A successful coach or trainer needs emotional intelligence


Personal trainers for beginners first need a training certificate and a high school diploma to successfully find a job.

However, coaching as a career path requires something more – Emotional Intelligence (EI). According to Columbia University’s Melinda Abbott, 1 49% or more of successful coaching relies on a coach’s ability to monopolize emotional intelligence. In addition, the ability to connect on a social level has been shown to increase the motivation and effectiveness of teaching.

The bottom line is that a coach should focus a significant amount of their time on exercise psychology.

The advantages of conscious coaching

A well-known coach, Brett Bartholomew, brings up the importance of understanding the types of people you are coaching in his book Conscious Coaching 2. Recently, there has been increasing evidence of how to understand personality types for professional success in the workplace and academic performance training

However, this is also becoming increasingly important in the sports sector. As Mark Rippetoe points out in his book, Hands-on Programming for Strength Training 3, a strength coach will spend more time with an athlete during their career than any other coach. Therefore, knowing your athlete or client is of the utmost importance

Focus less on re-counting and more on the client’s needs and know when to refer them.

Trainers are not licensed as psychiatrists or doctors (unless one holds that title); However, understanding how EI is applied to a customer’s lifetime requires some explanation.

EI is a type of social intelligence that includes the ability to monitor one’s own emotions and those of others, to discriminate between them and to use the information to direct one’s thoughts and actions, according to Salovey & Mayer, 1990.

In the context of coaching, this first requires an understanding of how a person approaches instruction, how to deal with failure, success, plateaus and their interaction with diet and general personal wellbeing.3,4,5,6

Emotional intelligence in coaching creates trust

One of my sessions consisted of six minutes in which a client discussed their problems the day before the mobility work and isometric exercises. EI enables the customer to feel comfortable and to build trust.

Without trust, a customer is unlikely to follow directions and the customer comes first.

You can get a Ph.D. in biophysics, but the client might care less; Her main areas are:

  1. Achieving the intended results
  2. I feel valued

Those six minutes for my client made the rest of her day much more enjoyable and she will be looking forward to her next session.

As a coach, graduation makes it easier to read blood counts and discussion with a client’s doctor becomes more insightful. The customer learns that you care beyond the aspect of the job. This creates buy-in. 2

It is more likely that this customer will refer others to you and take more engaging training.

Another client quickly learned that their wellbeing in and out of the competition is most important. At a time like COVID-19, customers are much more reluctant to engage with their coach, let alone buy high-fidelity coaching programs.

When clients come back, it’s far more important to meet mental health needs with the same vigor as a premium program or nutrition plan.

Athletes in particular faced with an interruption in events or an entire season may feel displaced without a coach leading them.

Contrary to popular belief, athletes often suffer from more mental illnesses than the average athlete.

In addition, they are less likely to seek advice on mental health issues.

As a trainer, it is required that red flags in normal functioning are recognized sooner rather than later and that your gym or office is a safe place. Proper establishment of emotional intelligence improves client outcomes. 7


1. Abbott, Melinda. “Qualities of a successful personal trainer.” PhD theses, Columbia University / Academic Commons, 2018.

2. Bartholomew, B., Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In. Bartholomew Strength, LLC. 2017, p. 286.

3. Rippetoe, M., Kilgore, L. & Bradford, SE Practical Programming for Strength Training, Aasgaard Company. 2006. Vol. 222.

4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Job Prospect Guide, Fitness Instructor, and Instructor (visited January 13, 2021).

5. Richard C. Thelwell, Andrew M. Lane, Neil JV Weston, and Iain A. Greenlees, “Exploring the Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence and Coaching Effectiveness.” International journal for sport and movement psychology. 2008.6: 2.224-235.

6. John D. Mayer, Peter Salovey, “The Intelligence of Emotional Intelligence.” Intelligence, Volume 17, Issue 4, 1993, 433-442.

7. Scott B. Martin, (2005) “Attitudes of High School and College Athletes to Sport Psychology Counseling,” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 17: 2, 127-139.