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Pole Instructors, Check Your Egos at the Door

Pole Instructors, Check Your Egos at the Door

Pole Instructors, Check Your Egos at the Door

Comments Off on Pole Instructors, Check Your Egos at the Door

I recently completed my AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America) Group Fitness Certification. I have been a fitness instructor for over two years now so I decided it was a good certification to officially have. I learned how to calculate a student’s maximum heart rate and determine one’s health-related risks when engaging in a workout. There were detailed charts of human skeletal and muscular structure in the textbook. I found no information more valuable, however, than one chapter buried towards the back of the book. It broke down the construction of a typical class, why certain movements should be avoided as well as why others should be encouraged. Most fascinating for me was the discussion of the psychology behind what elements make a class memorable and one that students will want to revisit time and time again.

Being in the industry of pole fitness, I think it’s safe to say the importance of cultivating a welcoming and safe environment is even more vital than your average group fitness class. True, people come to us when they are out of shape. But they also come to us when they are emotionally bruised or feeling psychologically defeated. Pole dancing is as much about exercise as it is about expression of one’s deepest inner struggles and joys. If executed correctly, an atmosphere of camaraderie can be formed between both instructors and students. Leaders and educators have a responsibility for gaining insight into what techniques may improve their teaching skills. To be an effective coach, they themselves can never stop being the students. 
One element the AFAA textbook promotes is what it means to demonstrate a class effectively. The emphasis should not be placed on what advanced variation of a move an instructor may possess, but rather on what the abilities of the students are and how to help those students reach their goals. I see all too often in pole classes instructors who are eager to share their knowledge of a new move they found on YouTube or demonstrate a trick to provoke applause and recognition. The focus is not on the students and what they can learn. That is not something any valuable class should ever leave out.   
We hear so much now that pole fitness is a blossoming industry. I think with that comes the desire in many to prove themselves. Maybe it’s to others, or the industry as a whole or maybe to themselves. I remember how I felt as a novice instructor entering a classroom where no one knew who I was. Quite quickly I felt the urge to prove my worth to the room. I wanted to show off my biggest strength moves and most impressive spins. I carefully calculated in my head how I could better come across as worthy in their eyes. What didn’t dawn on me at the time that now seems so clear was that the best way to gain their attention would have been to focus my attention on them and their needs. I needed to stop being selfish and preoccupied with what they may think of me. 

This does not mean that instructors should hold back in sufficiently demonstrating moves. It does mean that variations should be given for all abilities. The bottom line is that your students look up to you as a mentor. If you perform a certain stretch or strength move in warm-up, they will always want to mirror the variation you are performing. You shouldn’t use improper form, but this isn’t the time to show off your overspilt. This should be a time when you look around the room and evaluate everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

I have taken class with incredibly talented and seasoned instructors well above my pay grade. You know what I respect most in them? When they are honest and humble. I recall a recent pole class where a decorated competitor was teaching and a student requested a specific move. The instructor was not familiar with this particular trick and had never tried it herself. She admitted that she probably wasn’t best suited to demonstrate the move due to her lack of back flexibility. (Not every move is meant to be performed by everybody!) She got that student up on the pole though and talked her through it. She spotted her and gave her constructive feedback after a few semi-sucessful attempts. You know what? That student got the move by the end of class, one the instructor could not even execute herself. That is what being a great teacher is truly about, helping your students succeed.

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