Assessment is arguably one of the most important aspects of the coaching process. It allows the coach to gain an understanding of where his athlete is at—and develop a plan in order to get his athlete where he or she wants to be.

We are continually assessing our clients – each day, each training session.

There’s no better time to assess progress or address movement dysfunction than right at the moment of awareness. To have eyes on a client from the moment they walk into the gym and to be a positive presence in their life outside of the gym.

This goes beyond simple movement cues during a workout. A coach should be aware of each client’s unique athletic characteristics and how to address them.

This is why Focus athletes are continually making progress in the gym, and in life – because we care.

An assessment questionnaire; bi-annual goal evaluations; verbal check-ins to see how they are feeling; and written feedback – we use several tools to validate our client’s progress. But far too often, coaches don’t do assessments.

What does your assessment process look like for your athletes and clients? Do you even have one?

Generally speaking, there are many ways to assess clients, but a lack of awareness for how your athletes are moving and feeling, and the potential for dysfunction or underlying weaknesses and pain, means you’re missing something.

Specifically speaking, many coaches don’t know how to look at someone and know what’s going on.

I use a complex system of data gathering in order to put a client on the right training path: we talk. We talk about his lifestyle, health history, athletic background, goals, injuries, etc. And I listen. Then I file that information away for easy access.

Gathering data doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be a priority.

Awareness for each client’s personal history and movement characteristics allows me to address his fitness needs within the context of our group training program. This knowledge allows for inclusion through progression rather than isolation due to limitation.

Watching someone move can also tell you a lot about someone’s athletic potential or pathology.

When evaluating movement, I look at movement patterns rather than individual muscles. I ask: Can they move pain free? Does the individual have good body awareness? Is there a history of immobility? Is their issue one of mobility or stability? Do they move well enough to begin training or do I need to incorporate modifications to their workouts? It’s important for a coach to know how to address this stuff.

For example, say you have an athlete that complains of chronic shoulder pain but has no problem pressing heavy weight overhead. Is the pain a byproduct of a mobility issue or trauma? Do you limit their pressing activity or focus on improving technique? Are they simply compensating for an underlying issue?

The point I’m making here is that before injecting someone into a training program, you should know what you’re working with. Understanding the fundamental principles of movement allows you as a coach to develop an objective perspective on each athlete’s unique characteristics.

Assess or Guess?

Assessment is actually an ongoing process coaches should be utilizing on a regular basis.

A thorough assessment puts the coach and athlete on the right path. Integrate proper movement patterns with your athletes from the start, understanding the process each client uses to learn new techniques and patiently guide them through that process, and learn how to communicate in a way that gets a favorable response.

The long-term success of our clients and athletes is very important to us.

Our definition of coaching isn’t simply reviewing the workouts and starting the timer. Knowing each athlete allows us to tailor instruction to his limitations and strengths to maximize progress and reduce the chance for injury. Utilizing each assessment opportunity feeds our knowledge so we can help our athletes progress. And in turn, we can celebrate the excitement of their PRs with them.