Starting a Mentoring Program
By Bob Rebach
you’ve heard that providing a mentor to new instructors can strengthen
and unify your staff and program. Or you might have heard that, with a
mentor’s help, training and acclimating instructors new to your
facility will be faster and smoother. Well, those things are true. So
if at any time you’ve wondered how you can start a program at your
facility, here are the steps to follow:
Decide why you want a mentor program.
Your program can be formal or informal. A formal program has mandatory
participation; an informal program is voluntary. Some flexibility is
also possible; your program could be mandatory for some and voluntary
program can focus on training just the newly hired, newly certified
instructor, or it can be for any instructor new to your facility,
regardless of experience. The program can also be used as a way for
prospective instructors, of any experience level, to get a place on
your substitutes list, as most clubs look to their subs when filling
instructor openings. Whatever decision you make, it’s important to
remember the goal of the program is to integrate new instructors into
proceeding to the next step, it is import to make sure you have the
backing and support of the club’s ownership or management. This is an
essential ingredient for a successful program. If you’ve decided why
you want a mentoring program, you probably have put enough time into
the framework of your program to make a presentation of your idea. If
you approach your owner or manager before you’ve completed the first
step, you may get approval, but you may also get a lot of questions
that you don’t have answer for yet.
Evaluate your instructors.
Before you can start mentoring new instructors, you need to know what’s
going on with your current instructors. Find out what’s going on in
your classes. The time to weed out bad practices is before you start a
mentoring program. What are the instructors doing and a saying to the
members? If, as the program manager, you aren’t a certified Spinning®
instructor, you should get certified so that you know how the program
is supposed to be run.
instructor evaluations are something you are already doing on a regular
basis anyway, but if you aren’t, now is the time to start. Use the Spinning Instructor Performance Review to evaluate the important health, safety and motivational qualities that make a great instructor.
Create a program manual that spells out what is expected of your instructors.
Cover the skills an instructor needs to master and policies specific to
your facility. Include a schedule for mentor/mentee training and a
timetable for completing the program. Everyone involved should know the
objective of the program. Mentoring is not a replication of Spinning
Instructor Orientation; rather it is a way to help the new instructor
learn how to implement the program in actual classroom situations.
Pick your mentors.
Being a mentor should be voluntary. Not everyone wants to mentor and
not everyone does it well. Just because someone is experienced and
knowledgeable does not mean that they will be a good mentor.
makes a good mentor? A mentor should be someone that a new instructor
can relate to easily. Look for people who are effective at
communicating with a number of different personality types. People who
are generally open to helping others are better candidates than those
who like to gripe and complain. The ideal mentor is someone who is well
respected at your facility by members as well as other instructors.
it should go without saying, I’ll say it anyway, mentors should be well
versed in the Spinning program, especially in the area of
contraindicated behavior. Mentors should also know club policy for
disruptive members in class, such as late comers to class, talkers,
members who wear mp3 players and anything else that might pop up. A
mentor should not be the direct supervisor of their mentee.
Match mentor and mentee.
Take into consideration factors such as age and experience when pairing
people. It might be fine for the twenty-something person to mentor an
entry-level employee. However, being paired with a twenty-something
might be awkward for an experienced instructor new to your facility.
The actual age difference of the employees might be irrelevant, but
disparity in life experience could hinder the effectiveness of the
relationship. Mentors should be mindful that the relationship is
primarily for the mentee’s benefit. If the mentee is uncomfortable or
doesn’t feel that the mentor is meeting their needs, an option to find
a new mentor should be available.
How it might work.
This is just one example of how a mentoring program can be implemented.
The specifics of each clubs’ program will vary depending on the club’s
small club decides to start a mentor program that all new instructors
hired will go through. The club will need only two or three mentors
because they may only have one or two new instructors at any given time.
are told they must attend at least one class per week taught by their
mentor. Mentor and mentee must meet after class for a question and
answer session, and once during the week so the mentee can watch the
mentor build a profile for the next week’s class. This meeting should
include putting the music to the profile and could include how to use
mixing software. In addition, the club requires mentees to take
additional classes with other instructors to get more saddle time. The
club decides that this observational period should last at least six
the observational period, mentor and mentee co-teach one class a week
for a month. With each class, the mentee takes over more and more.
After each class, the mentor and mentee meet to discuss the class.
During this time, the mentee should build the profile for the
co-teaching classes with the supervision of the mentor. After a month
of co-teaching, the mentor should have a feel for whether the mentee is
ready to teach solo. If the mentee is ready, the mentor should sit in
on the classes, but sit in the back of the room. When the mentor is
satisfied that the mentee is ready, he or she must audition with the
the mentee isn’t ready to teach solo, there are a couple of
intermediary steps the mentor can take. The mentor can put together a
mock class, made up of instructors or experienced members. Another
option is for the mentee to teach a class just for the mentor. This
allows the mentor to address any issue during the course of the class.
The last option is to return to co-teaching until the mentee feels they
are ready to solo.
mentor/mentee relationship will probably last beyond the structure of
your program, but the program ends officially when the mentee becomes a
solo instructor. At the end of the program, the mentor and mentee
should fill out an evaluation of the program to gauge how the program
fulfills the participants’ needs.