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3 Ways to Establish Boundaries With Athletes

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Last week, we sent a blog about the importance of "being a little selfish" to establish boundaries in your coaching business. 

BUT, while it's one thing to know you should set boundaries, knowing which boundaries to set is an entirely different question. 

I get it. When growing a business, you want to go above and beyond for your clients. 

You want to show your dedication to their success by being available whenever they need, working with the software and methods they are comfortable with, and you certainly don't want to turn down a potential client, even if their goals aren't quite aligned with your skillset. 

Because more clients = more money = a more successful business! Right? 


From my experience, such thinking actually leads to less success. 

A more accurate equation looks something like this: more clients = less focus = less free time = increased burnout = less value delivered to clients = less successful business. 

And I'm coming at this from direct, personal experience. 

At one point, I was in pretty much the best possible scenario for a coach. I was making well over 6-figures, I had star athletes as clients, and I was growing quickly due to positive word of mouth. 

But I was also miserable. I was working way too much and I wasn't taking time for myself. I was completely burned out and wanted to quit coaching altogether. 

My goal now is to prevent the same from happening to you. Learn from my mistakes and set boundaries sooner rather than later. 

To that end, here I will share my top 3 pieces of advice for setting healthy boundaries with your athletes. 

This advice is equally applicable to someone just getting started coaching as it is to someone who's been in the industry for 20+ years. 

My goal here is to help you save time, increase your impact, and avoid burning out like I did. I hope it helps! 

1. Control your Communication Channels 

This is perhaps the most crucial boundary in this list. 

As I said last week, if CoachNow is just another communication channel that you use in your coaching business, I'd rather you not use it at all. 

All the time, I see coaches using various channels for different use cases. E.g. Email for general communication, text/ WhatsApp for scheduling and checking in, youtube/ iCloud for sending videos, Facebook/ Social media for community, etc. 

This almost always results in a stressed out coach who never catches up with the flurry of disparate notifications. I don't want you regularly going to bed anxious, wondering if you missed a message, post, or notification. 

When this happens, you're suffering unnecessarily, making it impossible to show up as the best version of yourself for your athletes (or your friends/ family!). 

My advice? Go all-in with one channel and train your athletes to only expect communication, feedback and coaching there. 

And, when setting this boundary, never give your feedback in the wrong place. 

When making this transition, it's helpful to prepare a response in advance for when your athlete inevitably texts, emails and/or messages you in the wrong channel. 

For me that involved creating a canned response to direct them to the proper platform. E.g. "Great question! Please post this in CoachNow and I will respond there". 

Obviously, CoachNow was tailor-made for this use case. But if I'm being honest you'll still be better off picking just one channel, even if it's not ours. Whether that's WhatsApp, Email, Facebook, Slack, etc…. Pick ONE. 

Trust me, you'll thank me for it! 

2. Protect Your Time

Your time is the most valuable resource you have. To be a successful coach, and build a lifestyle you love, you need to treat it as such. 

When beginning their careers, coaches often start by first thinking about what kind of BUSINESS they want and consequently measuring success by hypothetical numbers in a spreadsheet. 

But at the ConnectedCoach Academy, we think differently. While revenue is important (after all, without revenue, you can't have a business), we measure location and time freedom, as well as overall impact, as the key metrics of success. 

In our flagship course, The ConnectedCoach Blueprint, I start by FIRST asking attendees what their ideal LIFESTYLE looks like, then I help them reverse engineerwhat that means for their business. 

The difference is subtle, but vitally important. 

It's all about what you hold fixed as the number one priority. Fact is, the decisions you make while optimizing your ideal lifestyle will differ completely from the decisions you make while only optimizing your revenue. 

To avoid burnout, it's crucial to set a clear demarcation between when you're working and when you're not. 

And don't just make it a goal in your head. Clearly communicate it to your athletes and stick to it. 

I recommend setting aside specific times in the week to review video footage, questions, and comments on your athletes' posts. Provide feedback during that set window for all of your athletes in one fell swoop. E.g. "Take advantage of our coaching feedback between 2-4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You will have to wait until then if you send me anything outside of those windows". 

Additionally, you should position your asynchronous feedback as a component of your coaching offer and set a maximum number of comments/posts you provide per week. 

Believe it or not, setting these expectations is actually a win-win for you and your athletes. You keep your sanity while encouraging your athletes to make progress even when you're not in a real-time session together. 

By clearly defining the quantity and timing of your feedback in your offer, you encourage your athletes to stay actively engaged. If they pay for this feedback and it's "use it or lose it", they will be more likely to hold themselves accountable. 

And, conversely, if you don't include specific expectations in your offer, your athletes will fall into two camps: either they will expect constant interaction (and be frustrated when they don't get it) or they will not feel comfortable asking for the feedback they need (making it more difficile for them to reach their goals). 

In 2022, avoid falling into the trap of "going above and beyond" if it means compromising your schedule. It's fine to surprise and delight here and there to show that you care, but be sure that that's the exception and not the rule.

3. Don't Coach Just Anyone 

If you try to be everything to everyone, you'll end up being nothing to no one. 

It is incredibly important to pick a lane with your business and hyper-focus on one element of coaching that you know you do extra well. 

I often make the joke that you shouldn't be the "CheeseCake Factory" of coaching. 

Cheesecake Factory's menu includes every cuisine under the sun. Don't get me wrong, their cheesecake is great and the food is all decent quality… But the reality is that no one thinks "I could really use a slice of Cheesecake Factory pizza right now". 

Sure, pizza is on the menu, but there is likely a pizzeria down the street that specializes in making just pizza. Their specialization will almost always lead to a better slice that keeps you coming back when the craving returns. 

In a similar fashion, adding specificity to your coaching programs, creates moredemand for your services, not less. Sell from a position of expertise and make your clients prove to you that they are a good fit. (For more on this topic, check out a previous blog post "Know Who You Serve (And Who You Don't)". 

If you don't set a clear boundary around who you coach, you will only add additional stress and pressure to your workload. You are doing yourself and your athletes a disservice if you try to fit a square peg into a round hole. 

Look, I get it. it's easy to fall into a scarcity mindset when acquiring new customers. 

But trust me, if you constantly bend your standards you will not struggle to make an impact and it will have a toll on your wellbeing. 

Be clear about who your coaching isn't for and stick to it.

I hope this advice is useful! 

With the new year upon us, do yourself a favor and decide what boundaries you want to set for yourself in 2022. 

If you want to share with me, please do so by responding to this email! I'd love to hear what you think. 

Here's to setting healthy boundaries in 2022 and beyond! 

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