Coach’s Tips: Creating Your CHIMA
Written by Travis Ewart

Saying that being a “good” coach can be an understatement. The term “good” is definitely subjective, but one of the concepts I use is based around the athlete, not necessarily myself.

Of course we always need to be a better coach, day after day, but if you follow some general guidelines to creating the ideal athlete client, then it will in turn require more of you, so in a certain respect you can’t create the ideal athlete if you aren’t quite up to par as a coach.

On the other hand, you can have that ideal client from the start (no work necessary to get them to come every day), and if you’re not doing your due diligence as a coach, you might in fact ruin the excitement and experience for them, and snuff out that light that was so eager to burn when they walked through the gym doors. If that happens, maybe you’d be a better parking attendant than a coach, and you should reflect on that.

Now, what we need to get great results from our clients is for them to show up! You just can’t do much if they aren’t coming into the gym, so that’s our ultimate goal. But how do you do that? Well, if you follow my guidelines you may have a bit of an insight to start from, and maybe throw some of your ideas on top to make it even better.

Our goal as coaches is to create a CHIMA. That’s an acronym, but it’s the athlete who will continue to come back to you, day after day, with a smile on their face and an enthusiasm to learn!

What is a CHIMA? I’m glad you are asking, because I’m going to tell you.

Confident

Hard-working

Inspired

Motivated

Athlete

… CHIMA.

When you have a CHIMA, you must do your best to keep them a CHIMA, as providing all four parts of what creates or maintains a CHIMA is the responsibility of the coach, not the athlete. But, once you learn the art of all four parts, you will have the best version of what that athlete can be, day after day.

Creating your CHIMA – Safety, Understanding, Consistency, Success

Safety and Progression

A confident, well-rested athlete who feels safe will always progress faster than athletes who are under pressure, fatigue or don’t feel safe.

This may seem like it doesn’t require explanation, but I’m sure it does. As coaches, we like to assign tasks in intervals, time caps, AMRAPS etc., but do we always consider if this is best for the athlete? Handstands, for example, can seem life threatening to one person, and a walk in the park to another. Who is to gauge their level of comfort and personal feeling of safety during this? Well, it really should be the athlete. If an athlete doesn’t feel like they can meet your prescribed parameters, in an attempt to not feel like a failure, they may just push on. When they do that, they may become fatigued, scared, dizzy…the list goes on and none of this is a great experience for the athlete. In a manner of speaking, they just did something they don’t want to have to do again. 

The proper approach to this example, from my perspective, would be to tell them to work on this skill, but rest as needed, whenever they need to. “Take a break whenever you want, and start again whenever you want. I want you feeling fresh and confident.” This puts the ball in their hands without pressure, and they no longer feel like they have to do it, but that they get to play with the skill, and that’s a much more positive way to feel.

Additionally, creating an environment where the athlete can “exit” at any time is also a must. No athlete should feel like they’ve just committed to something they, in the moment, decided they aren’t prepared to do. To branch off that, when or if they decide that they aren’t ready, or maybe they thought it was so easy, you need to have already given them drill options on both sides of the spectrum to either go back to a previous step of the exercise, or move forward to the next step of the exercise. This autonomy will give them the feeling of versatility and fluidity with their training, meaning that they never have to be stagnant on one particular drill.

Understanding 

Athletes who clearly understand the macro view of the journey ahead of them will have more confidence in their coach’s ability to forecast their success, where they are on the road to success, and each and every step it will take to get them there.

Though I have known this for a long time, it has also taken a long time for me to apply it to my athletes, though it has always been easy to apply it to my own life. If we take the grand scheme for granted, that we know the plan, but we don’t share it, we are not inspiring our athletes with the knowledge that they so thirst for.

Never underestimate the crave for the knowledge that our athletes have. Give them the big picture, break it down, then break it down again. By doing this you are showing them a map. That map is what they will always have in their head when they are working toward this goal. Knowing that the path is not a mystery, that they know the road they will have to eventually walk, isn’t scary, it’s exciting! Give them that! Show them how the mechanics work, how the body adapts to the stimuli, how the stretches will check the boxes needed for said movement, and next thing you know, they have the knowledge to fuel their desire to get to their goals.

Consistency 

This is two parts: Mental consistency and physical consistency.

Mental Consistency – A solid, step-by-step process will provide athletes with the feeling of stability and will help them be mentally prepared for the work ahead.

Though changing queues is a great way to learn what words really resonate with your athlete, let them know what to expect next time they come in. Tell them the broad view of what you are going to work on, but keep the details at a minimum (unless you have video tutorials you can send them as homework). Refer back to the drills of the day they accomplished, and that it will not feel much different, but will lead them in the right direction. Again, this will keep their anxiety levels down, and also open up conversation about the “why”, and the importance of that is founded under #2 – Understanding.

Physical Consistency – Consistency in movement patterns will make spotting irregularities in the movements much easier to address immediately, and in addition, it will keep the athlete safer.

If an athlete’s movement patterns are inconsistent, then your faith in them staying safe should be minimal. It is important to (#1 – Safety) make sure that we have a solid baseline of all athlete’s movement patterns, their tendencies to stray from that pattern, and to be able to see when they might be so inconsistent that it could potentially lead to injury. Find that baseline movement pattern that they can perform over and over, and grow from there as slowly as necessary. Breezing through a movement from one step to another, if left unchecked, can create some terrible habits or potential for injury. Steer the athlete like you would park a boat- that once you give it throttle, even if you release the acceleration, the boat is still going to move the direction it was headed. You must take these small incremental steps to insure that your athlete is moving the right way, one tiny part of the movement at a time. Once you see something out of whack, that is where you stop and create a solid movement pattern once again.

Success 

Each successful step should be acknowledged and praised. 

The steps of success should be broken down to the smallest obtainable size, allowing the athlete to measurably and undeniably observe their own success. I like to use angles of the straight legs swinging up on toes-to-bar and show the athlete from the profile view, for example. They can see that this week their legs are rising 10 degrees higher than last week, and that’s probably due to the hamstring stretches I assigned them. Or, their kipping half pull-up is now showing the shoulders slightly higher than the elbows at the highest point, whereas last week the shoulders were even with the elbows. 

By utilizing the technology we have (phones with cameras) we can create an environment where they don’t need to believe the coach that it’s “looking better” and actually see for themselves that they are making the improvement. Too often I have seen goals like, “Your goal is to get your first kipping pull-up!”, yet, the athlete isn’t ready for a goal of that grandeur. Instead, I would like them to connect three kipping half pull-ups, because last week they could only connect two, but the mere fact that their rhythm was spot on (even though they didn’t quite get the height they wanted) was the most important part and they nailed it!

Every time they feel successful, they are proud of themselves, and with that pride, they are happy and motivated to come in the next day.

These four elements should be the goal of the day, every day, for each athlete. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but it’s worth it to see those who came to you for help, finish their day feeling a little more amazing than the moment they walked in. When this happens, you have a CHIMA, and creating or maintaining your CHIMA is what you should strive to do best.

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Mathew Colon
Mathew Colon
January 16, 2022 6:40 am

absolute great read!!