Keep Your Coaching Business Alive During COVID-19

Coach Development | COVID


Darren Dillon

Darren Dillon is the owner and director of Kickstart Fitness Ireland. Founded in 2010, Kickstart Fitness has grown from what was initially a bootcamp in a local park into what is now a center of excellence for TRX®️Training and functional training, and a high performance hub for strength and conditioning. Darren also serves as head of performance at Shamrock Rovers FC, working with and programming for the academy through to senior professional soccer players. He is also Ireland’s only official TRX®️ Master Trainer, delivering all the company’s education courses to the Irish fitness industry.

// Keep Your Coaching Business Open While Lockdown Part 2

When I wrote the first installment of this series, I was hoping it’d be a one-parter because every gym would be fully open again. But I was wrong: the COVID-19 pandemic may have peaked in most areas in terms of the number of cases, but the vast majority of gym owners, coaches, and trainers are still facing a myriad of restrictions head on. I’m continuing to learn plenty of lessons about myself and my business during this trying time, and hope that you’ll benefit from the ones I’m about to share.

Hedge your Bets

In the previous post, I focused on the acute phase after the Irish government mandated the closure of my gym, Kickstart Fitness. If you’re anything like me, this decision hit so hard and fast that it spun you around and it took some time for you to find your bearings and for reality to set in. Now that we’re past the two-month point, our team is as settled in its new routine as possible during such dramatic, society-wide changes. 

From a strategy standpoint, our revenue is coming from general population content that we’re putting out daily on Facebook, small group workouts conducted via Zoom, and online offerings delivered via TrainHeroic. Doing it this way diversifies us and, to borrow a financial term, spreads the hedge among three separate income streams. If one dips during any given week, hopefully the other two will carry enough of the burden to keep our company afloat and enable me to pay our staff (and, if I’m really lucky, myself as well).

Alter your Coaching

But the challenge fitness professionals and the athletes and clients who we serve goes beyond physical elements. We also have to reckon with the fact that while a few essential businesses have remained open and more are now being allowed to do so, some form of self-isolation and social distancing is still in place. As such, we’re not only having to alter our approach to training people to be fitter, stronger, and more resilient, but also grappling with the psychological and emotional fallout that’s just as significant, if not more so. 

Even if you’re more of an introvert than an extrovert and value time alone, we’re all social animals at our core. The human organism craves interpersonal contact, connection, and affection. We know that from a developmental standpoint, we need skin to skin contact to grow when we’re kids and to continue thriving as healthy adults, whether that’s a hug from our family members or high fiving a training buddy after a new squat PR. Unfortunately right now, a lot of these person-to-person contacts are being denied us. Online conferences, Skype sessions, and FaceTime calls help, but they’re a poor substitute for actually being in the room with someone.

People buy your Why

As a coach and leader in our part of Dublin for a long time, people look to me for guidance. I need to show that I have a steady hand on the ship even when it’s being tossed by the waves and blown by the wind. And not since The Perfect Storm (see both the film and read the Sebastian Junger book if you’re unfamiliar) has such a tempest arose and threatened to engulf everything in its path. Only this time, it’s not a storm that hits a certain corner of an ocean or merely devastates a town or two. Nor is it something that can be tracked by radar and reported on by weathermen and women. It’s a faceless, untameable virus that’s hitting the entire world hard. 

That’s why it’s difficult for me to remain calm, composed, and confident all the time, even though I know that people are looking to me to model these leadership traits so they can draw strength from my example. I know deep down that I need to show my coaches the way to preserve our gym as we weather the storm, and that my clients are looking to me to help them not only get bigger, faster, and stronger physically, but also more durable mentally and emotionally. Yet I will admit that there are times that I’ve questioned whether or not I can live up to these expectations. 

It’s in these moments of self-doubt that I’ve revisited what author/speaker Simon Sinek would call my “why.” In other words, my motivation for being a coach. And it comes back to wanting to make a positive difference in people’s lives, to lift up our local area, and to help people realize they’re capable of doing much more than they might think they can. When I consider this higher calling or purpose, it gives me the courage to press on, to keep Kickstart going in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, and to go on serving the people who depend on me. So if you’re facing a crisis point or wavering self-belief, try to find your why and then recommit to it. Your clients, fellow coaches, and family will thank you for it. I believe you have the strength to not only endure, but to learn, grow, and thrive. Go prove me right.


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