by CrossFit Jaguar
Coaching comes naturally to some, and not so naturally to others. Some people are born “the Coach’s Eye,” and some need to work to develop it. If you’re in the 18-23 year old demographic, fresh off your Level One Certification course, and just starting out as a coach, chances are you’re going to discover just how difficult commanding a large class can be very soon, if you haven’t already. Even coaches with a good eye need time to develop their own style. These are a few tricks of the trade that will make transitioning from athlete to coach a whole lot easier.
1) Coach the On-Ramp class
Regularly coaching new and prospective members with little to no athletic background will keep you on your coaching toes. Not every athlete takes every cue the same way, and the challenge of constantly thinking of new ways to describe the same movements patterns will quickly grow your coaching repertoire. Sometimes you never know what cue will stick, and having a deep arsenal can make the difference between coaching an athlete to a new PR and watching their improvement plateau.
2) The older coaches: watch and learn
There are some things only experience can teach, and your best resources for that experience are the more experienced coaches at your box. You might have a couple of new cues they’ve never heard, or you might have seen a new progression drill they haven’t seen, but only experience can allow you to properly use those nuggets of knowledge. They’ll even help you get to know the members faster.
3) Don’t shoot from the hip
New coaches have the tendency to throw as many cues at an athlete as possible just to see what sticks. Combine tips 1 and 2 when coaching an athlete through a movement by carefully watching the athlete, analyzing their movement faults, give one or two corrective cues, and repeat. Don’t be afraid to get hands on or demonstrate either, everyone learns differently.
4) Avoid showing-off
If the WOD has muscle ups and an athlete asks to see a demonstration, this is not your chance to crank out a set of 10. Use more experienced athletes in the class to demonstrate proper movement form. It will allow you to explain the movement in depth while making the other athletes feel more involved in the class. If you’re the only one capable of performing the demonstration, do enough to get your point across without looking like a show-off. Sometimes less is more.
5) Coach by triage
Fix the biggest problem first. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to get the yogi doing Sun Salutations in the corner to perform a perfect snatch in their first week. By letting newer athletes focus on their biggest issues first, correcting their minor movement flaws will be a piece of cake down the road.
6) Coaching mid-WOD
I know it’s tempting to correct an athlete’s technique during a WOD, but if it’s a flaw that can’t be corrected in 3-5 words, two cues maximum, leave it be. Breaking down the mechanics of the clean and jerk half way through Grace will ruin the workout for an athlete, they won’t be happy about it. Obviously as coaches we are responsible for enforcing movement standards and making sure athletes exhibit proper technique, but if the athlete’s form is breaking down to where you feel the need to stop their WOD and coach them, you probably should have scaled them down in the first place.
7) MOST IMPORTANT: Study up
A CrossFit coach should have a basic understanding of the human body, as well as in depth knowledge of each contributing form of exercise under the CrossFit umbrella. CrossFit offers specialty courses in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, Kettlebell Training, Mobility, Gymnastics, and more. Even if you don’t take all these courses, constantly strive to learn more about your the movements and exercises you are teaching. As a young coach, other members might undermine you, question you, or even try to coach for you. You need to be able to back up what you tell your athletes with concrete knowledge. They’ll respect you for it and will be more likely to listen to you when you coach them.