There’s a growing trend for a certain occupation in fitness these days and it’s coaching CrossFit. Like any sector, excellence not only pays the bills but it creates more value both for the coach and those around the coach. Simply doing the job isn’t enough, either. We need to learn from great coaches, we need to be great coaches, and we need to develop great coaches.
In fact, this is squarely the existence I face every day. I’m looking for ways to evolve my craft as a coach. Furthermore, I have a responsibility at my gym, DEUCE Gym, to develop great coaches. We, as a rule, don’t hire outside coaches. Rather, we enroll prospective coaches in a developmental course called our Coach’s Prep course.
It’s through my own journey and developing young leaders that I’ve observed the things that, in my opinion, are characteristically definitive of a great CrossFit coach.
Here are two of the main characteristics of great CrossFit coaches.
Be the Master and Remember No One Cares
It may sound odd, but this is a concept I repeat over and over again. The greatest CrossFit coaches are dedicated enough seek excellence in their craft. They will learn the X’s and O’s of movement, they will develop their eye, and they will refine their arsenal of corrective cues.
The best coaches develop their ability to run a group through drills and they can create context for their athletes. They can teach fitness to fit people and inexperienced people all the same.
You’ll find the best of the best diving into the specifics of unique training practices from powerlifting, gymnastics, Pose running, and the like over the course of years only to refine what they’ve learned for a CrossFit setting.
I’d argue that a desire to be the master coach and to put in the work to do so isn’t the hardest part. I’d argue there are plenty of fitness nerds like me doing the CrossFit nerd part just fine. We know, however, that hypothetically knowing everything still doesn’t make you an effective coach.
The second part of this conundrum is quite easy, yet (oddly) it is the most rare:
The greatest CrossFit coaches in the world chase excellence in their craft, while simultaneously being humble enough to recognize that no one cares.
What I’m saying here is, “Coach, you need to know everything there is to know about external rotation of the femur while squatting to a box on a three week pendulum wave of accommodating resisted dynamic effort training. But, if you’re talking about this in class with your students, you’re probably missing the point.”
No one cares.
Your job is to be the expert and help people get the keys to the Fitness City. It’s not to convince people to take the same oath of a fitness nerd like you and I.
After all, they want to look and feel better, and they’ve got to get to work. This intersection of coaching mastery and willingness to let that knowledge be a resource rather than a game of show and tell creates the perfect blend of coaching experience. Furthermore, this should be the sought after existence for all coaches.
The Growth Mindset Will Set You Free
If I was ever fortunate enough to be on Tim Ferris’ podcast, the answer to his famous question, “What book have you gifted the most?” is a slam-dunk.
There’s one book that every single prospective coach in DEUCE Gym’s ‘Coach’s Prep’ course and it has nothing to do with fitness. It’s called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” and the author, Carol Dweck, is the leading academic on the topic of what she’s calling a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.
For one with a growth mindset, there is an inherent belief that our characteristics are malleable. We can do things like hurt people’s feelings, win competitions, and get good at painting and they only be indicators of something you did and not who you are. With this mindset, criticism is good news because it’s not an indication of you as a permanent failure but it’s useful information to change your existence.
The fixed mindset believes that one gets A’s in math because you’re smart (particularly at math) and you make varsity because you’re athletic. With this mindset, navigating failure, learning, and personal development are painful (sometimes resistive) experiences.
While it’s possible to be very successful (or very unsuccessful) with either mindset, it’s surely much easier to realize one’s potential, interact positively with people around you, and live happily with a growth mindset. As a CrossFit coach, this is the pinnacle existence you can step into to achieve your own greatness, it’s also the single greatest example you can be for athletes that you coach.
At this point, I’d hope that you are inspired and informed. There’s a chance (if you’ve made it this far) that you’re disappointed that this discussion of key attributes to be a great CrossFit coach were a bit more esoteric than “sport specific,” but let’s be honest.
“Knees out, chest up” is first grade for CrossFit coaching.
If you want to be great, it’s time to grow up.