Rick Scarpulla: So You Want to Be a Coach

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Rick Scarpulla: So You Want to Be a Coach

The journey along the way — much more so than the big victory — is where the true coaching value lies. You need to love the grind.
This article is for aspiring coaches — CrossFit coaches in particular. After my 25+ years in the game, I thought I would share some good points and some bad ones to look out for, both from myself and others over the years.

I consider myself very lucky and blessed: I get to make a living coaching, which is a job I really love. I also take great pride in what I do. Though I am not a pro athlete, at my age it is as close as I will ever get. As an active strength athlete (and a pretty good one) over 50, I still pride myself on training really hard.

I run The Ultimate Advantage Training Center, a facility in upstate New York, and am the creator of the Ultimate Athlete Training Program.

I get to spend my days working with all kinds of athletes. I am also still very much in the strength game at a Masters level, but my greatest satisfaction comes as a coach.

I get to travel to many very cool places and meet some great people. I get to work with many pro and Olympic level athletes as well as with young aspiring athletes.

In addition I have been fortunate enough for the last 11 years to coach at West Point as the Head Coach of the Army Powerlifting Team. I have worked with some really special athletes who have gone on to do some extremely heroic and monumental feats for our country and our freedom.

Very few things can match the feeling that I get when a former Army Powerlifting Team member contacts me and lets me know what he or she has done, how much their time with our team has meant to them, and how I have affected their lives.

It is a feeling I can’t even relay to you because I can’t find the words. Let me just say humbled is one word and honored is another one. I am truly honored to be part of the history of that great team and West Point.

“You Need to Love the Grind”

"You Need to Love the Grind"

[A]thletes need continued success to fuel the hunger for more, but allowing them to fail is part of the process.
I have been lucky to have learned from some great coaches and mentors along the way, and I have had some great athletes train with me over the years both in my own facility and at West Point.

I have celebrated some stellar moments of victory and achievement with many of them. Although those moments are special and memorable, they are sometimes almost anticlimactic.

The reason I coach is not for the crown jewel moments; rather, it is the day to day that I love the most — this is where my greatest coaching is done. I tell my athletes, “Champions are built when no one is watching.”

The journey along the way — much more so than the big victory — is where the true coaching value lies. You need to love the grind. I like to compare it to Christmas when you are a little kid: you can’t wait for the big moment to tear open those presents, but after it’s over you kinda wish you could wrap them back up and wait some more. Sometimes the journey is more fun then you realize.

The day to day grind is hard. Long days and long weeks are not easy, and Lord knows if you do it for the money then you will be miserable very fast. Nice money may come, but like anything else you must pay your dues first. Great coaches are overworked, underpaid and love every minute of it. If you are in it for the money, get out now and do all involved a favor.

As a coach you must wear many hats and be able to deal with many situations quickly and on the fly. Often those split second moments can either launch an athlete forward or set him/her flying backward. Always set the athlete up to succeed. Sometimes that may mean letting them fail to understand how to succeed. Yes, athletes need continued success to fuel the hunger for more, but allowing them to fail is part of the process. Make them work hard, but let them succeed.

Athletes and teams hire me to make them faster and stronger with quicker reactions and better agility and bio-mechanics. My facility is set up differently than most because I do not have memberships, so there is no monthly income from that. Athletes come in and we set a time table for them to get better and lay out a plan for improvement; when that is over, we re-evaluate and do it again. If they have reached the summit, so to speak, or the season starts. then they go to their team and it’s over until next off-season.

As a coach you must realize it is not about you; it is about the athlete.
The point being this: if I don’t make you better, I’m in trouble. Although some athletes stay longer than others, all eventually will move on. I understand that and know I have limited time to make a difference. Once they leave my facility, the lessons need to be ingrained, or it was wasted time for all concerned. This pressure helps make me better as a coach, because I need to — and absolutely want to — make you better in order to continue to get paid.

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