Coaching is a diverse artform, a combination of vision, strategy, creativity and intuition coming together to inspire change and realise potential. A person’s coaching style is much like a fingerprint, unique to the individual and imbued with the power to influence and affect others.
Exceptional coaches take the time to know their athletes as people. They use that foundational relationship to share knowledge and experience, teach technique, correct and praise effort, and inspire a growth mindset that propels each person towards the goal that they are invested in achieving. This is as true for CrossFit as it is for any other coaching endeavour.
So whilst this piece will focus on the essential components a great coach must have, possessing them isn’t enough. It’s how these strengths work together to inspire, motivate and help others realise their potential that counts. From a distance it may indeed appear magical …but magic it isn’t. Great coaching applies an essential skill set in ways that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It arises out of sustained effort, determination, and manifests as a learning journey whose reward is seeing effort and achievement mirrored in others.
It all starts with Relationships
Relationship development is a key to pretty much every aspect of our lives; and with CrossFit it’s no different. Coaches with strong relationship development skills will usually have highly developed emotional intelligence and self-awareness. They are advanced in understanding the different ways people communicate verbally and non-verbally and are able to engage people with a high degree of empathy and connection. It’s this connection that builds the most vital ingredient in an athlete / coach relationship: trust.
Keep an eye out for – gyms / boxes with a strong community spirit buzzing with a positive and supportive culture. Great coaches create great relationships that in turn create positive training environments that in turn motivate their athletes to achieve.
Knowledge Is Power
If trusting relationships are the foundation upon which all things are built, then knowledge is the material with which we build what we aspire to achieve. In the world of CrossFit, a coach must demonstrate an understanding of the theory behind the practice. A great coach however will take a far more expansive view, seeking an expert understanding of physiological strength and conditioning that’s beyond a repertoire of CrossFit exercises. The more materials and techniques a coach has at their disposal, the more flexible and effective they can be in helping anyone achieve their goals.
Keep an eye out for – most CrossFit websites will have a coaches page dedicated to their coaches listing their qualifications. An ever better indicator is to approach a coach and ask them how they sharpen their knowledge. Listen out for a passionate curiosity and a commitment to lifelong learning. Hear these things and you have a coach whose knowledge is likely broad and deep.
Knowledge is Power…….but power without proper application equals zero force. In CrossFit, translating knowledge into an effective workout requires a coach to know:
- how to convey the essentials (teach)
- what to look out for (observe)
- how to establish and grow quality (guide and correct)
- how to motivate a group (group management)
- how to inspire (mindfulness and attitude), and,
- how to visually instruct (demonstration).
Keep an eye out for – ask to watch a class before you join one. A well balanced coach will demonstrate the above six characteristics and their students will respond. Some improvements you might not notice, others you most definitely will. You might even find yourself inspired just watching.
A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. They have a vision for what is possible, a strategy for how to get there, the creativity to inspire and include others, and the intuition to apply learned experience in real time. A leader will resonate with you in ways that will motivate you to show up, believe in yourself and the CrossFit program and apply only your best effort every time.
Keep an eye out for – a cohesive group of athletes purposefully working toward their goals. Speak to one of the athletes after the class. If they are being lead well, they will talk of their relationship with their coach and how important that has been in their journey towards progress.
Experience brings it all home
If you’ve read this far, the point made earlier about strengths working together should now be apparent. A great cake isn’t dependent on one single ingredient, but in the way those ingredients mingle together to create something that brings people together. In the same way, great coaches have their balance of strengths and skills set just right, finely tuned for continuous improvement. Because when it comes down to it, your coach’s ability to inspire change in others is directly correlated with their ability to inspire change in themselves first.