Instructor Spotlight: Jackie Maniscalco Embodies Authentic Leadership

Amidst the growth and changes in our industry—the good, the bad, and oftentimes contraindicated—there remains a consensus dynamic among members of the Indoor Cycling Association: the vital role of the coach. The dreamer. The leader. The encourager. The instructor. The transporter that rides in front of each class.

For ICA member Jackie Maniscalco, this is the position of responsibility she never tires from entering—taking one piece of equipment and adding a few variables to create safe, effective, dynamic exercise options for everyone to enjoy.

Prior to becoming a certified instructor eight years ago, Jackie stumbled upon a “transporter” coach at her local gym who possessed an amazing ability to lead his riders to completely disconnect from the outside world. He inspired them to engage in hard work and have fun while taking his classes. “He was extremely motivating and garnered quite a following,” she said. “In fact, when we moved, I drove nearly an hour each way to take his class.” He was simply that good.

During one of her lengthy commutes to class, Jackie began to question, “Could I do this?” and even, “Could I do this better?”

Years later, with 200-plus ride profiles under her belt, I asked Jackie what made her a “better” coach, or what would make a good coach great? “For instructors and those who are considering teaching,” she replied, “I hope they understand instruction is about being a leader who is prepared and authentic in communication and delivery. It’s not simply about music and the movements applied to it.”

Her reply instantly reminded me of one of my favorite books on organizational management, Good to Great, by Jim Collins. He attributes authentic leadership to having three characteristics:

  • Authentic Presence
  • Skillful Communications
  • Effective Action

Jackie embodies all three of these.

Authentic Presence

“I’m NOT an outdoor rider! Everything I know I learned from Jennifer Sage!” Jackie was quick to confess. As a seasoned coach, she knows her strengths lie outside of the foundation building and writing of class profiles. Over the years, she has relied heavily on ICA’s online resources for her ride experiences. “The profiles have made me look really good—participants appreciate a profile with a defined purpose based on real cycling principles, not a bunch of random drills.”

She leads some of the best outdoor riders at her club, despite lacking real riding experiences. Recently, while winding down after an intense class, one of her riders, an Ironman triathlete in training, spoke up and declared, “You are the only instructor here that knows anything about riding!”

Jackie’s admission to not being an outdoor rider has actually enhanced her credibility as an indoor cycling coach. It is her authentic presence. Rather than chosing to be defensive (as some inexperienced coaches might do), she accepted the greater responsibility to invest and learn as much as possible about real riding. Conference and workshop participation (as in the WSSC photo below), online continuing education courses, and numerous ICA articles keep her up to date on the latest coaching styles, techniques, and industry news.

Jackie M at WSSC 2010

Indoor cycling is much like a recipe for her. Starting with the foundation (the profile), she mixes in her own musical ingredients and tops it off with personal motivation and individual flair. Jackie would never expect her riders to complete a ride she has not first done herself. Referring to her bike located in her garage, she says, “I don’t take any ride into the studio that I have not practiced myself.”

Skillful Communication

This characteristic helps establish trust with Jackie’s riders and fosters a highly committed community. A regular participant, Marc, wrote about Jackie’s teaching skills, “You put yourself in the rider’s place as you convey instructions—one of the essentials to effective communication at any level…too many instructors…merely move their mouth and lips with little if any engagement of the brain or the heart. As participants in the class, we know YOU are with us.”

By explaining the purpose of each class within the first few minutes, Jackie shows riders that she is committed to them. Her preparedness becomes the motivating factor for her riders to push even harder. And when the ride approaches difficult situations, her use of humor and lightheartedness helps reduce the challenges found within the profiles.

A very pregnant Jackie teaches a special theme ride!
A very pregnant Jackie teaches a special theme ride!

Effective Actions

In the book Good to Great, Collins confirms that complete engagement of the authentic presence and skillful communication brings about effective actions. These actions are both strategic and empathetic. The strategic coach plans and prepares for a Race Day profile. The empathetic coach recognizes the three new riders who walked in on a class that far exceeds their abilities!

Faced with this exact scenario, Jackie knew exactly what to do.

After explaining bike setup and operations to the three NBOBBs (never-been-on-a-bike-before), Jackie left her bike several times throughout the Race Day class to check on their condition and provide personal encouragement.

After class, one of her strongest riders affirmed her coaching skills and told her as he exited the studio, “I would be really nervous if that was my first time in your class, but you made them feel very welcome!”

Empathetic coaches consider “who” first, and then “what.” They place the abilities of their riders before their own ego. These are the leaders who deliver superior classes and move beyond good to great.

When asked to write a paragraph about inspiration for her club, Jackie decided to turn it around and pose the question to her own students. She asked them to submit a comment about her passion and inspiration in her classes. Jackie was so moved by the responses, she put them into this video. I think you’ll agree that her influence on her cycling community is profound.

[video_player type=”url” url1=”” url2=”” width=”560″ height=”315″ align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″]aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuaW5kb29yY3ljbGluZ2Fzc29jaWF0aW9uLmNvbS93cC1jb250ZW50L3VwbG9hZHMvMjAxNS8xMi9JbnNwaXJhdGlvbi5tcDQ=[/video_player]

How about you? How about me? As 2015 draws to a close, there’s no better time for each of us to reflect and evaluate our coaching abilities. Perhaps it’s a good time to ask our riders how we have brought inspiration to their lives over the past year. Their answers would probably surprise each of us.

Jackie teaches at a large chain in the suburban Philadelphia area. You can see from the top photo, she is a fun-loving person!



  1. JACKIE, OMG I just put 2 and 2 together. I have been an ICA member for years. Best site ever. I recently read an article A Blow to Your Core and I was looking who wrote it and said hey this is Jackie from Fort Washington Life Time and the BEST Power Cycle Instructor I have come across. I loved the article and this article was awesome and inspiring… brought tears to my eyes. I need to get to another class of yours! Lynda 🙂

  2. Jackie, thank you for being an inspiration both inside and outside the spin studio! So happy to know you!

    1. Anna, likewise. I’m happy to introduce you to ICA 🙂

  3. I’m lucky enough to know and work with Jackie as a fellow instructor. Bill’s article captures her perfectly! She is an inspiration and a great leader. We’ve shared our ICA philosophy for years, and she’s also been kind of enough to share her equipment when i needed help! Thanks for all you do Jackie!

    1. Michelle, thanks for the kind words! I love our calls/emails/texts about profiles. If our students only knew!

  4. I love the inspiration stories. So well deserved Jackie! You go girl!!

    1. Thanks Val M 🙂

  5. Awesome highlight for an awesome lady!

    1. Thank you Steve!

  6. Congratulations, Jackie. You sound like an amazing instructor. Keep it going!!

    1. Bill, I read your inspiring story recently. Thank you for the kind words!

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