Know Your Athletes: Coach the Whole Person

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by J.T. CLAY

Know Your Athletes: Coach the Whole Person

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Being a CrossFit coach or any “coach” or “teacher” is a great privilege and responsibility at the same time. We not only have an opportunity to change lives for the better but an implied responsibility to ensure our sessions do not have a negative impact on those we are entrusted with guiding. As we grow in our technical abilities, develop more watchful eyes for movement, and increase creativity in cultivating movement patterns and clever cues for correction, we sometimes forget that we are not working with machines that move; rather, our clients are multifaceted human beings — individuals who not only have mechanical capabilities but who also come with strengths and weaknesses. Not to mention that they also have real personalities and emotions.

In any given class, we have the full spectrum of abilities and identities to harness and guide so that all can reach both common and individual goals. Their experience levels can range from a seasoned coach or high-level athlete to the person who was just introduced to a barbell yesterday. They could be visiting from another gym. Or maybe the person they call “friend” drug them out of their introverted comfort zone and thrust them into this new world of extroverted community we know and love as the CrossFit community.

I asked one of these athletes to join me in the middle so that I could call attention to a common fault… [M]y selection of one of the athletes who was only two classes new was quickly revealed to be a poor choice.
I am writing this now because I had one class very much like that this evening. It was a small class — as 5pm classes go — comprised of about ten people, including three coaches, two individuals who were joining us on their second class, one person who had been a member for about three weeks, and four who were in between. The perfect mix you both love and hate when you have EMOTM cleans and shoulder-to-overhead for a WOD. During the review of the clean, I observed at least five people not opening their hips fully. In my attempt to use the circle for the benefit of everyone, I asked one of these athletes to join me in the middle so that I could call attention to a common fault and demonstrate how to correct the movement pattern. Although my intention was good, my selection of one of the athletes who was only two classes new was quickly revealed to be a poor choice. Upon asking her to join me in the circle and requesting that she perform the movement for me, her immediate response was “No, because you are going to make fun of me.” I assured her that this was not the case, but she was in no way willing to perform the movement. I told her it was okay and she returned to the perimeter. I reminded the class that using the circle was in no way meant to embarrass anyone, but to help the group as a whole observe and learn from common mistakes.

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