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Trainer/Director Communication

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
This is probably one of those topics that would be suited for an instructor only board, so it will be of little interest to ski students.


An idea I have co-opted from the ski industry and implemented into the fitness industry, is the idea of "in house" training. Although some gyms use it, most will hire outside industry stars at significant cost to train instructors. Although this defintely has its benefits, ongoing training conducted by more seasoned instructors has proved to be as beneficial as it is in the ski industry.

Recently, I began conducting instructor workshops at our gym. Attendance varies. It usually has to with how interested someone is in a given topic. Its also requires a very commited trainer to be willing to give up their weekend time to attend a workshop.
A few months ago, I conducted a pre/post natal workshop. There were some instructors who were extremely interested in this, and even attended some of my classes for members to learn more.

But by coincidence, I learned that the fitness director of one of our facilities was directing pre and post natal clients to another trainer, someone who has some qualifications to do this sort of work, but has never attended any of the in house workshops. My first reaction was to be a bit miffed. How can we motivate pros in any aspect of the recreational industry to continue their education, if we don't reward them with work in the fields which they have shown interest?

This lead me to a few thoughts and questions. When in house training is present at a given resort, who has a better idea of the instructor's professional progress? The trainer, ski school director, or both? How much communication is there between trainer and director in terms of instructor progress? if an instructor is becoming more proficient at a given teaching skill, the SSD may find out about it through student feedback, or by observing the instructor. But the trainer may have a better sense of exactly how much they UNDERSTAND the new teaching skills.

Does the professional development portfolio help with this? If yes, how? In order to avoid burn out in any aspect of the recreational teaching industry, instructors need to feel that their educational efforts will indeed be rewarded, and that they are given {at least sometimes} the type of client that they have dedicated the energy to learn more about. For this to happen, IMHO, trainers and directors need to communicate more often.

post #2 of 7

You have raised some very valid points. In the Rocky Mountain division, remembering that I don't come from a destination resort, there seems to be little, if any communication between the SSD and PSIA clinicians. Most of this is probably due to geography and conflicting, busy schedules. The professional development portfolio was instituted to address these shortcomings. I have no idea how successful it has been since I haven't kept one.

The problem of clinic attendance and interest is ongoing. As an area trainer this topic probably covers about half of the training staffs indoor time. I think that our training staff and director are almost always on the same page, but then we don't have hundreds of instructors. How do larger areas handle this? How are the line supervisors, as well as the director kept up to speed?
post #3 of 7
LM- This might become a rather long post, but I'll try to keep it brief.

First- let's identify the various types of trainers-
1) The actual in-house trainers, who are in contact with the staff members on a daily basis.
2) Divisional Trainers who might only come in contact with a staff member for possibly 2 days for a specific program (such as an exam pre-course)
3) National Clinicians, such as D-Team members, who a staff member might have contact with once a season or so.

Let's start with #3-
This contact will usually only come at an event such as the PSIA National Academy, or a Divisional Academy. This occurs once a year, usually at Snowbird(or at the respective division), and lasts from 4 days to one week. Attendance is not cheap, and is predominantly for personal/ profession improvement. Unless there is some sort of personal relationship between the D-Teamer and the SSD, there is no significant history of communication between them, regarding an individual's performance. Any information transfer might be limited to a written eval from the D-Teamer to the participant.

This contact usually occurs when a participant is involved in a divisional event, perhaps preparing for an exam of some sort. Though this might happen once- several times per season, based upon the intent of the participant, again there is no formal procedure for the trainer to contact the SSD. Depending upon the particular event, there may or may not be a written eval for each participant.

This is our greatest opportunity to have communication with the SSD or training supervisor regarding an individual staff member. Because the SUP or SSD is usually involved in the development and implementation of the training, they will be more aware of who is participating, and ultimately, the progress of those participants.

Your next question is much harder to answer definitively. Motivating an instructor to participate in training has always been difficult. If looked at from their point of view, there are just a few reasons to ever attend training.
1)- It's mandatory to attend, and therefore, the attendee is paid.
2)- It's a paid training event, and the instructor had no other work.
3)- Attendance will increase their wages, ie- exams, and pre-courses.
4)- Fun factor is off the chart, and there is nothing else to do.
5)- For a few individuals, the idea of learning, for the sake of learning, is still alive. (the clinic junkies!!!)

At a divisional level, we have many instructors who have quit attending even the required continuing education events because the loss of income(and lack of interest) is greater than the return on keeping current.

I know this post does not completely cover all of the questions you posed, but I hope it will give you a little more insight to the nature of the beast! [img]tongue.gif[/img]

Good luck with your program!

post #4 of 7
Hey Lisa Marie!

Vail Snopro's scenarios are really accurate. However, in the case of the on-site trainer paid by the school, there still isn't as a good a communication between the managers and trainers about each pro's progress. However, we are improving. And in the process, I believe we're getting both better training and better use of the training in real life work.

We have various mechanisms for developing this "feed through" and some of it works less well than others.
1. Evaluation of the trainee by the trainer at the clinic. [img]redface.gif[/img] Doesn't work too well, because the trainers are hesitant to blow the whistle on the real problems and it is also pretty bureaucratic.
2. Training that is relevant and compelling. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] This is the best. If it's good stuff, they take it and use it and it doesn't need management, and we can assume it.
3. Mid season evaluation by team leaders in conjunction with trainers. [img]smile.gif[/img] This is starting to work better and better for us as the team leaders become more effective and as the work allocation priority becomes connected to the evaluation. (Not all instructors agree with me on this, and two of our areas avoid using a priority system.)
4. The guest's vote [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] Return business indicates that something great is happening. In some cases it can be more hustle than substance, but our clientele is very discerning, and our pros have a standard to meet to develop their loyalty.
5. Really good hiring [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] We just hire great people, support them where we can, and get the hell out of their way.

LM, the situation you describe sounds like a breakdown between the fitness director and the trainers. That is an area that we have done very well with in that our lead trainers are in constant contact with our managers and team leaders. They are also in pretty good contact with each other. As a director, except in dire straits, I would never override or undercut trainers or managers in the moment, but if I see a situation I don't like, we'll try to fix it for the future.

These are very interesting dynamics in a school of 1200 pros. I know they have much the same challenges at Vail. We both have an unbelievable range of ages, seniorities, talents, and experiences to manage.
post #5 of 7
I reckon they do a great job with training at Vail. At the moment I am choosing from 5 pages of training events for 2003 season.

There is ALWAYS an event to attend that will interest someone. I think the best clinic last year was "local wildlife with a keg" closely followed by a "new turn" clinic by a young US Ski team guy now Ski Club Vail trainer, Ski with Maggie, Vail Bars 101, Horst Talks, Lito talks and of course the "casual hookup" bash the mountain clinics are always a "big day out". Last year I attended a "Day with the Swedes" and man I am still sore.

VSP & Weems covered everything else. I reckon, with focus, everyone does the best they can with an infinitely varied crew. You can built the pond and flavor the water but the "horses" will always choose when to drink.

Keep it up LM.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great replies. This is interesting. We have 3 facilities. The fitness directors of 2 of them are very interested in my comments as to the progress of their trainers. Their personal training programs are doing quite well. The facility in question is in the wealthiest neighborhood of all our gyms, but their personal training program is doing poorly. Their fitness director does not seem to be interested in what sort of education her trainers are pursuing, and assigns clients arbitrarily.

I think one of the worst mistakes a director in any sort of recreational industry can make is to show a lack of interests in the educational passions of his/her employees. Lets face it, the "fun" industries generally do not pay well, and the cost of educating oneself to excel in these industries is far from cheap. If instructors are not given the chance to work in the areas they feel passionate about, the turn over rate will be high.
post #7 of 7
ML I totally agree with you. The foundational reason for our success is our passion.
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