In Seth Godin’s book Tribes, he defines a tribe as a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. CrossFit is a tribe. Your affiliate is also a tribe. Each class you coach is a tribe in its own right. The people who come at 5:30 am are not the same people who come at 5:30 pm. They are their own unique tribes. Some will come because of their schedules, some will come because of you. Your style. Your personality. Your leadership. You are a coach and that means you will wear many hats. In order to be an effective coach, you have to be an effective leader. Whether it is an innate quality or something you’ve worked to develop, leadership is the cornerstone of being a great coach.
In CrossFit there’s a bizarre celebrity around being a coach. People get bit by the CrossFit bug, run off to get their Level 1, and immediately want to start training others. And while there isn’t much of a barrier to entry in becoming a CrossFit coach, simply passing your Level 1 Certification doesn’t make you a good coach. There’s an art and a science to being an effective leader that can’t be taught in a weekend seminar.
Ask yourself: Are you coach or a cheerleader with a stopwatch? A coach is a teacher and a mentor. They add value to their athletes growth and progress. A cheerleader jumps around and claps their hands and throws out a bunch of canned motivational phrases. I’m not downplaying actual cheerleaders; they’re some pretty incredible athletes. But a coach who acts like a cheerleader with a stopwatch is not adding value to their athletes’ experience.
As a coach you always have to be “on.” You’re not allowed to have a bad day. You have to speak with certainty. Move with purpose. Stress virtuosity and perfection in every movement, no matter how basic. Let your personality come through in everything you do. Make it your own. Expect more from your athletes, because they expect everything from you. Engage with your athletes. Adapt to their needs. The cues you give a beginner, are not the same cues you would give to an intermediate or advanced athlete. Know the difference.
This is your tribe and they are looking to you for guidance, motivation, education, inspiration and most importantly: leadership. They want to be led. The question is, are you ready to lead?