You may want to sit down, because I have a news flash that is going to rock your world. Are you ready for it? Here it is: Being a coach is more than standing in front of a group of athletes and telling them what to do. BOOM. WORLD ROCKED.
But seriously, we've all been there, in that class somewhere, sometime, when the person who was supposed to be instructing wasn't. And by "wasn't" I mean wasn't teaching, encouraging, pushing athletes to their full potential, or hell, even paying attention. As coaches, we'd be lying to ourselves if we said we'd never felt like we hadn't been in that position at some point. It's not always easy to be "on". Here's another news flash: Just like all you athletes who have "off" days when you're just not quite feelin' it... well, coaches have those days too. The trick is knowing how to bust the slump and continue being a great coach.
During my years of being an athlete, coach, and manager of a retail business, and now being a CrossFit affiliate owner and coaching athletes again, I've seen a lot of people who just want the title. Whatever it might be - Coach, supervisor, manager, owner. And in some instances it's pretty easy to get that title. It's not always as easy to keep it, or to gain the respect that should come with it. In my on-going quest to be better, here are the top 10 things I have learned that will help make you successful. This applies to life, not just the gym.
1. Have A Mentor.
Everyone needs someone they can lean on, ask questions, express doubts and frustrations to, and learn from. Sometimes those people will come to you, but why wait. Seek them out. Find those people in your community, or profession, that you look up to for their work ethic, organizational skills, ability to teach and coach and inspire, and ASK THEM FOR HELP! That’s right… ASK THEM. They might be good at what they do, but chances are they can’t read your mind. They don’t know that you want their help unless you tell them. And if they are truly a person worth looking up to, they will be more than happy to help you. But don’t expect them to just give you all of the answers. They may point you in the right direction, or give you advice based off of their experience, but again, if they are a true mentor, they will help you discover the answers for yourself. They will give you the tools to become a successful peer and hopefully, a successful mentor to someone else.
2. Never Stop Learning.
You don’t know everything. You will NEVER know everything. Even if you are an expert in your field and spend most of your time teaching other people how to do what you do. There is always more out there. Always another experience, another chance to hear another perspective or view. What works for you may not work for others, and what others have to say may help you become better. I have been CrossFitting for 5 years and I have improved every day since I started. What does that say about what we do? You are never at the top of your game, and that is what we love about it. That is the challenge that keeps us coming back, keeps us striving to be at the top of our game. Learn new sports and skills, listen to different instructors and coaches, hell, go to seminars about stuff you don’t agree with, just to learn more about it. Look at every single experience as a chance to learn and grow. If you don’t, you’re missing out.
3. Be The Change.
Don’t just ask people to change. Show them how to change. Yep. It’s kind of that simple. Push yourself just as hard as you expect your athletes, employees or business partners to push themselves. Develop, grow, and adjust when things don’t go as planned. Don’t just have high standards for yourself and those around you hold yourself accountable to those standards. Yes, I believe that some rules are made to be broken (just ask my parents), but what good is having rules and standards if there is always an exception? Find the balance and keep moving forward. Do things that make a difference, both to you, and in the lives of those around you.
4. Be A Good Athlete.
As a coach, and as an employer, I have had lots of moments where, in the middle of teaching or presenting, I have lost the attention of my audience for whatever reason. Maybe they are talking with friends, commenting on something you just said, running to the bathroom, or just out-right distracted. And there always seems to be the person in the back that is trying to make complaining a sport. If you want your class, employees, athletes… whoever, to pay attention 1.) Make it worth their while to listen, and 2.) Act how you would like your class, employees, athletes… whoever, to act. Be respectful of other coaches and their teaching styles. The same destination can be reached many ways. Also, be willing to work your weaknesses, be vulnerable about movements you aren’t proficient at, and go all-out in your own personal workout. Your athletes will see this. Remember, you don’t always know when someone is watching and the impact you are having on them.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Fail.
Failure is part of life. A good part of life. Without some failure, and unsuccessful attempts, we wouldn’t know what really does work for us, our athletes or our business. If you have failed, all it means is that you had an idea that you put to action that still needs some work. I could go on and on about how failure is good for you, but the bottom line is this: To grow and change, to truly develop a sense of self and be comfortable in your own skin, you must be tried and tested. If you learn from failure, you will succeed more often than not. Let others see you attempt and fail. But make sure they also see you learn, adapt and move forward from that failure. Don’t wallow in it and use it as an excuse for all future failures, or a reason to just not try in the first place. Get knocked down nine times, get back up 10.
6. It’s Not About You.
You better get some thick skin, because it’s not about you. It’s about everyone around you. If you are the type of person who needs constant validation, pats on the back, or recognition, walk away. Now. You will spend long hours, late nights, and early mornings working to make yourself better, in order to help your athletes. You will put time, energy, effort, passion and money in to seminars, certifications, equipment, training, supporting and encouraging. And the likeliness of people giving you props for that, on a daily basis anyway, is slim to none. Don’t get me wrong. People will be grateful, and you will know it. You will see it in the way they smile, cheer and yell when they learn something new or hit a PR, when they climb the rope for the first time, or jog an entire mile instead of walking. You will see it in their eyes when you are comforting them or giving them support during difficult times. You will feel it in the respect that your athletes have for you and the way they treat you as a coach. But don’t expect a ticker-tape parade every time you feel like you accomplished something. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Make sure that your athletes are getting what they need – programming, coaching, support and the opportunity to learn and grow along side of you. You are now a coach first and an athlete second. I recently had the chance to have lunch with some affiliate owners who have been around the block a time or two. One mentioned she hadn’t really worked out since December. Don’t let yourself get lost, but don’t ignore the people who have signed on to work hard and better themselves because you have ambitions and goals.
7. Know Your Goals.
Speaking of goals… know yours. Know what you want and figure out what you need to do to get there. Whether you want to be an awesome coach, and awesome athlete, and amazing parent or rockin’ business owner, take time to get a clear grasp on the direction you’re headed. It is so easy to get sidetracked, distracted, and bogged down by daily tasks. There will always be a list, and you will always be scratching off one thing and adding two more. Some of those things can’t wait, but some of them can. Where do you want to be in 6 months, a year, five years, or ten? What do you need to accomplish now to get to where you want to be? Which goals can build on one another, resulting in the desired end product? Make a list, put reminders in your calendar, check and adjust based on how things are going and get shit done. Period.
8. Know Your Athlete’s Goals.
Know why each of your athletes is there. News flash: not everyone wants to be Rich Froning (I am totally dropping bombs today). Some people want to lose weight, some want to train back from an injury, some want to take time off of their marathon, some want to be a better football player. No two people that walk through your door are going to be the same, so don't treat them all like they want to be rock star CrossFit competitors. Most people just want to be fit and better their general health. Don't start shoving competitions at them during their first class. Don't ask them to start Whole 30 on their second day, or shove fish oil and magnesium into their hands before they leave. I'm not saying don't encourage them to compete, or eat well, or supplement appropriately... what I'm saying is, give it some time. There isn't really a point to taking fish oil if your diet is still crappy. Get them in to a routine of coming to the gym first, then talk about nutrition. Layer it on. Make it last. Don't overwhelm them with things that may end up making them quite because they are, well, overwhelmed. They came to your box for motivation, accountability, and help reaching THEIR goals, so listen to what THEY need and act accordingly.
9. You Are in Charge of Your Destiny.
Don’t sit back and wait for things to come to you, or magically happen. Good things come to those who work their asses off. No lie. Some things may come your way with little effort on your part. But most of the things you want, you are going to have to work for. Putting yourself out there for the world to see is scary shit for sure, but it’s worth what you will get in return. That mentor you are seeking, those classes and seminars you are trying to find out about, that network of peers willing to help you out and give you support… those are all things you get by putting yourself out there and asking. Don’t showboat. Seriously, no one has time for that crap. Just be aware of what is going on in your community and don’t be afraid to participate and get to know other people. Once you start, you will realize that it isn’t as scary as you thought. Those people that you look up to, they were new once too, just starting out with a million questions and a ton of big plans for their future. Take control and steer yourself in the direction you want to go. And if you find that direction isn’t exactly what you thought it was, change course… but keep moving forward. As the poem says, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
10. Have Fun!
This is another one that’s really simple, but really important. For God's sake have fun! There is a time and place for serious training, but don’t take yourself too seriously. I bet at some point, you described CrossFit to someone as “really fun”, and you were right. The group of people you work out with become your friends and family, your support system. Let your personality shine through, in your coaching and in your athleticism. It’s okay to smile, it’s even okay to laugh… and if you come to our box, it’s okay to bust out some dance moves if you feel so inclined. That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you will begin to lose motivation, passion and drive. And if you don’t have fun doing this, then what is the point? Be happy… it will be contagious!
Obviously others may make a different list of attributes they believe good coaches should have, and I could probably keep adding to this list for a while, but I think you get the idea.
“Coach” is more than just a title; it’s a responsibility; a commitment. You are upholding the ideals and standards of not only your affiliate, but CrossFit as a whole. You are representing an entire community of people who are working hard to improve people’s lives and overall fitness. You are part of something bigger than just yourself. Your workouts may be “You vs. You”, but in the end, it is the collective “us” that makes CrossFit what it is, the community that we all love being a part of. That may be too serious, especially after I just got done telling you to have fun, but it’s true. Every time you talk to someone about why you love CrossFit, or why they should join, every time you step in front of your class to teach, you are representing “us”.
So the next time you’re in class, thinking to yourself that you would like to be a coach, ask yourself why you want to be a coach. Are you in it for yourself? For the title? Or are you in it to make others better? Are you willing to do the things that I listed? If you answered NO to the first two questions and YES to the second two, you are well on your way. If not, you may just need more time. Don’t give up. Go after what you want. Make yourself who you want to be. Know what you will become.