What Alice Cooper being shot out of a cannon can teach us about coach/client relationships

Since I became a personal trainer in 2009, I’ve been asked many times “what type of people do you most like to train?” For a year or two, I would typically say some basic-bitch shit like “people who want to work hard”. That’s earth shattering insight right there folks. Then, in 2011, I had this conversation with a new trainer at the club I was working at, and it randomly kind of changed my mindset toward my career.

Bro Dude McGee: Man, I really want to work with pro athletes!!! Who do you typically like as clients?

Me: Uhhhhhh hmmmmmm, I guess I like training people who trust me. As long as that’s in check we typically do some really good things together.

BDM: Ohhhhhhh, yeah I guess that’s good. (Continues talking about how badass of a high school football player he was.)

5ish years later, and that’s the exact same way I would answer that question, Mr. McGee asked me half a decade ago. Since then, I’ve read countless books on self development, improved my skill set through continuing education, and have just done a shit ton of personal training sessions. Every time it seems that when a person who I’m working with really trusts me, we accomplish some great things together. Randomly while listening to an episode of The Art of Charm Podcast, this idea of the importance of trust between client and coaches (in this case manager and rock star) was confirmed in a peculiar event.

In the early 1970s, Alice Cooper booked a show at Three River Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA. This would be the first time Cooper would play a baseball stadium, and he was trying to brainstorm a way to make this event extra special and to make sure he would be able to sellout the 50,000 seat arena. One day Alice’s long time manager Shep Gordon (who I think will be the most quoted man on the internet in 2017), blurted out “let’s shoot you out of a cannon”. Alice Cooper being Alice Cooper, simply responded with “Ok”. Two days before the Three Rivers show, Alice and Shep tested out their custom built cannon at a show in Lansing, MI.. The trick with this stunt was Alice would enter the cannon, but then go below the stage in a motorized cart in which he would ride across the arena. While Alice is on this cart, a dummy would be shot out of the cannon into a net across the arena. Lights would go off, smoke would be everywhere, lots of loud noises, and then Alice would jump out of the net (that he would ride to in his cart) and everyone would be going ape shit… there’s only one problem, actually, there might of been a lot of them.

While testing this out, Alice got out from under the stage and asked Shep, “How’d it look???” To which Shep responded “it was the worst thing ever”. The dummy that was supposed to fly across the arena to the net that Alice would then pull the ol’ switcheroo with, only traveled about a foot. Don’t worry though, folks, Shep came up with a plan B. Plan B would be Alice riding the cannon, and simulate masturbating with the cannon playing the role of Alice’s penis. Then, when Alice would “finish” he would be shot across the stadium via a mixture of fire extinguisher exhaust and foam as a makeshift semen concoction. So they try this, and it works even worse than the dummy. To hear how Shep eventually resolved this situation, check out Shep’s episode of the Art of Charm.

To me, the big takeaway from this story was despite these failures, Shep and Alice never argued with each other. Yelling at each other and being passive aggressive would have been a waste of energy. Shep and Alice weren’t afraid of failing because they knew that they would have to fail sometimes to get to something creative and successful. They trusted each other and communicated even when the biggest show of Alice’s career looked like it could be ruined days before it took place.

This story made me think about when I first started training. If a client came up to me and said something like “Hey Thomas, I haven’t really lost weight lately.” I would immediately shoot back something like “Well what’s your diet been like???” Or “Have you been working out on your own at ALL?” Now I thought at the time, probably like most young trainers who respond to this statement from their clients in similar ways,  that I was asking the client these questions out of caring for them. However, it most likely stems from being defensive over your own skills set. It also totally took away any of the team atmosphere in the relationship because you’re now putting all the blame on what they didn’t do when they see you, when maybe you just need to program for that person a little differently.

In January, I had something like this happen, but I handled it completely differently. A client I hadn’t seen in 6 weeks came back from vacation and said “I went to the doctor yesterday and I’ve gained 10 pounds since November! You need to do something about this!” Now I could have obviously asked him if he worked out, or gave half a fuck about what he was eating the last 6 weeks, but that would have just caused a bigger rift between us. I knew he was obviously mad at himself for his habits the last 6 weeks. So instead of asking any of those questions I said “Oh ok, let’s do this week of programming I had planned, and we’ll chat a little bit on some ideas you feel can help you accomplish your goals at the end of each session. Do you feel like that would be a good plan for you this week?” We chatted that week, he started doing some cardiac output, read Georgie Fear’s “Lean Habits” book, and prioritized getting as much sleep at night as possible. A couple of months later he lost 24 pounds and felt less stressed in general. Of course, he also told me like 3 weeks into this plan that he was eating like shit the entire time he was on vacation and didn’t workout once. I totally knew, but I also knew if I had thrown in it his face it probably would have taken me longer to gain his trust.

So coaches, remember when clients come to you asking questions about a lack of results of any variety, try not to get threatened by this. Just talk to them as humans, ask them some questions, and then form a plan together. And to people looking to hire a coach for anything; maybe all of the acronyms behind their names, testimonial pics, and their super high PRs really don’t matter as much as you think. Maybe all you need to reach your goals is someone you can trust, and communicate with ….even if they want to shoot you out of a cannon 🙂

Good Journey,



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