We are the Coaches.We are empowered and entrusted to develop the health and wellbeing of athletes. We have a responsibility to Deliver. We Set the Example. We Lead from the Front.
This statement I firmly believe in and I would like to take this time to break it down.
The Whiteboard. Being a coach to athletes is not about being at the top of the whiteboard, day in and day out. As a coach, there is certainly a degree of credibility that comes from being in the top few % though. Who is going to follow the person who doesn’t demonstrate a strong level of all round fitness, regardless of their competencies. At least, not in this game, perhaps more so in elite, specific sports where the coach is intentionally detached from playing but who has demonstrated high levels of competence as a dedicated coach. In fitness, you trust the person who demonstrates fitness. As coaches, it is our job to make those around us better than us and so there will always be people above us on the whiteboard. Plus, time spent coaching is time spent not training which will have an impact.
Communication is about more than words. It is the sum of our words and deeds. Simply put, we cannot expect athletes to listen to what we say if we don’t follow it ourselves. We are being watched ALL THE TIME. Our words are just part of what we are saying. How we act, how we move, the example we set…these are powerful messages. Don’t get me wrong, I am hardly the most virtuous CrossFitter out there. I like chocolate, I like a little cake sometimes and I drink too much caffeine in the form of Monster Zero (yep, I do); I may or may not have a secret thing for Cool Doritos too. But in front of the athletes (and 80% of the time generally), it’s professional, competent and leading by example. While on communication, be careful to not overstep the bounds of your own knowledge – not rumour or heresay, knowledge. Bad advice and guidance, no matter how well intentioned, is bad advice and is not guidance. Seek help the moment you are outside your comfort zone. And then go and dive in to the books and learn!
Programming. If we are following completely different programmes then how do we sell our programme to the athletes? Standfast those on competitor programming vice General Physical Preparedness (although CrossFit opposes this view too), but if you turn up and stroll to the other end of the box to do your own thing while others are sweating in a heap on the floor then it screams, “this programme isn’t good enough for me but it’s good enough for you”. Back to my previous point about not being top of the whiteboard, you still have to be ON that whiteboard. Athletes want to see how they measure up against you; as coaches, it’s good to see where you measure up too.
Nutrition. In the words of the guy who took me through my Level 1, 5 years ago, “here be monsters”. Nutrition is a thorny subject – everyone is set in their ways, there are thousands of competing ‘diets’ and approaches. However, one thing that almost all agree on is to reduce/remove refined sugars, have some starch, have some nuts & seeds, eat lean protein, eat tonnes of beautiful, green leafy veg (REAL FOOD). Within that, you can weigh/measure/count what you like within your preference. Personally, as you know, I weigh my food for 5 days a week and see considerable benefits by the 35% Carbs / 35% Protein / 30% Fat model. Of course, quantities of each do depend on your activity levels and goals. BUT what is not included are heavily processed, manufactured, brightly coloured products that contain clearly artificial ingredients but which have killa names obviously designed to get you to part with your cash as quickly as possible. As coaches, it is hard enough attempting to talk about basic nutrition while competing with highly-funded advertising, what is even harder is if trainers in your profession advocate them too – I should mention that this is not a common occurrence in CF Watford; it really isn’t. I’m merely highlighting a point as something that I have witness. The only way we can compete with dissociated advertising is with the up-close-and-personal approach that a coach delivers.
Effort. We might not be the best in the box. Our mobility might not be where it should be. We will have our ‘goats’ too – things to work on. But as coaches, we demonstrate the effort required to get to that next stage of fitness. We put in the full range of movement in the burpee box jump, and we explain why. We fight to maintain external shoulder rotation in the shoulders during overhead squats, and we explain why. The athletes have to see that we work as hard as they do in every facet of the coaching session. You might not think it but they are looking to see your progressions too. And this goes for that 6am session that we really didn’t want to get out of bed for too. The athletes made it, we need to bring our A-Game, even if we don’t feel like it.
Scaling. We might Rx most things…but we didn’t used to. Not only that, we shouldn’t always, either. Scaling plays its part in all our development but the coach scaling a workout occasionally will also send the message to some of the more ‘determined’ athletes, “hey, if coach is scaling, perhaps I should too”. You might have told that to scale a thousand times but nothing demonstrates “leave your ego at the door” better than actually doing it ourselves.
Jumping in on WODs. This is a habit that I started getting in on but have now drawn back from. CrossFit is not cheap. It is far more expensive than typical gym memberships, despite not having the free towels, DVD memberships, spas, beautiful changing rooms and TVs. It is expensive because athletes pay for the value that a coach brings in giving them the personal attention throughout the 60 mins of the day that they invest in. It is our duty to unrelentingly pursue their progression and development. If there is another coach present to take over then dive on in – athletes do want to compete against the coaches, after all. But ultimately, they pay for coaching; they didn’t pay for globogym.
So, that about covers it, I think, although I’m sure I’ll think of something else as soon as I publish this.
Is there anything you look for in your coaches? Are there strong examples out there that we could learn from? Are there bad examples out there that we can learn from?
Answers, not on a postcard, but in the comments box below.