ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Like so many coaches, Kyle Ulmer is dedicated to getting the most out of his athletes.
"Can you salute," he asks Roby, one of the sea lions.
Animals that obviously respect him, but occasionally talk back.
"What's pretty neat about our jobs is they all have different personalities," said Ulmer, zoological manager of pinnipeds at the St. Louis Zoo.
And just like us, they learn at different rates, so even on the coldest days when shows are still months away, they're training three times a day 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
"Where's your tongue buddy," Ulmer asks, to which Roby complies.
"You really want to keep your sessions short enough so the animal is engaged. You never want it to get boring for them. And we change our training, we change how we ask for behavior, the order of behaviors that we ask for and that all helps keep them engaged in thinking because they're not exactly sure what's coming next," Ulmer said.
Of course, when the shows start the shoe is on the other foot and trainers aren't exactly sure what will happen.
"Pressures on, all eyes are on you and the animals do react a little bit differently to that because they'll go through winter time without obviously seeing a whole lot of people," Ulmer said.
One thing you can be sure of is whatever happens it will definitely be entertaining.
The sea lion trainers actually do spring training shows March 15th-30th. The big shows start April 5th.