“BE SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU”
by Sarah Shortt
Hi Tash! You’re a woman of many talents: Presenter, Trainer AND Group Fitness Manager (GFM) for LES MILLS GRIT™, LES MILLS CONQUER™* and CEREMONY™* at Les Mills Auckland City. I’d love to know the best and worst things about being a Group Fitness Manager?
The best thing is being able to recruit and develop Instructors and follow them through their journey. When you get to fully develop the potential of someone, it’s just awesome. The other great part is that you’re naturally surrounded by very energetic people! It’s a very sociable environment where you get to catch up with Instructors after their classes and check in on how they’re going. Working with like-minded people makes it easier to build a championship-winning team.
The worst part is when you get reminded that the club is a business, and that means there’s a lot of eyes on the class numbers and the timetable. Sometimes I have to make tough calls to take people off classes because that timeslot is underperforming. That’s definitely the hardest thing. There’s a lot of pressure because Les Mills Auckland City is our flagship club and there are high expectations as a result.
And for all of us who want to have a great relationship with our GFM or club manager, what’s your advice?
It’s more than just showing up for your timeslot. It’s about being consistent in your teaching and being engaged not only in your program, but also with your fellow Instructors. The people I want in my team are those who are not just reliable, but also bring energy into the club. They’re well-connected and friendly with everyone on the team.
I’d also say: do the work and leave your baggage at the door. Prep your class, know your stuff, but you also need be able to perform no matter what else is going on. You can always tell those Instructors who bring their problems into the studio. Even if you’re having a terrible day, you need to be able to leave it at the door, light up the class, and then go back to whatever it is afterwards. If you can 100 per cent say that you’re doing your best to show up and give people an incredible experience, then every class should feel like your best class.
How did you get started on your Instructor journey?
I was working in the Member Services Team at Les Mills Auckland City and was going to the GRIT lunchtime classes, and funnily enough, Sarah Shortt came up to me and asked me if I wanted to be in the GRIT filming audience, haha! I don’t know if you remember that, but you said you guys needed an audience and you added me to the GRIT 13 filming. At that stage I had no idea about what filming entailed or how big Les Mills was as a brand.
It all started from there really. At the filming, Les Mills Junior asked if I was an Instructor and if I’d like to consider teaching. I subsequently did Initial Module Training and then I went to work at Les Mills New Lynn, where Tauvaga Siolo was working as GFM. He was like: “Yo, you’ve done module, let’s get you teaching.” He became my mentor.
So how did you progress from being a new GRIT Coach to presenting on Masterclass?
The team at Les Mills International (LMI) were looking for new Presenter talent, and they asked me and another new coach, TJ, to shadow on GRIT 15. I went along to all the filming rehearsals and then TJ and I were asked to teach a full class at Les Mills Auckland City. I’d only just taught my first class ever at New Lynn so, to be honest, I had no idea what was happening. We taught the class with all the creative team from LMI watching us. We didn’t realise at the time, but they were assessing us to see if we could be Presenters. We were so new and fresh; we just didn’t have a clue and the class was terrible.
Were you given any feedback from the team?
Yes. I was told that I was disappointing, and not at the level they’d hoped for me to be.
Wow that’s super tough. How did you move on from that?
In a way, it was good that I was so new and naïve. I didn’t realise that I had missed my opportunity to be a Presenter. So initially it didn’t hit me that hard. I just went out to New Lynn and got on with teaching out there.
But after maybe six months, when I started to realise what I’d lost out on, I started to get a real fear around being “disappointing”. The word became a real trigger for me. Tauvaga was mentoring me and he was helping me deal with that, and at the same time he was in contact with the team at LMI and he told them I was getting better and worth looking at again.
When I had first started teaching at New Lynn, I would probably get about four people in my class, on average. But as I got better, my numbers increased until I was getting over 30. Exactly a year after I had taught that class at Auckland City, I got an email from LMI asking me to send in a video of my teaching. They saw my improvement and from there I got invited to present on GRIT 20, with Tauvaga. He held my hand throughout that whole filming week and supported me. But yeah, it did take a while for me to fully realise the impact of that first experience.
How did it feel to go back and teach in front of the team, after you had been knocked back the first time?
Once I realised that I might have another chance to become a Presenter, that’s when the doubts crept in. I started to think, oh no, they already don’t like me. They already have this image of me as being disappointing. I’m not really an emotional person, but it was scary to think that I would be judged again and told again that I wasn’t good enough.
But I was able to tell myself: it’s fine. You’re still learning and still developing. Even if I wasn’t there yet, I knew I would get better. I was able to turn the word “disappointing” into “developing”. Instead of letting others tell me that I wasn’t good enough, it was okay for me to just be like ‘No, I’ll get there.’
I’m sure many Instructors would love to emulate your success. What advice would you give to teachers who hope to carve out a similar path?
There’s a quote I love: “The quality of your practice determines the calibre of your performance.” [Robin S. Sharma]
A lot of people want to progress without doing the work, and I see that as a GFM. If you want the opportunities, you need to be doing that extra work behind the scenes to earn them.
When I was having my doubts about trying out for a second time with LMI, because I thought they already had a negative impression of me, Tauvaga gave me some great advice: “Be so damn good they can’t ignore you.” That really stuck. That was six years ago now, and I still swear by it.
What has teaching done for you, personally?
I used to be super socially anxious. I couldn't talk to people or make eye contact. I was really bad at talking to new people; I’d go very quiet.
At home, I’d be fine, but then as soon as I went outside of my comfort zone, I couldn’t talk. I’d just nervously laugh and giggle for no reason. It really frustrated me because I knew who I was at home, but I was just too shy to talk to new people in other situations. Teaching helped me get over that.
What’s been the biggest challenge of your teaching career?
Self-doubt. It’s very easy to get caught up inside your head like, ‘Oh no, I don’t deserve this opportunity or – they’re going to think I’m disappointing.’ Meeting other people’s expectations has been the hardest part of my journey.
I always just come back to trusting the process. Even if I’m not there yet, I’m confident of the work I put in behind the scenes. It’s the same with any new skill: stick with it and eventually it will seep into your subconscious. One day you’ll be teaching without having to think about your performance or coaching because it will come naturally. It’s just time, and practice.
How do you relax when you’re not teaching or at work?
I’m a big homebody. I love being at home with my partner and our dog. I love playing games, like zoning out to Sudoku on my phone or playing car races on PlayStation. My absolute dream date is to go to the movies with a Starbucks Frappuccino and popcorn. I like a good laugh, so I love rom coms; anything but horror. I’m petrified of horror movies. They’ll play with my mind and I’ll have to sleep with the light on.
*LES MILLS CONQUER and LES MILLS CEREMONY are programs being trialled exclusively in New Zealand.
Natasha Vincent is a BODYCOMBAT and LES MILLS GRIT Trainer/Presenter and a CEREMONY and LES MILLS CONQUER Instructor. She is based in Auckland where she is the Group Fitness Manager at Les Mills Auckland City for LES MILLS GRIT, LES MILLS CONQUER and CEREMONY.