I may not be on the coaching staff at CFNE right now, but I still can’t get away from the perspective that a coach has when taking a class.
As an athlete in a CrossFit class, I notice EVERYTHING: the way a coach moves around the room, how they use their voice and body language, whether they actually make quick corrections while running through warm-ups, if they use people’s specific names when addressing them, the pace at which they move through the hour, if they use appropriate progressions in the movements that are in the upcoming WOD, are they approachable, do they make it FUN…the best hour of their day, do they speak clearly, do they make people feel comfortable asking questions or making modifications, can they be flexible and make changes on the fly, do they strike a good balance between being the one in charge…yet, a coach that cares more about their athletes’ goals than their own personal goals, are they convincing and actually knowledgeable, are they punctual and timely, are they honest and willing to admit when they don’t know the answer to something, do they talk too much, do they “coach” while the WOD is going down…or, are they just cheerleading, do they cheerlead too much and not coach enough, do they talk too much about themselves, are they humble?
There is SO much that goes into being a good coach. But, I think if I had to hold one single skill above all else, it would be this: can the coach read people, and do they react appropriately?
Having the ability to read people, and be able to respond to that, is everything. If a coach can’t do that, they can’t earn the trust of his or her athletes. And, if an athlete can’t trust their coach, they can’t reach their goals…whatever those goals might be.
While it comes down to something so simple, there is nothing simple about this skill. In fact, it’s probably the hardest skill to teach and develop because it’s definition is constantly changing.
What coaching style worked for one athlete in yesterday’s workout may not at all be what they want for today. Even within one workout, they may fluctuate between wanting positive cheerleading and later needing a little push to finish 5 more tough reps before taking a breather.
Someone may be moving really well during the whole workout, but at the very end of an AMRAP 15, their elbows start to drop in a front squat or they’re pressing out the top of a heavy push jerk. Correcting those movement violations may be appropriate at minute 8, but are they as appropriate at minute 14:40?
And, when an athlete starts failing reps or is really struggling with a weight, does the coach know whether the athlete needs to strategize breaks better…or, is it more that the weight is too heavy and needs to be dropped or the movement itself needs to be modified to something more manageable?
What it comes down to is this: empathy.
How well can a coach put themselves in their athletes shoes and try to feel what they are feeling? How well can a coach leave behind any personal agendas and goals and, instead, treat their athletes’ goals like their own. And, how well can a coach share their athletes’ feelings…and, show that they genuinely care about their experiences.