Clickbait title, check.
Information, insight and advice that is beneficial for anyone that has had similar feelings toward their gym or coach, check.
Experience in feeling this way at different phases of my sporting career (however challenging it is to publicly admit), check.
Advice on how to understand the situation and steps to move forward in a positive way, check.
I have been a member of more gyms than I can remember. From the days of being a calorie obsessed cardio warrior to YMCA group fitness classes (Reebok slide dance aerobics fitness anyone?….), from ab circuits to Pump to boxercise to Krav Maga; from mixed netball to badminton, from Les Mills hybrid classes to weight training to Crossfit, pole dancing to Circus performance to stunt training to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, power lifting, fire performance, chord de lisse, yoga, judo, ice hockey, intro to roller derby, Lululemon community classes, jogging groups….the list is…eclectic… to say the least.
If there was a sign up sheet, yo I’d sign it. If there was an end of contract, show me how…why? Because I need to do ALL THE THINGS ALL OF THE TIME, don’t you know?
I am currently a member of three gyms. So the math is this simple: I have left almost as many gyms as I have joined. It is really not that bad, no matter how other people might choose to view it. It is really quite normal and just basic math.
Someone who is deemed as ‘loyal’ is very often someone who has just left less gyms than me. ‘Loyalty’ comes easier if life doesn’t get in the way.
But more of that later.
I have left gyms, associations and courses for so many differing reasons: completion of course, outgrowing the team/coach/course, financial restriction, location, dwindled interest, work schedule changes/conflicts, accessibility, culture (or lack thereof), budget changes, group dynamics, age, personality clashes with coach/other attendees/management, changes in wages, fees, graduation, new pursuits, new boyfriends (what? They can be distracting!…yet none are still around…. Dammit, wrong bet Jess), travel, interpersonal relationships, moving house, changing careers, change of management, change of syllabus offered, change in course direction, personal issues, personal commitments, injury, illness (my own or the coaches), misunderstandings, creeps, personal growth, loyalty, fear, bullying, end of contract, end of term, completion of course, public transport timetables, class timetable changes, management structure changes, commute time, facility location, and the super simple, because I wanted to …all of these things and more and in both positive and negative variations. Variations that were sometimes under my own control, variations that were out of my control or under the control of others.
It has always been different, never the same exact reasons twice. I have been a constant but the reasons have not. Each circumstance was unique and carefully considered, not taken lightly, yet a necessary decision for me.
Each step has been an important part of my own journey. It is part of who I am and my story as a person, as an athlete & coach.
I have paid memberships at something like 25+ gym and clubs since I was 15. I have been a paying, contract signed member of 5 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms, 4 of which are in Australia. I have been a full time staff member of 3. I have trained as a visitor, friend, traveller, ambassador, guest and supporter of countless many others.
Being a member of a gym and team is not all beer and skittles (though that would be a cool gym, where can I sign up?) and it is important that we are realistic about that fact.
Being realistic about expectations, boundaries and obligations could save both members and coaches (or management) a load of heartache, yet we rarely discuss any of these themes openly.
Some gyms (not limited to jiu jitsu here) have expected loyalty (as well as fees) from me as their member, some have expected nothing from me aside from weekly fees (& possibly occasional attendance). The experience has been wide and varied but one thing has always been consistent; the contract and monetary exchange has always been clear, the expectations of me have not, nor has it ever been clearly defined where the coaches role starts and ends. It is in these unclear areas that problems have a chance to arise.
Over the past 20+ years, navigating the waters of expectations from both my perspective as a member and my experience as a gym manager/coach has been, at times, extremely difficult and unavoidably subjective in nature. I see the same struggle in others as they begin to learn about their new found hobby or career AND the culture of the community they have become a part of, regardless of which pursuit they choose.
In the beginning a gym membership can appear to be what it is on paper, a contract. I pay you, you provide a service (or the inverse variations of). What it becomes when you are part of a team can be much, much more complicated. Expectations from all parties gather greater expectations or meaning (ever hear people refer to their team as their family?) above and beyond the basic investment of money, whether we feel this is overstepping the boundaries of our obligations or not.
For some people this situation is simple and uncomplicated and remains a clear exchange of money for service. For those of us that offer or expect more, issues can arise.
One of the issues that can cause distress and a negative experience for both members & Coaches is an unspoken yet assumed set of expectations and obligations. This set of undiscussed expectations from BOTH parties have an infinite potential to be misaligned as they have not been openly defined or discussed
….Something about assumption making an ass hat of someone or something. U and me?…yep. Thats a real thing.
I have seen first hand many problems arise due to this breakdown in communication. With a little insight into how we can carefully and mindfully open avenues of communication, these issues (and a lot of heartache) could be easily avoided.
Recently I received an email asking for advice, the letter itself covers many of the themes of a student feeling let down by their gym/coach and questioning why their coach is failing to fulfil their needs.
I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly share so you that might have the chance to gain insight that may help you (or those around you) build better relationships within your gym. To take what feels like a crisis and create opportunity. An easy way to turn the seemingly negative, into a beneficial positive.
If I knew any of this when I first started my journey would have been much smoother. Because of this, keen to share, I asked the student involved permission to publish the letter & my response here.