Updated: 2021, May 9

A Whole New Ballgame: When An Athlete Turns Trainer

Great athletes are very motivated, skilled, & committed.

“Being relentless means demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever require of you, knowing that every time you stop, you can still do more. You must do more. The minute your mind thinks, ‘Done,’ your instincts say, ‘Next.’ The greats never stop learning.” – Tim S. Grover Relentless

A Whole New Ballgame: When An Athlete Turns Trainer
Transitioning from athlete to trainer requires significant trainer development. Shutterstock Images

Great athletes separate themselves from the pack. They work harder, stay focused, and have the confidence in their abilities to not only win but to persevere when they falter. Even by making it to the top of his or her sport, every athlete knows it doesn’t last forever.

The Transition

One opportunity that may appeal to a former athlete after their career comes to an end is to become a fitness trainer or coach. However, this may not be as smooth or as easy as one may think. Entering a new line of work puts them back to “rookie” status all over again.

As a former professional wrestler, I have gone through many eye-opening learning experiences myself on the road to becoming a full-time fitness professional. I’m a big believer in viewing mistakes and failures through the lens of learning opportunities.

Below are some common obstacles a newbie can face.

1. You have trained a certain way;

utilizing your favorite exercises, routines, and formats that you have grown to love. These have worked very well for you. However, that does not mean that these are good choices for your clients. Many trainers, not only former athletes but generally, often get stuck into their ways. Just because you love this one particular exercise, piece of equipment, etc. does not mean that it is the right choice for your client. It may be! But don’t assume. Especially when first starting up with a client, earn their trust and respect.

2. An athlete prioritizes their health, fitness, and wellness

It is their job after all! However, exercise can be only a small part of a client’s life that also consists of their job, family, etc.

For some, finding time for fitness may be a struggle in itself. What would be insignificant to a former pro is often a very serious issue to the average Joe. It would be hard to find that clients that can dedicate that same type of commitment as a professional athlete.


Finding the time to exercise may be difficult for some clients. Shutterstock Images

3. Successful athletes are habitual

They can stay disciplined and focus as they keep their eye on the prize. These specific characteristics, along with many others, are not nearly as evident in the typical gym goer. You can start to question yourself and your clients:

  • “My client canceled another session. I thought they wanted to lose weight!”
  • “Did my client tell me they drank too much last night? I thought they were dedicated?!”
  • “Why can’t my client just stay focused during their session?”
  • “I’ve instructed my client to foam roll before every session, and they often forget. Why can’t he follow the plan?”

These are examples of why an initial assessment is very important to meet the client where they are. Be empathetic and try to find the biggest rocks: Is it nutrition? Commitment? Over training? Scheduling? If the trainer doesn’t address the underlying issues, they will continue to fight a frustrating uphill battle.

4. Athletes understand the importance of preparation

They put in work that allows them to excel for a particular event or season. Many clients simply want to look better, feel better, and move better. This is a completely different mentality than getting someone ready for one particular day or a season.

A big mistake with any client is not defining a specific goal. FYI – there is ALWAYS a goal, even concerning those clients that say, “Well, I don’t have any goals.” You’ll need to dig a little, but you will ultimately find that individual to have still something they want to get out of training.

Personal Trainer

You should be confident in your abilities and qualifications as a fitness trainer. Shutterstock Images

5. An athlete focuses on specific skill sets that allow them to be on top

It is easy for them to realize that if they do not have these skills, then they can’t do their job optimally. Entering the fitness industry as a trainer, there is always updated and new information coming out that could add valuable tools to their toolbox[1].

These athletes should play to their strengths and improve their weak links by going out there and watching a wide range of presenters (even those that contradict each other), attending conferences, staying up on the latest research, and quite possibly and most importantly, finding a mentor. Just as that athlete probably had a veteran help them like a rookie, the same holds here.

There are so many great techniques, pieces of equipment, and certifications out there that the former athlete has probably never been exposed to. For me, my training method is a combination of about 15 different mentors I’ve had along the way and a plethora of seminars and workshops I’ve attended. I’ve been about to take bits and pieces from all of these people and workshops and incorporate them into my training programs.

A Whole New World

Now, this is also not to say that being a former athlete does not have its advantages when it comes to training clients. Attention to detail, motivation, timely, and respectful are just some of the traits where an athlete will subconsciously excel at based on their past experiences.

High-level athletes are a special breed. They get paid a lot of money to play a sport. All roads in their life drive them to get to the top of their sport and staying there. They need to bring these same traits to their new job by having a right attitude, being open to learning, and having the passion and drive to work their way up this new job ladder.

Just like their sports career had highs and lows, significant moments and defining moments, jumping down that the training rabbit hole will bring about more of the same.

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Giovanni Roselli

Giovanni Roselli, owner, and operator of Roselli Health & Fitness LLC is a nationally recognized fitness coach, author, and presenter.

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