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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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