Have you ever been a substitute instructor for a last minute replacement? Were you replacing a really loved instructor? You were for sure, right?
Then you know how tough the crowd can be as they are “disappointed” not seeing their familiar instructor. And that is understandable.
So what can and should you do about that?
It is a thin line between apologizing for ‘not being’ the regular instructor (Please don’t do this!) and trying to do more than just teach a really nice ride.
Here is how i start a last minute substitution sometimes: “Hey guys , my name is Peter, i am sure you guys were looking forward to seeing your usual instructor. So let me see what i can do to honour the work s/he has been doing with you all”. A comment in this line always seems to lighten the atmosphere.
The key aspects of subbing in my opinion are:
- Being prepared for a new group. If possible, go to the club or even the class of this instructor the week before. Learn more about the people. Seeing them will give you a very accurate idea of their experience and fitness levels, their focus levels, etc. Of course you might not have the time to do this. In that case i would call the usual instructor and let her/him speak a bit about the group you will be coaching. He/she will indicate things such as the general level of fitness, what they like or not and also which people need some special attention, or the opposite, the ones liking more private space.
Don’t forget to get informed about WHO you will be riding with!
- Showing up 15’ early in the studio. This way you get sound and light up and running and you can start the class in a very calm manner. Moreover, you can welcome students as they walk in. Please introduce yourself one-to-one as much as possible.
- Being spontaneous from the first second with the students. Just walk in and start teaching like YOU really are. No need to try and do something the other instructor might have done. I see so many instructors subbing making this mistake. Just talk as you would do in a familiar atmosphere!
- Being respectful towards the usual instructor (like the example given above). They like this person remember, and s/he created a nice group of students which is why you are there today. This means you do not criticize your colleague, EVER! (read on, this is a tricky one!)
This is something i have seen happen so many times in 17 years. Don’t even go there when some students come to you after the class and tell you how you were so brilliant and how the club should make you teach the class from now on. Just thank the students for their nice words and tell them you are grateful they liked the class. If you are looking for some more classes to teach, be assured that good feedback will make it to the right ears and before you know it, you will have to choose which hours to take and which ones are not possible.
“So what if the regular instructor teaches other Indoor cycling Programs? Can i make a comment about that?”
My answer would be: “Thank you that you like this Spinning® class so much. I became a Spinning® instructor because i love the Program and because i DO believe it is by far the best way to train on an indoor cycle. I am glad we seem to share the same opinion on it!”
And here comes the most tricky one:
“The instructor i am subbing for is teaching classes filled with contra-indicated movements. Surely i should defend our program by saying how bad this is!”
Here is my answer for this one. (I must admit my reaction grew to the one you’ll read below over the years, because at first i wanted to tell everyone, including the other instructor, that this was so wrong. (Sidenote) When i first started teaching Spinning®, there was hardly any authentic Spinning® in the city, so there were contra-indicated movements in almost all of the classes.)
Answer: Tell the students about how the Spinning® program has its roots in outdoor cycling. Hence we teach cycling training. And that is why all these movements you will see on the bike (using weights, push ups, unrealistic cadences, …) simply are inexistent in the Spinning® Program. We bring the bike indoor! And yes you can make the remark that most of these movements are inefficient or even unsafe. However, i urge you to not take this debate any further than that or to make it personal. Keep stating what you stand for and believe is the right way. No need to defend yourself at all! Spinning® brings science to the studio, we will deliver results with our students!
- Not trying too hard. Just teach a nice ride, use your Spinning® eye and connect with people. Get off your bike a bit more and show your availability so the students see that you are there for them.
- Staying in the studio last. Make sure all your students have walked out before you go. This way you give them the opportunity to talk to you and get to know you a bit better, ask you questions, etc.
You probably recognized a lot of these things, but i thought it could be nice to share some of my experiences with you on this topic! As a student maybe you see different parameters to this, so please tell us how you experience the substituting instructor!
Looking forward to reading your opinions on it!