Rick Scarpulla: The Cert Does Not Make the Coach

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by RICK SCARPULLA

Rick Scarpulla: The Cert Does Not Make the Coach
There are many good coaches in sports today — not in any one sport in particular, but in all sports. Just as athletes have improved over the years, so have coaches. With much more science and information available to assist in the diagnostic evaluations of their athletes than ever before, coaches can track and test every breath and pulse of their athletes if they so choose.

[C]oaches now have the opportunity to become smarter then ever….[I]n many ways today’s coach has a much greater chance of making athletes successful than in generations past.
We also now understand more about injury, recovery, and proper training volume due to medical advances. An injury that could be a career ender years back may now mean a mere few weeks of recovery, and the cause can quickly be determined. The old “I don’t know what happened; it just happened” is no longer a valid answer.

We have the ability to see every muscle fiber and joint movement the body is capable of, as well as the effect and reaction every rep has on them. Some of the technology we have available to us today is simply amazing.

We have the benefit of modern technology and scientific research along with some very sophisticated equipment in today’s sports. Compound that with cutting-edge training techniques and the past generations’ findings, and successes and failures are all documented for us to reference and learn from.

In short, coaches now have the opportunity to become smarter then ever. Therefore it is with good reason you can say that in many ways today’s coach has a much greater chance of making athletes successful than in generations past. This is backed up by the fact that yesterday’s records are achieved regularly today by fairly average athletes, and they are achieving greater feats than their predecessors.

The Coach as Artist

The Coach as Artist
All that being said, on the flipside there is still an awful lot of bad coaching out there today. As many of you know, I work with a lot of athletes and visit countless boxes, gyms, and training facilities. Everywhere I go people are claiming to have this certificate or that certificate and they all claim to be coaches.

While I am not trying to discredit anyone with certifications, there is more to coaching than this. In my eyes, coaches should be seen in many ways as artists or skilled tradesmen — it takes years to become a true coach.
I believe CrossFit coaches in particular should have some sort of apprenticeships or internship program requirements. It’s like you can be a pizza delivery person on Friday, take a Level-1 certification over the weekend, then call yourself a coach on Monday. It seems like a discredit to quality coaches everywhere and makes the new certification holder look suspect as well.

The reality is this: the part of coaching that is being taught at the weekend certs is the easiest part of coaching — the x’s and o’s of a sport. That, my friends, is by far the easiest part to learn.

If coaching is a trade — and it is — how many other trades do you know of that have no internship requirements?
Many people think that because they can instruct someone on how to do a selected exercise, they are coaches. Wrong — coaching involves far more than this. You can go on YouTube and get instruction. There is a tremendous difference between coaching and showing someone how to do something. Truth be told, many people don’t even do the instruction correctly. Improper lifting technique is at about the same spot as bad coaching, but at least many bad lifters aren’t claiming to be coaches.

What’s the fix? As I said, my belief is that some sort of on-the-job internship is critical. At Ultimate Advantage, very good young coaches have been working with me for a while, and they understand they are doing a kind of coaching internship. They are developing their skills within the art of coaching, and I am very proud of their work.

If coaching is a trade — and it is — how many other trades do you know of that have no internship requirements? Heck — it takes a 4-year internship to become a certified carpenter! Yet in CrossFit you can attend a weekend certification and call yourself a coach. This just doesn’t seem beneficial to anyone. (Well, almost no one; there is some serious cash being made along the way.)

Though I am not claiming to be God’s gift to coaching by any means, I do consider myself to be passionate and fairly knowledgeable in my field. I have also been blessed to have had successful athletes and feel great pride when they call me “coach.”

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