that I have done my share of personal training over the last 20 years and there are limited, but appropriate times for athletes to utilize it. I do consider personal trainers
to be in a different profession than us in the athletic performance realm but that is a topic for another day. The purpose of this blog is to share another point of view from someone that has monitored the development of thousands of athlete's careers lasting into high school and/or the professional level.
1. Groups can remove self limiting factors. We all have perceived limits that can be exceeded in a group setting. Let's look at two animals for an example: Belgian draft horse and the Husky. One Belgian draft horse can pull around 8,000lbs. Weird thing is if you put two together they can pull 24,000lbs. If the two horses train together for a month, then pair up, they can pull as much as 32,000lbs. Huskies are known to produce over 10x the amount of their perceived individual ability when working as a team. Your kid is no different. When we ask a group of athletes to do something they might be unsure of, they are still going to do it because they assume that their peers can and will. Groups help remove those mental barriers that would otherwise hold athletes back.
2. The best athletes in the world, in every sport, train in groups. We frequently visit some colleagues in Arizona that train 150 Olympians from 57 different countries. There we watched the top long jumpers in the world train in a group. Another group had two dozen of the fastest males sprinters in the world, and the list goes on and on. We have extensively trained professional athletes in seven different sports; soccer, basketball, baseball, boxing, football, golf, MMA - and they ALL prefer to train in groups. They all get the best results in a group and not just because of competitive factors. Professional athletes overall do a masterful job of this thought process:
self-assessment/correction/personal accountability which is superior to a coach pointing out everything that can be improved upon. Self-assessment/correction/accountability is a skill that is hard to develop if you are in a personal training environment because all feedback is so immediate and custom to you only.
3. Group environments create a response that pushes through the blood-brain barrier and works together to accelerate brain (cognitive capacity) and body function. Your brain identifies and creates adaptations to elevate performance because of primitive deep rooted physiological survival triggers. For example; brain derived neurotrophic factor, insulin-like growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, fibroblast growth factor- all force new ways for your body to elevate performance.
4. CONFIDENCE/HUMILITY. Kids are always worried about stacking up. In a good training system even the best athletes have glaring weaknesses, so every time this is made obvious other athletes gain confidence by realizing the gap is smaller than they thought. It is all about them creating more value for themselves and finding out what makes them stand out and where they excel. All athletes have gifts and no one is elite at everything. On the flip side athletes that get a lot of praise or accolades will realize that they are not perfect and need to work to stay on top. We get the opportunity to see 6A athletes compete with private school kids on a daily basis and the dynamics are incredible because of all the ignorance that is put to rest every single workout. Your child lives in a world where you have to develop a balance between confidence and humility to be successful. Group training is a great place to learn it.
5. COMMUNICATION SKILLS. Probably not the kind you are thinking. More along the lines of information processing. Listening skills, context, peer conversation, being resourceful, absorbing coaching /explanation.. These are a lost art. There is only one common denominator in every single professional athlete we have supported over the years and it's not talent or size- They can absorb instruction (communication) on an elite level. They are incredible listeners and get so much from the instruction they get, especially in a group setting. You can see their wheels turning as they think about the coaching they receive and watch their peers try to execute. Your kid will be in a college class in a group.. they need to figure out how to learn in that environment. They will hopefully support themselves one day by working with a group of people in some way. Point is, if your kid needs personal training to understand coaching or get the "attention" they need... this world is going to be a difficult place for them.
6. Personal training is expensive. Average personal trainers in east Texas charge $50/hour. To be qualified to be a personal trainer you don't even need a GED or high school diploma. You can get a certification in a weekend. When I worked in DFW Lifetime Fitness set my rate at $90/hour and I was hardly elite, it was just because so few personal trainers have a college education and post graduate certifications. This is mainly because they don't have to, many people make assumptions and don't look into what matters- Not how your trainer looks, but what they know. You can get great group training by a TEAM of elite coaches that have extensive continuing education for less than 20% of the cost you can get most personal trainers for. Why pay more for less qualified people working with your kid, individually or not? Most athletes need more sessions than personal training budgets will allow and you lose all the benefits of group training as well. All said not all personal trainers lack education or competence but it is a profession that is saturated with unqualified people that have put a black eye on entire human performance profession. Even great personal trainers will tell you how frustrating their industry is.
7. You don't want a DVD athlete. This means you don't want your kid to only do well when they are in the perfect environment to "play." Personal training can be so accommodating that an athlete can get too comfortable in that personal and custom setting. Personal training creates an unrealistic expectation of the world. Your athlete can become smitten with one on one communication or a certain personality type and only respond well when that is afforded to them. In addition, we have seen kids miss the crucial development of listening skills and being able to absorb instruction simply because you don't have to develop that in a personal training environment. These happenings create unrealistic expectations of sports and life. In addition, you could be creating social problems for your kids if they get too accustom to one on one or even small group settings. Just think about the kids you know that are/were heavy into personal training. How are they socially? Most struggle in group environments because they prefer the comfort of a personal situation. It is hard to lead a huddle if you are not able to excel in a group..
In summary, group training has incredible benefits outside the actual system you train in. Personal training should be reserved for those with serious injury or a need to improve on a specific skill in a short amount of time. Even in those situations athletes should train in a group over 90% of the time. Injured athletes should always do everything they can in the group for psychological reasons and what they cannot should be planned seamlessly to take them away as little as possible. A great team of coaches should be able to meet the needs of every individual athlete in any group. All it takes is organization, know how, and effort.
Bobby Stroupe RSCC*D CSCS*D FAFS