If you have never experienced an unpleasant interaction with a student in your indoor cycling class you’re either very lucky, you live in a utopian society or you just started teaching. At some point in your role as an instructor you’re going to have a run-in with someone.
Though it won’t make the encounter any more pleasant, remember that in many cases the issue has very little to do with you. A student may arrive already frustrated over something personal, a problem at work or an unpleasant traffic incident, ripe for a brawl. And there you are with that smile on your face.
Happily, there are a number of things you can do to simultaneously lower the likelihood of conflict and make things smoother for you and your students, new or experienced.
When the inevitable occurs, honestly assess the skirmish. Growth comes from a willingness to evaluate our leadership style and how we interact when the going gets unpleasant. Unhappy students come with the job, and most of us will contend with at least one disgruntled participant. Handling the situation tactfully minimizes the damage to egos, property and reputations. And you can console yourself with the knowledge that you behaved as gracefully as could be expected under the circumstances.
The best way to handle conflict is to head it off before it starts and that doesn’t require ESP. Establish shared expectations with club management and with your students by creating written, clear policies for your program. Remind your management that written rules make it easier for new participants to feel part of the group—they know what to expect and what’s expected of them and help keep everybody in line.
Post attractive policy posters in the cycling and locker rooms and other conspicuous locations.
If your facility doesn’t have written guidelines about member and instructor behavior, meet with the club manager or group fitness director to draft them. Policies should be very specific and, at the very least, should comprise: