5 Things That A Great CrossFit Coach Does

Written By Ben  |  CrossFit 

When was the last time someone positively changed your life? 

I’m not talking about the stranger that paid it forward in the Starbucks line the other day, and you walked away with a free latte (although that can brighten a morning, for sure). I’m not talking about that cute guy/girl from accounting who held the door for you even though you were 10 steps away... 

I mean when was the last time someone fundamentally transformed the way you live or your way of thinking - forever.

For some of us, the answer may be simple: “My CrossFit coach.”

Beyond your family, friends, and coworkers - you probably get some form of coaching a few times per week. For many, a coach is their direct line to reliable, consistent wisdom about health, fitness, etc.

So that brings about the question…

What makes a great CrossFit coach?

Here at WODprep, we believe there are five major attributes that make an outstanding coach, and they don’t always occur within the walls of the gym.

So whether you’re a coach, an aspiring coach, or even an athlete who wants to be able to help their teammates better, then read on! I’m going to break out the five main things that only a great coach can do; let’s take a look.

1. Major over minor cues.

I’ve personally always believed that the mark of a truly great CrossFit coach is when they are able to identify that ONE cue (or tip) that will make the biggest positive impact.

Think about it; any coach can sit down and point out the several things you may be doing wrong, areas to improve on, etc. Heck, even other athletes in your own gym can do that for you.

What makes a coach great is when they are able to laser-focus in on what the MAJOR cue is that you need; that one cue that will set you up to eventually correct everything else.

If an athlete is struggling with… let’s say bar muscle ups. Odds are, there are a bunch of corrections that you could throw at them. But instead of doing that, and overwhelming them, it’s more important to take a step back and find that ONE major fault that is throwing off everything else. 

CrossFit Coach
what makes a great crossfit coach?
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Example: Too wide of a grip vs. completely lacking a hip pop. Let’s work on that hip pop, or they will never get over the bar.

2. Great CrossFit Coaches Pick Winnable Battles. 

Being a CrossFit Coach can be tricky, because you often have athletes of all different skill-levels in the same classes, at once. So it’s important that you’re able to scale your coaching up and down as needed.

Example: The skill of the day is double unders. In one corner, you have someone who has never touched a jump rope in their life; doesn’t even know how to do a single under. What is a winnable battle for this athlete? Probably to work on mastering single unders, before even suggesting they start attempting double unders.

In the other corner, you have an athlete whose lifetime PR of double unders is 5. Great! Single unders are a thing of the past for them, so let’s set our sights on upping that PR to… 20. Reasonable = winnable.

3. Coaches should break down CrossFit goals into manageable steps.

This goes hand-in-hand with picking winnable battles. If an athlete approaches you and says “Hey coach, all I want in life is to be able to do a ring muscle up,” what do you say to them?

Hopefully not, “Awesome! Hop on those rings, let’s get after it!”

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What is manageable for this particular athlete? Do they have the prerequisites needed to do a ring muscle up? Can they do chest to bar pull-ups, false grip holds, and dips?

If yes, great, then perhaps the goal of a strict ring muscle up is manageable. But if this particular athlete still can’t do a strict pull-up, then it’s probably necessary to start with that step first.

4. Coach the person, not the athlete 

Odds are, coaching isn’t always going to always revolve around pull-ups and power cleans. Athletes are going to walk into the gym after having a bad day at school/work, and they might just be ‘off’.

Now it isn’t necessarily your job to sit down and work through all their life issues, but it’s important to notice attitude and motivate as needed. If Sally has made it known that she had a bad day, and you know that Sally is somewhat on the sensitive side, maybe this isn’t the best day to get in her face about repping out one last power clean.

Coach the person, not just the movements.

Read your athletes, get to know them. Through that, you can also get to know their limits, who responds well to what (personally it doesn’t phase me to be yelled at, but it very well can upset others), and when you need to reign it in, or give more.

CrossFit Coach
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being a great crossfit coach

And sometimes, your job description could very well mean an athlete is crying to you after class about a problem that has absolutely nothing to do with CrossFit. Yet believe it or not, this still falls into the realm of being a good CrossFit coach: being there for your athletes, knowing them, and (when you can) giving them direction and advice that can translate across their lives.

5. As a CrossFit Trainer, you are always the student.

Huh? How can I coach and also be a student?

No matter how many certifications or years of experience you have, you should be learning from your students (athletes) - almost constantly.

Something awesome about CrossFit is that it supplies a massive surplus of drills and exercises that can help an athlete finally make it ‘click.’ The same drills and progressions might not work for every single athlete, that’s normal. However, learn from what does and doesn’t work, and constantly seeking new ways to help out your athletes.

Not only that, more often than not athletes often have great questions that should be challenging you as a coach. It’s completely fine if you don’t know the answer to every single question, but take that as motivation to then go find the answer.

Be a student of CrossFit no matter what your skill/fitness level is.

And never stop learning...

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Now, if you’re reading all of this and thinking to yourself, ‘All of this makes sense, but I don’t belong to a gym/don’t have a coach/workout in my garage/typically just do open gym, What do I do?!’

CrossFit Coaching Online 

You don’t necessarily need a CrossFit coach who is ‘physically’ in the gym with you. Thanks to the internet, smartphone cameras, and free technology… there are a lot of great options. 

If you’re struggling with a particular CrossFit movement and are looking for a WODprep coach to help you out, we would love to do just that.

Head to our courses section and see if the course you’re interested in is currently open.

If it's closed, feel free to email [email protected] directly and we’ll see what we can do about helping you out!

How does online CrossFit Coaching work?

All WODprep courses are 8-week time, and you get lifetime access to them. You’ll be given accessory programming built out for the movement you’re working on to follow - we recommend 2-3 days per week, about 15 minutes per session.

You can film yourself doing the movement and programming and get personalized feedback from our WODprep coaches, either via email or within the private Facebook group. We've helped tons of athletes all over the world through online CrossFit coaching - are you next?

Know a great CrossFit Coach?

Now that you’ve read what makes a coach great - how does your coach stack up? If you know a CrossFit coach who ROCKS - be sure to tell us about them in the comments below.

Be sure to share this with a coach or non-coach who may appreciate the read!

Disclaimer: WODprep is not associated with CrossFit® in any way and these opinions are separate from the CrossFit® brand. 

  • Sou you said in this article with this examples .A great coach reinforce bad habits pretty much , in MU , without athelte have a strict pullups for example , in the lift even its a bad rep . I get your point but looks like a Great coach you describe always ” cheers” a client , this turn in a bad culture of heavy lifts and bad technique , of course vary people too people but…

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