Posted on October 25 2016
Teaching pole is the best job in the world. Helping people discover their own strengths is so fulfilling!
As much as being a teacher, I love being a student. I’ve been studying training methods and coaching in the Sports Academy and am finishing master’s studies in sport- and exercise psychology. For a year, I have been a pole instructor. I am very interested in effective coaching practices. I spend a lot of my time reading about training, coaching and motivational practices related to exercise.
Here are a few tips I have for anyone wanting to become a pole instructor:
Be inviting. A person coming to your class for the first time is very likely self-conscious. It’s new, they might feel uncomfortable wearing shorts in front of others, they might have a hard time looking at themselves in the mirror because they have not yet learned to love what they see. Make them feel welcome and accepted. Greet everyone with a smile, make sure to learn names and chat. Perhaps people are coming to class to de-stress after a hard day at work. You’re the calming force.
Compliment and encourage your students! Acknowledge the things they are doing are tremendously hard, and their efforts are great. If your student is working on a trick they still have not managed, be their biggest cheerleader. Tell them they can, with consistent practice and a determination. Emphasize that pole is hard, but they are stronger. Eventually they will nail something they never imagined they could. You’ll be at their side, clapping the loudest. We are a big family, and that means we all support each other.
Joke around to lighten the mood! Sometimes, the mood in class can get a little serious, since people often are self-conscious or so determined to not miss anything. I don’t like to take myself too seriously. I am human, I sometimes forget what I was saying mid-way through my explanations (you know, gathering your thoughts, explaining the correct muscle engagement and movement while hanging upside down isn’t quite as simple as it sounds!), get my tongue tied into a big word salad. Those times I laugh it off with everyone. Pole class is a stress-free, judgement-free zone! I want everyone to leave my class smiling.
Know muscle, bone anatomy and dynamics of movement. You have people's bodies and health in your hands You need to be able to ensure their safety.. Be vocal about correct muscle engagement during tricks. Most people are not so well tuned with their body to begin with, it’s your job to help them learn to engage the muscles correctly. With this, I’m not saying you should get all technical like “Engage your trapezius…” most people don’t know the names of muscles, that’s perfectly fine - as long as you know them, and as long as you know how to cue people. Take for example a pull up, you could use cues such as “draw your shoulders down, away from the ears and imagine you are trying to pull a big, thick rope down. Keep your core tight by drawing your navel in”. You should know how to break tricks down into more manageable parts. If your student has trouble doing something, then you need to show them less advanced version.The same goes for those who are advanced enough, show them how to improve even further. If you want to become a pole instructor, study sports science, personal training, anatomy and/or kinesiology. A bonus is to attend a legitimate pole fitness instruction program. It’s a great way to continue your education and add to your knowledge.That way, you can consistently offer your students the best instruction.
Make effective warm-ups! It’s the key to the overall success of the class. If a warm-up is good, the person will feel energized and their muscles are ready. I can’t find a more demotivating way to start a class than when a teacher obviously has nothing special planned for warm-up. It needs to be targeted at the specific muscles or movements we are going to work on. We need dynamic movements and active stretching techniques rather than passive stretching, as passive stretching directly before exercise can decrease strength (1, 2, 3). Plan the warm-ups beforehand, try them yourself and keep them variable!
Talk to your students! Keep them updated. I start a new class by introducing myself, telling the students we all come from different backgrounds, some from dance, others from gymnastics, some people have not practiced anything before pole or were in something completely different. I emphasize that some of us have been training pole for a few months, some of us are coming to class for the first time. I tell people to remember, we all have different journeys, we are all here to focus only on ourselves.
Ask if anyone has an injury that might affect them in the class and make sure to modify the exercises to fit them. Ask how they are doing a few weeks later.
Let students know about is that you might have to assist them in some tricks. Ask them to let you know if they are uncomfortable with that, so you won’t invade their personal space.
If possible, inform students if something unexpected comes up and you get substitute teacher to take your class.
Use class as your personal training time! Class is the time they have paid to have you guide them.This is their moment! You are there to lead, spot and help. It’s not your time to practice something yourself! Students will perceive you as not interested in them. The same goes with checking your phone during class or scrolling through facebook. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, just don’t do it. You have people's well-being in your hands. Give your students your undivided attention.
Just show off your own skills. Your students are not there to see how awesome at pole you are (even though you are!), they are there to get proper guidance. They are there to learn from your expertise. A great instructor can do more than cool tricks: he/she can instruct. They can explain how to execute tricks in simple, easily understandable ways. They can cue people to engage the right muscle groups.
Show up unprepared! If you are unprepared, your students will soon notice. This will decrease their spirits. Being unprepared is also stressful for you! We all know the feeling of entering a test without having studied. Showing up unprepared to teach a class is worse as you have a group of people counting on you and following everything you say.
Exclude anyone! You might have a full class, many people want your attention. Try to help everyone, don’t let any one person hog all your time. Never shy away from helping anyone. All of your students deserve excellent care and encouragement, no matter their background, age, health status, sex and so on.
Forget the music! Music is a great way to set the mood, increase motivation and keep the fun going. I have been in classes where the music was barely audible and it definitely affects the class. It’s a lot harder to keep going if there is no music and I can clearly hear what the instructor is discussing with another student at the other end of the room. I automatically start to mooch about. The same goes if you are playing music that students have heard thousand times before. Boring. Make sure to check out new, fun music to play in your classes and keep a few playlists you can alternate between.