6 Signs You’ll Make a S*** Coach

You sat bolt upright this morning, having experienced a deep epiphany. Your job sucks and you love CrossFit, so why not quit and become a CrossFit coach at your gym? Maybe one day you’ll even be able to open your own CrossFit gym next door… Not until after you have passed your Level One CrossFit Trainer Cert of course. You are no fool.

What evidence do you have to support your hunch that quitting is the right thing to do? Well, for starters the coaches at your gym look like they have the best job in the world. How hard can it be to hang out with your buddies all day training whenever you like? Those coaches are finally free from the constraints of management, KPI’s and deadlines.  The constant monotony of working life does not appear to loom over their heads. They don’t look sick to death of accounting for every one of those 40 hour weeks they rack up – like tally scratches on a prison wall. In fact, they look like they absolutely love their job.

Let me fill you in on a secret. There is a good reason they look like that. It’s their job to. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last to fall prey to ideals of living the ‘easy life’ of coaching.

Before you go ahead and push send on that resignation letter – freeing yourself from the 9-5 chains – let’s get the low down on whether you’re cut out for this. Then, you can proceed to skip home – and proudly update your status on Facebook to “between jobs”.

1. If you don’t like talking to people, or the sound of your own voice – you won’t make a good coach.

This one is pretty obvious.

Imagine – you are 13, back at high school – you’re standing in front of your year 9 English class about to deliver your atrocious speech about the life cycles of cats.

How did that experience shape your current feelings towards public speaking?

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As a coach, you’ll be addressing groups of glazed over expressions daily. Not only will you need to get the integral info across to them in as least amount of words and time as possible; you will be expected to somehow inspire, teach and motivate these beings with mere words. Every one of the members names will be your job to know, how else will you be able to hold a conversation with them for what may feel like an awkward length of time. This is all before you’ve even thought about how to advise members on how to access the best version of the workout for their stage and ability level.

If your coaches are the kind that stand and read what the whiteboard says, turn the clock on and shout out encouragement during the work phases, this is not coaching. Leave your gym. Today.

Once you walk onto those black mats as a coach, giving maximum energy and enthusiasm to the members is crucial.

If you struggle to crack a smile when you’re having a bad day, or you have a short fuse – members deserve a better coach, who appears to actually enjoy their company. Stick to your office cubicle – please.

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2. If you love and prioritize your own fitness more than other people’s experience of fitness – you won’t make a good coach.

So you want to make it to the CrossFit Games. Nice. You see the logical step is to become a part time coach so you can train all day and not work. As a future games athlete on this path you’ll need to have a Sugar muma/daddy putting food on the table to sustain such a life, or an extremely understanding partner.

Let’s say you don’t have a mortgage, dependants or any significant debt – this is a good start. Interestingly, are you also happy to live in a shed out the back of your Uncle’s place for $50/week to keep living costs down? Will you do what it takes while you pursue your dream of success on the games podium? Remember, Matt Fraser lives in a basement apartment at his parents place, has no ‘job’, other than to train and do competitions for money. Which is his main source of income. Because he wins them. When will your first pay cheque come in?

Fitness is as much about rest and recovery as it is training. However, to train with quality and quantity, you need an uninterrupted training environment. It’s very hard to attain that environment as a coach. Training in a gym full of members who want your help, advice and attention on everything from their diet and current injuries to questions on why they are not seeing progress in their snatch  – while you are also trying to max out your snatch – is the reality many face.

Conversely, when you switch to coach mode – 100% focus turns to the members; answering all those questions and providing them with an excellent training environment.

Working and training in the same gym makes the lines blurry between when to help members and when to switch off and just train. If you want to be an athlete, be an athlete. If you want to be a coach/athlete – get your time management, money and energy expenditure aligned pronto. Be very carefully to ensure one isn’t sapping from the other while ensuring you apply yourself 100% in both areas when needed.

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3. If you think people’s natural abilities and their limitations are ‘just the way that person is’ –  you won’t make a good coach.

If you’re the type to hedge your bets, cut reps while you think no one is looking, put all your energy into the quick wins or cherry pick workouts depending on what you perceive your natural strengths are; You will make a terrible coach and role model for members.

Training so you can apply the principles of learning and practising those methods across a variety of movements – the good, the bad and especially the ugly – has the deepest impact on performance. Alternatively, sticking to the stuff you are good at, and ignoring the stuff that you find hard to learn or even worse vocalizing your ‘reasons’ why your body can’t do that sends a message to members that they will not be able to improve on things they are no good at either.

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Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve

To be any good to anyone interested in improving their performance, practice what you preach. Understand that improvement in literally anything is a matter of applying the process of learning – regardless of where you start on the scale of talent – across all movements. Without this frame of mind, you will have trouble keeping your members motivated to continue working towards improvement in anything other than their training intensity and the volume they train. The quick wins. Invariably, they will end up hitting the ceiling on their lifts,  injured physically in someway – probably their knees or shoulders, then leave the gym and tell their friends that CrossFit broke them. That outcome, is entirely your fault.

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Can CrossFit Kill You?

4. If you believe what people do inside the gym is more important than what they do outside the gym – you won’t make a good coach.

Believe it or not, the reason you like going to your gym is because it’s a community of people who you probably have a few things in common with. Let’s even go so far as to call them ‘friends’. You will likely stay for the community even if the coaching degrades, to a point.

Coaches are like ‘friendship facilitators’ not just ‘movement specialists’.

Seeing members as a bag of body bits needing ‘movement fixed’ will limit the effectiveness of your coaching in the thing you prioritize most – how they move.

Step back, get a wider view of them as a total person and you’ll get a lot further. The last thing I want as a class member in my 1 hour away from the madness that is life is to be told right off the bat “Get your heels down”.

If you’re a movement junkie, remember;  people don’t come in pieces.

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5. If the concept of getting up at 4am and walking in the door at 9pm doesn’t appeal to you, you’re probably just human – but learn to grin and bear it if you want the coaches life.

Yes, you will get to train during the day. Maybe with your buddies. Depending on if you have any who are not at work between 10am-3pm.

More than likely, you’ll train alone – in the middle of the day – when you have time between cleaning the gym and running PT’s to supplement your coaching income.

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When your old training buddies come in to do a class, after a long day at work – you won’t get to play because you’ll be coaching them. You’ll finish up and hang around far too long afterwards; trying to usher them out the door so you can finally go home before 9pm.

You need to eat, and get to bed early. You’re on again at 6am, every morning this week. Yipee.

 

6. If you think coaching looks easy and you’d like to be a weekend warrior community contributor – you won’t make a good coach.

Awesome that you want to contribute to the community. Yes, it is a fantastic group of individuals and a real family vibe. If you’re not keen on the idea of being a life-long learner, and investing in your practice continually, constantly reflecting on your own practice and actively seeking out Professional Development to make yourself a better coach then you would be better off offering to help the current coaches with events coming up at the gym. These events don’t run themselves and coaches sure as hell appreciate all the help they can get when they give up their weekends to put them on for the community.

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Having said all that…

That doesn’t mean you can’t become an amazing coach.

A custom built development programme for existing coaches and new interns designed to bring the best out in your coaches while retaining the integrity and culture which personifies the gym and it’s community will be available soon.

Interested? Hit me in the DM below

 

Top tips to avoid average parenting.

I hate the idea of writing about parenting.

For one: I am not a parent, at best I’m a 32yo child trapped in an adults body, with a grown ups job and the means to do things I want. Happily, I am reluctant to grow up. You would be forgiven for having the opinion that in my current capacity I have nothing of value to add to the ‘currently parenting’ conversation. Further, as far as I can tell from what I have seen and read on the subject, there is already a disproportionate amount of guilt which comes part and parcel with the most wonderful gift of bringing new life into the world and raising kids.

Brene Brown pointed out a revolutionary idea to me in her book “Daring Greatly” Everyone’s got parent guilt, it really doesn’t matter how you are raising your children. Whether you are raising kids in a household that is; organic, vegan, whole foods, meat lovers, omnivores, vegetarian, anti-processed, refined-sugar-free, sugar addicted, dairy-free, soy-free, free-range, breast feeding, or bottle feeding you’ll be committing some sort of parenting offence. These offences include any choices about your work:life balance too; Whether you are a working mum or a stay at home mum, if you work part-time or full-time, or opt to be a stay at home dad, you’re all guilty of doing it wrong.

In that work:life balance vein, everyone regardless of parenting status in our country has a pretty shit work:life balance, of concern is that we appear to like it this way. The thin white line around the outside is how close to “awesome” we are for different wellbeing measures across the OECD.

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How’s Life in NZ? 2017 Report

Being a ‘terrible parent’ in the court of faceless public opinion includes you and your life decisions irrespective of which side of the fences of life you stand on things. If you are religious or atheist, smoking or non-smoking, or how old you were when you had children; Young parents, ageing parents, struggling to conceive parents, single parents, and separated parent. Absent parents, estranged parents, step-parents, widowed parents, helicopter parents and adopted parent. As I write all these parenting types down, I could imagine someone I know who fits into each of those types and their kids, when they do arrive, generally thrive. However, as I was reading Brene Brown’s book there was one type of parent guilt that caught me completely off guard.

I was smacked for six when she wrote that ironically, even yet-to-be-parent’s experience parent guilt for not having kids. I was stopped dead in my tracks on that one. I had to take stock for a second.  I thought to myself. “Yea, actually. I have definitely stressed about this in the past” I sat there and tried to count the amount of times I’ve shook my head in utter disbelief and borderline fury at the audacity of people and their willingness to advise me about my need to have kids. I get that their comments come from a place of love, and usually reflect their own struggles to conceive. For some though, giving this advice is as natural as recommending a new yum restaurant in town. Like deciding to have a child and then actually bringing a healthy baby – alive – into this world is as easy as picking up a bottle of milk from the Jacques Four Square.

Yea, so anyway – no one escapes parent guilt.

We’re all a little fearful about not being ‘enough’ through most of everything we care deeply about succeeding at. Parenting is probably the ultimate “not enough” life space. Not being enough of a man or woman to procreate successfully and further, not being enough of a parent to do a half decent job in that role is written into our DNA I think. It’s an absolute head spinner, but it also works as a motivator, making us strive to do our best with what we’ve got.

…I am writing about parenting anyway. You are enough, stay motivated.

Those words, they mean I’m able to fully enjoy life from the cheap seats of “Aunty duties” for now without getting my blood pressure up. I hope they keep your blood pressure in check as you read on.

Tip #1 Be the adult you want your kids to become.

Don’t be that Dad (or Mum) making a dick of themselves on the sideline. Heckling the opposition Rippa Under 6 teams members like they are Quade Cooper playing for Australia in a Bledisloe match and your kid is an All Black is never a good idea (Heckling Quade is also ugly, don’t be that guy either).

Recommended by Survey lifts lid on extent of abuse and poor adult sideline behaviour at kids’ games (2015)

Do be that Dad on the dance floor who is making a dick of himself for dancing like no one’s watching.

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My Mum and Dad along with my Grandparents were my greatest teachers, despite not always being my favourite teachers (especially that time I got sent home from school for three days and had to dig a dam then spend two days in silence gardening with my Nana Pat).

I don’t really know a lot about what the olds got up to in their youth. It creates a lot of wonder, it also makes it nearly impossible to relate to them at times. Within their relatively quiet, humble, rural lives – they are still superhuman to me and I am by no measure a ‘model citizen’. Superhuman is a hard graft to live up to. I’m glad they have never asked me to. The pressure would crush me. They did a great job of navigating a stroppy teenager with shit skin and frizzy hair, who was dead set on anything involving mischief. I picked up a lot of life lessons from my parents and grandparents actions along the way. What I really respect about them is that they didn’t bother to bullshit their way through raising us. Bullshitting us would have only served to teach us that you can say things you don’t really believe because what you say and how you behave are two different things.

Grant and Gin
38 years and counting.

Five things I learned from actions, not words.

  • I remember being late to netball games because we had to get the calving cows in first. I was always furious at the time.

Lesson 1. Do my work, then play.

  • Mum and Dad were just about always at my games.

Lesson 2. Show up for people you care about

  • My Dad had this wide brimmed hat that he loved and I vividly remember wanting to smack out Leah Nepia and her smart mouth, we were both shooters in the same team. She was teasing me about my Dad’s hat.

Lesson 3. I learned people can be cruel.

  • My Dad loved that hat and backed his own style choices. This is about as close to “Dad dancing” as my Dad got.

Lesson 4. Back myself and the things I like, even if my ideas are a little out the gate and mean some people will laugh at my expense.

  • One of my favourite places as a kid was the Wellsford RSA. I remember eating peanuts and drinking raspberry fizz with Jimmy Hay’s kids, Eddie and Genna. Between Poppa Gerry loading my Dad up on Quart bottles of beer and whiskey chasers, the two of them – Dad and Poppa Gerry – found the time to teach me to play pool.

Lesson 5. Quality family time happens in all sorts of places.

Have a think about the places and interactions your parents had with the world as you were growing up and what you took from those experiences.

Even when you’re doing things that aren’t exactly ‘model citizen-like’ kids still have the chance to take away some very cool memories which will shape who they become as adults.

Tip #2: Tend to your own garden first

It can’t  be easy to sit back and watch your kids careen their way through life, I don’t know if I could do it and trust that we’d all get out the other side in one piece. I feel for my parents sometimes. I know I am all over the place. I am a little bit full-noise at times, I’m considered driven, self-absorbed and probably selfish. I love it that way. I’m not ashamed because I believe that if I don’t prioritize my identity now, and commit to making an effort to look after myself first, then I am going to find my own self-care and identity even harder to prioritize when my new all encompassing obsession is ensuring a kid thrives.

The day I am up to my eyeballs in organic-plastic-free-ethically sourced-re-usable nappies I still won’t be a model citizen, and I hope I am investing in my own sense of self. I better still be looking after myself. I want to be that kind of Mum because I want my kids to learn two things:

  1. Because Mum does, I know it is important to know who I am, and look after myself.
  2. Because Mum isn’t, I don’t have to be perfect.

I want to live a life with absolutely no doubt in my mind that I am physically prepared to interact with the world and further, save my kid if I need to.

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This is Jo Bowden. I have known Jo for a few years now. She would come into our workplace and say Hi and chat with her Mum Shona. I worked with Shona over my summer breaks from uni at my parents retail store. To me Jo always had a pretty positive outlook in life despite her size and I admired that. When I found out she was having a kid I didn’t think too much about it, just another local girl having a baby, good on her.

The next time I heard about her would be some years later. Our paths hadn’t crossed in a long time. There was a groundswell of chatter around the town about ‘Jo’s weight loss journey’. Intrigued, I started to follow her progress, at the time I was balls deep in competitive, representative CrossFit. I burgeoned with all the ‘You go girl!’ pride I could muster.

What was the motivating factor that got her moving 100kg of body weight and has kept her moving..? It was her son, Ashar.

Jo will tell you straight out “I just knew I had to change to give him any quality of life, I needed to stop sitting inside and watching him play and actually get outside with him and show him the world. I was scared he would runaway and I wouldn’t catch him… It actually happened one time and I had to ask strangers to stop him. I was literally his anchor.”

Jo’s son provided her with a feeling that no parent ever wants to experience. Helplessness. Moreover, helplessness when your child is suffering. As Jo stood by powerless to do anything while her son fought for his life, bound in a 45 minute long seizure, Jo found the courage to commit to not wasting her own gift of life by ‘eating myself in to my own grave’ Ashar provides Jo with a greater purpose than she alone can provide herself. She’s pretty hard on herself when it comes to behaviours she struggles to control, but I really respect her brutal honesty on the topic.

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XRACE, literally, getting outside with the kids. I’ve never been to one, but these look so awesome.

Jo loves a little CrossFit workout too, she’s got one hell of a story and a huge amount of empathy for people who are in the position she was in. She’s doing the mahi towards her PT cert and takes on clients based out of Mangawhai. Follow her on instagram and hit her up if you want someone who “gets it” to start you off.

I could have listed a bunch of benefits to illustrate how being physically active will  improve your life, but you already know them. That approach is about as effective at inspiring people to move as those gross pictures of body parts on durry packets are at inspiring people to give up smoking.

Things you know you should do for yourself…

  • Eat more vegetable
  • Eat less junk food
  • (Binge) drink less
  • Spend more time with family
  • Spend less money on crap
  • Spend more money on being physically active
  • Join a gym
  • Quit smoking
  • Quit gambling
  • Work less hours
  • Be home to tuck the kids in
  • Be home for the kids to wake up
  • Get outside more
  • Take less drugs (prescription included)
  • Party less
  • Quit the after dinner blocks of chocolate
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Hug people you love more often
  • Frown less
  • Laugh more
  • Get off social media
  • Put the screen down

…Why you can’t. Yet.

There’s this chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine. Everyone LOVES dopamine. It makes you feel good.. Right now good. Dopamine is the WANT in you. It’s why you can’t say no to cake, staff morning teas, alcohol, drugs, shopping, smoking, gambling, gaming, gym-junkie-ing, treats, it’s why we want sex, cookies and cocaine. Dopamine drives the pleasure centre (and is believed to be responsible for addictions < link). I think dopamine is awesome! But, it screws with our ability to commit to hard stuff for our future selves benefit, like eating good nutritious (boring asf food), not partying Thursday-Monday, and getting to the gym. Dopamine is not interested in the future us. Dopamine lives for the moment. I believe that dopamine is at least partly responsible for every YOLO, or “fuck it, I’ll worry about it tomorrow” moment I’ve ever had. Not all of those decisions turned out to be bad in the long run so I don’t hate on my dopamine. No dopamine, no pleasure. That would make for a dull life indeed.

Tip #3: How to hack your dopamine.

On a parenting level, learning to hack your dopamine, will show the kids in action how to hack their own struggles with misdirected pleasure seeking in the future. They say that addictive personalities are genetically inherited, but everyone’s got a dopamine addiction. Some addictions are less destructive than others.

Keeping dopamine in check from running our lives is one of the greatest battles of all time. On a applied level this war is waged with every 30-day-challenge you have ever signed up for, paid for and then failed.

You find as soon as you’re faced with your favourite vice – like a little harmless glass of Red wine, dopamine takes over. Furiously tapping you on the back saying “If you’re guna have a glass, you might as well hit the whole bottle honey”

The sum of total days successfully accumulated towards 30…. a new personal best, 10.

One new way of dealing with dopamine driven behaviour when it gets out of hand and we lose faith in our ability to commit to ourselves, I came across while reading David Eagleman’s “The Brain: The Story of You”.

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It’s called A Ulysses Contract. (David Eagleman Youtube link)

  • Make it a voluntary pact: Choose a behaviour to focus on doing (or not doing).
  • Choose a deadline: 30 days is usually long enough to establish a habit and not highly difficult to achieve. A short-term agreement could last between 30-60 days.
  • Choose a consequence: This should be something that is painful, psychologically. An example is donating money to a charity or political organization that you dislike.
  • Choose a “referee”: It should be someone who will not let you off the hook. Perhaps a family member, a best friend, kids, workmate, boss.

Just because I am a fan of being physically fit, it doesn’t mean I always enjoy training. I recently had surgery and in the lead up to the surgery I all but gave up putting any effort into my training. I really hate training and going to the gym when I am out of nick and looking dusty (dusty, by my own standard). After surgery I had to make a Ulysses contract to get myself to a place where I felt comfortable to train in the gym, in the back of the classes without feeling inadequate, incompetent or like I was missing out.

Here’s mine:

  • Pact: Start training at home, with no equipment. Start an midline/core bias program
  • Deadline: Complete a workout building in volume and difficulty at least 4 times a week over 30 days post surgery
  • Consequence: Delete my Instagram and Facebook accounts
  • Referee: Me. (hahaha, I was not brave enough to share this contract incase I failed!)

Needless to say, I did achieve the 30 days, I’m up to somewhere in the 40’s now and I feel a lot more comfortable in the gym even though I am not doing class.

I like the Ulysses Contract, because it can help you commit to your future self in small steps, but has big consequences if you don’t. For me small steps don’t keep me motivated, they appear too easy to make up for tomorrow, I’m the hare in Aesop’s fable… not the tortoise. It takes me a while to accept that the rules apply to me too.

  • Start with a contract for just exercise at home. There’s so many programmes to follow on instagram now. Jump on one of those till you feel confident. Or grab a PT at your local.
  • Then maybe set another one for attending a gym, regularly.
  • Maybe a third for entering some sort of competition, to mark your progress. These things are EPIC for helping you realise just how far you have come. Scary, yes. But the risk is only perceptual. Besides, with great risk, comes great reward.

Fittest Mum Competition Link

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This one, is just for Mum’s. (Sorry Dad’s) It’s run online so you don’t even have to leave town to participate. The cool thing is, that all the Mum’s get together and wow, what an impressive bunch of ladies. I love to stand back and just observe how they exude self-belief they didn’t know they had in them.

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Jennifer James, straight into it. Mum’s are made of a whole different kind of ticker.

I am not eligible for this competition… ahhh cause I’m not a Mum. To be honest, I am a little intimidated by all the Mum’s out there going the extra mile for their kids. Mum’s PLUS fitness… now that’s another league of competitor altogether. Being a Mum isn’t a drawback when it comes to performance. In many respects it is a superpower. The things a Mum can do can’t be matched by the likes of myself.

Finally, Tip #4; All gardens grow weeds.

You can’t be perfect. All gardens grow weeds. All lives are a mixed bag of memories, perfectly represented in the Disney Movie “Inside Out” (Damn Disney is good).

Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 1.49.47 PM.pngA perfect life full of Joy only, just does not exist. Still, hats off to us, we have done a great job of creating a world where trying to be perfect is acceptable if not down right socially expected behaviour. Well fuck that. We’ve all got weeds. We all make mistakes and poor decisions. We are all learning how to thrive in changing conditions every day… until we sign off permanently.

Making the most of it and trying to be a good sort along the way is about as best as we can hope for.

How we deal with failure is the model the kids will use to deal with their failure. Show them what failure is, by being human when you stuff up then show them how to recover, just as you would show them how to succeed. Fail and succeed in ways you want them to behave when it happens to them, and it will. Protect them from the pain of failure by preparing them for the reality of pain and failure.

Being involved in something outside your comfort zone, like Jo did, will teach kids about how learning to work through loss and failure truly works before they have to watch you go through great loss. Being brave enough to fail in front of the kids, teaches them that there is no shame in trying to do something really hard, something you don’t know if you will get through.

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Of course, I am going to recommend getting active here as a good type of ‘out of the comfort zone teaching how to try, fail and eventually succeed’ platform. It’s tangible. The kids in the gyms I have trained in look at their parents trying, putting effort in, failing, not throwing tantrums, just dusting themselves off accepting the disappointment and importantly trying again. Getting up. And trying again.

Watching kids watch their parents at competitions is the ultimate in observing real life superheroes in action. The kids eyes are full of gleaming admiration as they scream “GOMUMMYYYYY” from the stands, you’ll hardly find a kid on a screen in sight. Total present engagement.

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Compared with the usual stresses of adult life, where the risk is huge financial loss should a venture go tits up, or the risk of not being able to provide for your family weighs so heavily on home life it feels as though the whole ship might go down, the price of committing to getting into training and taking on the emotional risk of not being any good at it (to begin with) is non-comparative. If you can find the time for yourself, this kind of thing gives a pretty cool platform to teach kids some cool lessons through your actions.

All in all, the big message here is that it’s in our daily actions. That is where our kids are really getting their life lessons and values from. Scary shit right. There’s a reason that having your first child is the most frequent ‘defining moment’ I hear of in my work connecting workplaces and teams. It’s also no surprize it’s the one that makes my eyes well up the fastest. These precious little gifts really are game changers.

Maybe it’s not the kids who learn the values through our actions. But maybe instead… it the kids who teach us what values are important, and remind us daily to strive to live by them. Like wise little buddha, semi covered in hair.

Parting words

In another 30 years, your kids will be writing about you. What would you like them to say they learned from your actions growing up?

And finally, you are enough, stay motivated.

How to participate in Life outside CrossFit when everyone is posting up mean as training vids and you’re sitting on the beach.

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 11.39.11 AM.pngI had one outrageously good summer.

A typical summer would see me spread across  the entire country. Anywhere from Whangarei to Queenstown is on the potential hit list. Travel is marked with dollops of time consuming training sessions. Bro-sessions with the CrossFit Whanau all over Aotearoa.  The rest is spent in the water, diving, adventuring, wearing sun-screen, and hitting several events. I do this with zero training included at all for a week or so at a time.

This version of summer adventures leaves me severely blue on the eve of my return to work. I would want to quit my full time job (yes, I do have one of those) in favour of becoming a full time roamer. I nearly did quit one year, which is where all these methods to shift my perspective were born.

This summer was different.

For the bulk of the Christmas Break, I had roughly a 10km operating radius. I could probably narrow that down to the stretch of Moir Street, in the village. I didn’t get bored once. Freaky.

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Happiness was as simple as exploring what my home town has to offer.  I came away from the summer with my cup full to overflowing. Interestingly, I also trained more than I usually do in a summer period. The key difference was that alongside training, I had time to be in the right place at the right time with the right people. Which was generally always the same two people, with a combination of other special guest members adding flavour to “The Te Haara Trio” summer tour of Mangawhai. These two girls are my backbone, especially in times when I’ve lost my own.

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Let us Reflect;

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There was a time when – as my shoulders grew out of my dresses, I felt – I –  had grown out of my home town and my bonds to the land and people there. I struggled to fit – literally – or to relate to the stages of life my friends and family were in who weren’t part of the CrossFit world. At the time, as far as I knew, this version of living ‘my best life’ would be a permanent fixture. Thankfully, I was wrong. Finding balance and space for all dimensions of my person came down to making a conscious effort to define what it is I want to happen in my life – daily – that would make me smile. Training and CrossFit was one of those things, but not the only thing.

Paint for tomorrow with the actions of today

-I stole that off a horoscope.

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The last time I dug a fence pole hole. I got the holes dug, but bent the blades on Dad’s post hole borer in the process… No Finesse.

Home is a funny place, it hasn’t been able to support my need to train CrossFit well until this summer.

Sideline:

I was fortunate enough to have not only one, but two local gyms in Mangawhai, teeming with local people keen to share an hour or so of their time with me getting sweaty. This took care of my need to train, getting the apple cart upright with little admin, and also train with other people in one sweep. It also gave me back valuable time to do stuff other than train.

Prior to this last year, having a single training facility which is geared towards my own preferences for training has been non-existent. I am extremely grateful that this barrier to me spending more time at home has been removed. Now if the Kaipara District Council would kindly tar seal Brown Road – I would have no reason not to be at the Family Farm every Sunday for roast dinner.

If you are in Mangawhai or the surrounding area, I would encourage you to check out the local spots, each is different and awesome in their own right. You just gotta find your own tribe and work your vibe.

Level Movement is run by Jason Kingi.

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The Shelter Fit 365 is run by Aaron and Jo McIlwee.

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The influence and the opportunities that are now being providing with the respective spaces is huge. It’s an impact on a community health promotion level that I really admire. Each facility in their own way are shifting thinking about how people in the local community think about how they live and their personal human potential.

I have sat over summer – usually at the pub or over dinner at a friends house – and listened  to people tell me of their introductions to CrossFit. The tell me about their goals, what they are frustrated about, who they are chasing, the things they love about it and where they plan to take it. These are conversations I never would have had two years ago. Two years ago – my friends had no access to these places. I love listening to people tell me of their experiences so far. Every one of them is on a pathway, largely determined by them. Whether they carry on or not, I’m just happy to hear that people are exploring their options and of course I am happy to hear they are enjoying the trip. So thank you. You’re awesome.

I used to feel immense guilt when I couldn’t train. This internal feeling of losing all my fitness overnight – in the bottom of a trifle bowl, somewhere in the pavlova hangover – was unshakable. I’d drive an hour each way to Whangarei, just to get a gym sesh in. Sacrificing time I could have spent with my friends and family doing any range of things at home. All that admin to train. I didn’t know I was missing anything until I started looking specifically for it though.

Why didn’t I get ‘get outside’ build a fence, go for a run, do some real work? you say… Well, for one – It’s not hard enough. It doesn’t make me sweaty and I can’t do it for reps or time. When you do work on a farm you’re doing it for quality, you need to be thorough, diligent and do everything properly. Follow the process. This doesn’t mix that well with the high intensity hit I’m searching for when I train. So no, building a fence won’t cut it.

Then there was the shame if I did train at home on the farm. I look nuts. Out there on the lawn doing lunges with a cast iron anvil above my head, up and down the driveway, getting a rash from doing burpees on the grass – which I’m literally crazy allergic to – and running up and down the road for no actual purpose other than to do fitness.

Juxtapose my pointless physical exertion against the rest of my family, sat on the patio under the umbrella – relaxing, drinking Dad’s latest drop of Pinot Noir, Mum smoking a durry….

This is the norm – I feel rude disturbing the peace like that.

Excessively challenging physical activity feels extremely inappropriate in this context.

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I still get really envious of people who go away with their Whanau and everyone gets stuck into a workout together. Having people to workout with is one of the conditions I found I need for a prime training environment for me. I hate doing it alone.

To me training alone is like drinking alone.

I’ll do it sometimes, but never that well or with much enthusiasm. Compared to drinking with good company; It’s nine times out of ten – a better experience. I do it well, and hit the mark with enthusiasm – usually, before I even knew what was happening.

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Completely different athletes, Rebecca Connew and I. We always ended up within reps of each other when dropping the hammer in competition and training.

That is my own personal training preference. I need an adversary. I find I’m not only more engaged, I am lured into a much more interesting and challenging training session than I will be able to create alone. Pain is just pain, I can test my resolve a lot better when I’m training with other people. It’s almost more fun to hurt, if I’m feeling like this is the limit, I know for damn sure they are pushing their limit too.

I’m not really ever hung up on what I do when I train, over the break was no exception. I just needed to get a few sessions in to balance out the social activities. Sweat out a few well earned and totally worth it hang overs.

Lesson One:

I stopped giving a fuck about Outcomes, and invested energy in process

I stopped aiming for validation and recognition of how awesome I am based on leader boards, rankings and competitions, and spent my energy instead, exploring what conditions make me happy.

I stole this from Uncle Google, but it summarizes basically how I went about that.

In a practical sense it looks like this:

I journal nearly every day – I write down three things I am grateful for today. Which helps me define the things I need to put in my cup each day to create personal happiness. It helps you form the habit of looking for the good in the world instead of seeing things through moments of shit. Over time, it gets easier to see those things in the moment. Identify they have happened and respond to them appropriately.

Here is today’s example

  • I am grateful to Hala for sending me the most beautiful and delicious treats. For no other reason than she enjoys my vibe.
  • I am grateful for the lack of reception at the farm and how much work I get done there.
  • I am grateful for the abilities I have worked for and my appreciation of never being a finished product.

I also write down a recount of something that happened in the last 24 hours that was awesome to me. This helps me to bank the good things, leaving positive breadcrumbs throughout my brain. Strengthening my ability to use the parts of my brain that think and remember positive experiences. It also makes it clearer what is important to me, what I notice and what I prioritise. That helps to inform what I need to do to create a balanced environment for myself to thrive in.

24hour

I had the most fun, unexpected, adventure filled, and epic weekend. I completed the Open workout early and moved on to spending time doing stuff completely unrelated to CrossFit with people completely unrelated to CrossFit. I didn’t have any stress about the workout or having to do it again. Instead I went out with my friends, went away to Whitianga, went diving, got injured and had an absolute blast with some of my favourite people to play with. Not once did I worry about how diving and getting injured would affect my ability to do the next CrossFit Open Workout – I’m taking every opportunity to laugh and enjoy the space in between that I can over the next five weeks.

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I spend my time, energy and attention figuring out what kinds of training environments, living conditions and working conditions work best for me, which ones do I get the most satisfaction and enjoyment out of. I reflect on those things regularly and it helps me cut loose the things in my life that are not feeding into the conditions I need to thrive. I can recognise much easier now, when something isn’t working, or feels off. That’s because I’m a lot clearer in my mind when a situation feels right – having reinforced those neural pathways consistently for over two years now. I’m definitely not a finished product and I still make some stupid decisions for sure. But I struggle to put things into perspective without reflection alongside the odd necessary reality check from the two aforementioned wahine.

Start a journal if you haven’t already.

It helps me for training too. For example; In training – I’ve learned through reflection happiness means classes, not training alone or on an individualized programme. Individualized programmes make me stressed and anxious. I have no ready data to compare myself to, no one to play with (therefore no intensity) and I stress about what work to prioritize. I do need class programming that is challenging though. I’m not keen on General Physical Preparedness programming that cuts out the high skill under  fatigue stuff. No lame ass – low expectations – low skill – basic boring workouts for me please. I also need a variety in my training buddies and places and almost a social level of participation. I enjoy training with lots of people. I enjoy training in the afternoon and I enjoy not taking anything other than the work written on the board seriously. Even then, half the time I don’t know what I’m doing. I deliberately seek out opportunities to train like that. When those conditions are met, I enjoy putting in the work and I love it.

Lesson Two:

Balance is a myth

Balance is an impossibility. Get used to the flux of constant variables and changing conditions that you will spend your entire life attempting to pre-empt, respond to and regulate.

The search for balance is an exact replica of the body constantly battling internally – without your conscious awareness – to reach a state of homeostasis … it’s a process that never ends, right up to when you die.

Something will always trip up the apple cart.

I generally won’t give up training just because I’ve been out. It doesn’t make sense to not train just because I had a good time with my girls the night before and I’m a bit hung. Training actually makes me feel better. Which leads me to the final lesson in maintaining life while the Open approaches.

Lesson three:

Keep your non-negotiable rules simple and achievable across a broad range of scenarios and situations.

I have two rules:

1. Always be “Yea The Girls”.

2. If you’re going to trip up the apple cart of your routine, get it turned back up ASAP.

Number one means that if the girls want to, I do too. I consciously choose them and their company.

Number two means that I will get my routine back on track as soon as I can after social events. The longer I let my habits slide, the closer I am to forming new unhelpful habits. 

If we’re talking about how I approach training, I can honestly say that every one of the four years I qualified for regionals. It didn’t occur to me that my life was out of balance. I honestly didn’t feel that I was giving anything necessary to my own happiness up. I had different non-negotiables then to the ones I have today and in retrospect I was looking to maintain my postion in the pack. To prove myself. Something I care less about these days. Plus, I enjoyed the training, the stress and the roller coaster that was finding out how fit I was. I loved refreshing the leaderboard, the pain and the disappointment when I missed the mark and had to repeat. I believe it is impossible to see anything as sacrifice when you enjoy what you’re doing. When you like something, you do it heaps. Think of it like the honeymoon stage in a new love interest. Would you rather the fun infatuation stage, or the boring TV dinner stage.

This year will be my Seventh CrossFit open. I’m probably at the TV dinner stage with CrossFit. I figure out how far I want to take CrossFit on the day making sure I leave enough time and space for the other life ingredients I need in my day to thrive.

My wero to you would be to see what happens if you explore the lessons I learned about maintaining some sense of balance in your life.

What conditions do you need to be happy in your own life?

What actions are you taking to create a favourable environment for happiness to not only exist, but thrive?

 

Permission to be 100% inappropriately awesome, for the betterment of all.

When I started this blog, I thought I was writing about the need to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with other people. This was what I would go on to argue is a key marker for success – in any dimension of your life – particularly, those dimensions pertaining to your athletic and coaching abilities. My argument was that if you invest time and effort into your relationships then those areas of your life you’re interested in developing would flourish.

But I often change my mind on things. That’s part of who I am.

I do genuinely feel that meaningful relationships will lead to a longer, happier life – full of greater successes, and that is research backed. Look at the Harvard Grant Study for example. Added to this was the work which Daniel Goleman leveraged off to coin Emotional intelligence. EQ is legit. No doubt.

However, after bouncing that idea around my brain for a while and testing it against a few walls, I’ve found there is a prerequisite to meaningful relationships which drives success. I’m now confident that without it, you can’t access anything slightly bordering on meaningful with another human, or reach you’re potential success.

Step One:

Know who the hell you are, and what you stand for…  ..Then be that person all the time.

(Unless you being as “true to yourself” as possible means you are an asshole to humankind.. Then change who you are. Those fucked up beliefs make you a dick and that’s likely why you struggle with your relationships, in which case you have no choice but to go to CrossFit to find people who have the tolerance to be in the same room as you.)

 

Being sure of yourself is problematic. Becoming self-aware means being able to cut through the noise of social pressure, conformity and hegemonic discourse which all work to shape how we perceive ourselves. Often leaving us more concerned with how OTHERS perceive us than confident in our own skin. It’s a commonly held belief that the sky will fall should we step outside the box we’re born into and attempt to break the mould society has carefully constructed for us in order to live a ‘normal’ life. In New Zealand we commonly refer to this as “Tall Poppy Syndrome”

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Decisions around who we aspire to be influence how we see and respond to the world we live in. It shapes what kind of athlete, coach, friend, and family member we evolve into. It affects the kind of tribe we seek to affiliate with and the deep seated values and beliefs which inform our spiritual connection to places, people and things. It also informs what we think is worth fighting for. With such a deep and broad impact on how we live, we’d be wise to pay attention to it.

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Read: Colin Kaepernick in Forbes August 6, 2017

 

Personal Sideline: I’ve had the honour of knowing some great people in my life, two of whom have passed on this year. The weekend just gone I was in Rotorua attending the funeral of my Dad’s Uncle. He was a choice fulla, I remember he had this wicked glint in his eye, coupled with unwavering humility and kindness. Despite being cut from stone and better looking than the Ryan Reynolds of his day he never exuded a glimmer of arrogance. My Uncle had a firm understanding of who he was – and who he was not. I often wonder if the trials our grandparents generation went through; war, financial depression, and geographic isolation made it a much faster process to figuring out who you were, and in line with that knowledge; What was worth investing time and effort into.

They took risks, carved lives out of native timber they milled themselves and worked so damn hard it would give our generation a nosebleed just to imagine it. I actually hope that some of that is genetic disposition and not just learned behaviour.

Every generation has its own environmental factors that we are born into, never knowing any different. Signs of the times we were raised through and learned to navigate with varied levels of success. Regardless of which generation we belong to – there is an indicative need to know who you are if you hope to move through all the changing times, places and people we encounter with what David Galbraith calls “Purity”

‘Yo, got it. It’s hard to know who you are. What’s that got do with coaching and CrossFit and being a badass athlete!?’

When Greg Glassman (AKA the Godfather of CrossFit) first envisioned CrossFit, I’m sure he knew that it’s hard to find your tribe and I’m also sure that as the brand has grown he has capitalised on the fact we struggling with a clear, authentic definition of ‘self’. We can thank all systems of socialisation for that – especially the Education system – for fitting us all tidily into irrelevant categorized boxes.

Step Two:

Get rid of the filters, they holding you back son

In line with our convenient categorized boxes, It’s highly recommended by society to be a social chameleon. This accepted practice of not being our authentic selves makes it bloody hard to ‘find your tribe’ and know they are in fact YOUR TRIBE.  Every bastard is pretending to be someone they’re not in an attempt to fit in with the other people around them. It is somewhat understandable that we would find ways to manipulate the environment like this; No one knowingly puts their hand up for social ostracization. To make manipulating our identity even easier,  we have the capacity at our fingertips to create really cool online ‘filtered’ versions of ourselves. Ones that are much more socially palatable than our real selves. We’re all a little bit guilty of being a little bit of a catfish, even if the fictional online persona is under our own name and we are driving it. Hell, I am not posting up anything where I look like shit. That’s like going to the club in your active wear (I’ve done that) …inappropriate.

There are some anomalies out there, I’m not one of them – yet. I like to think everyone is cognisant and trying to be self-aware, and authentic about how they operate. (DISCLAIMER – Being self-aware is not a licence to be a dick to people different to you. It’s knowing that you are shiny, and you don’t have to kick mud on other people who are different to you so you are more shiny than them) It doesn’t take long to figure out if someone’s words and actions line up. Personally I’m more likely to engage with you if you drop the facade of what behaviours and attitudes are deemed ‘socially appropriate’. If we all made an effort to drop our filters we’d have a better chance of success across a wider range of spaces than just secular online forums. If we keep our attitudes under cover, we’ll never have a chance to be challenged on the stupid shit we believe. More importantly, we’ll never have the opportunity to be challenged to think any differently, and our thinking won’t have the chance to evolve. That works both ways, for me – if you keep that world view behind your eyes, I will never get the chance to see what the world looks like from your point of view. Maybe you have some insights I have never considered. Maybe we believe the same thing, it’s just called something different – like ‘CrossFit’.

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Let’s not even get into the impact all those filters have on self-esteem…

I’m just guna put this here and say if it wasn’t a relevant thing then companies like Dove wouldn’t use it to turn a buck.

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Step Three

Look for same same, but different.

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Watch: Same same, but different

The real magic of hanging out on the Earth happens when you know who you are and then take the time to make connections with others just because they are there and you can. Spend more time doing this instead of paying attention to those neat categories designed to divide and isolate you from interacting. You’d be a fool these days to judge a book by its cover. We are all fools who have been conditioned to see ‘difference’ between people first, we’d all be better off if instead we started looking for ‘same’. The most successful people out there are able to have fun with all sorts of people, they don’t see anyone as ‘cut from the same cloth’.

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Watch: #OpenYourWorld

How to translate this into coaching and being a better athlete… Highlighting difference between people, gyms, and communities does nothing for humanity and nothing for CrossFit or you’re gym and it’s members. If you want to be a bloody good coach and an awesome role model for your community make sure you know and practice these things; Be yourself when you coach, practice being a better version of yourself and understand where your opinions come from. Then see what life is like in someone else’s shoes every once in a while. Finally, engage with people for the sake of engagement, for no purpose or predetermined goal or outcome. Just do it cause you are in a position where you can. People who are in the position to engage and don’t – are limiting themselves.

If you want to build an empire (because we are competitively driven and it’s hard to be the best without comparing yourself to another), let the attitudes and values of the athletes coming out of your establishment and their dispositions when immersed in the wider CrossFit community speak for itself. If you’re nailing the fundamentals of self-actualization and human interconnection, I’d say the athletes coming out of your gym to compete are picking up what you’re putting down. Who knows, you might even have a hugely positive influence on a collective definition of what it means to be a New Zealander.

What Do You Bring to the Table – The Vogel’s Experience
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What Do You Bring to the Table – The Vogel’s Experience

 

 

“Call me crazy, but I believe that changing and improving your life requires destroying a part of yourself and replacing it with a newer, better part of yourself. It is therefore, by definition, a painful process full of resistance and anxiety. You can’t grow muscle without challenging it with greater weight. You can’t build emotional resilience without forging through hardship and loss. And you can’t build a better mind without challenging your own beliefs and assumptions.” – Mark Manson

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Is your new intern a shadow or a ghost?

With the close knit community vibes synonymous with CrossFit classes comes those keen to learn more about how to coach.

There’s a stack of reasons why someone would choose to offer up their free time to learn the ropes of coaching from those who are currently practising in the building.

In my altruistic world view I like to think the reason is at least partly because being people of the community – who feel they belong – they harbour the desire to serve. It feels good to return the favour, working from their own positive experiences with the training methodology. They naturally progress towards becoming more community minded instead of self interested. That’s pretty cool, especially considering most of these people are volunteers, with full-time jobs.. At least, that’s how it was for me. Actually to be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to coach at all. I just wanted to show up and train and leave. 5 years later, I’m glad I took the step towards thinking of people other than myself.

If you have someone who is keen to learn from you, take that as a compliment.

we have all seen shadow coaches who struggle with confidence; Unable to find their place in the swift moving, fast paced classes. In my mind, I have to ask, how are the established coaches contributing to that? Having a shadow coach is not an opportunity to bolster the coaches feelings of value, superiority, or competence. It’s not suppose to implicitly highlight the shadow coaches perceived lack of ability to contribute anything. Whether this is conscious positioning or not, when you add no value to the time your shadow coach has investing in being present to learn – This is the message you send.

They may turn out to be a great coach or a terrible one, they may coach in your gym for a long time, or they may not. The outcome doesn’t matter. The real question is are you here for the development and bettering of people – or something else?

How do you make your interns feel when they are on the floor with you? Do they look like they are having fun when they are slouched against a pole with glazed droopy eyes, barely conscious?

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On the flip-side – Yes – if you are doing a great job as a coach, you are probably highly engaged with your members leading into a session. This means your available time to add purpose for your interns shadow coaching on the floor is limited. I encourage you to think of your interns who are shadowing your classes as another member; One whose experience you are also trying to influence, motivate and encourage for improvement. If you can teach 30 people to snatch, surely you can give your intern 3 things to look for and feedback on at the end of the session.

TOP TIP: Keep it simple.

Here’s a snapshot of how we have worked together to develop a custom made guide for interns to follow each time the take the floor at CrossFit East Tamaki. It’s helped to add purpose and value to those interns time during the awkward shadow coaching stage. The guide is administered externally to the coaching staff – by myself. Modes for collaboration and sharing of observations are done via our Intern facebook page. This was a deliberate act to reduce the impact for the coaching staff on and off the floor.  The intern knows in advance what they are heading into the building to look for and feedback on, the coach can be brought into the loop quickly and efficiently, there is consistency of focus across the eight sessions regardless of which intern or coach is timetabled for the session, and the coach can get stuck into the main guts of the mahi – which is delivering a great session for the members. In this case – the interns were taking the floor for the first time. This is the first three in a series of eight sessions.

 

The immediate change we all observed was that with clarity of purpose, the new shadow coaches were proud, instead of shy. They stood tall, instead of leaning against the pole. They were highly engaged with the members and attentive to what the coach on lead was doing, instead of struggling with presence of mind. They all had a notebook which was not a requirement, and they took notes throughout the class to help with the feedback loop at the end of the class.

Disengaged habits are common and irritating when you see them. The default position is to say ‘they have a long way to go’, or ‘they lack initiative’, or they ‘don’t appear keen’. If these habits show up all the time in the majority of interns who are shadowing, it’s not the interns who need to use their initiative – it’s the way we engage them to learn which needs to change. Setting expectations and contracts for initiating the intern process may appeal to some, but actions always speak louder than words. Just like you show your members what to do explicitly, you need to do this for new coaches too.

Because lets face it. It’s frikkin boring watching CrossFit classes, and even worse when you can’t participate or contribute in a meaningful way.

Another benefit of the feedback loop was the reciprocal development which resulted from having an intern watch a coach with a specific focus. Coaching on the floor was more deliberate, coaches focussed more on role modelling the aspect under observation so the intern had a clear picture of how that element of coaching worked in practice. The feedback at the end of the session was great for the coaches. It’s not often you get feedback on your practice and while it was no more than a 5 min chat at most, it facilitated a deeper conversation and clarity of thinking for both coach and intern. It gave the process of coaching and interning purpose.

If you like what you see, try setting out some clear objectives for your interns to look for when they shadow, so they are a shadow and not a Ghost.

 

If you’d like some help, hit the button below.