The 6 Key Attributes of a GREAT CrossFit Coach

Written By Charleh Knighton  |  Programming 

What makes a great CrossFit coach? It's funny; everyone knows when you've got a bad one. You might even know when you've got a good one, but what truly makes a GREAT one. 

We are here to teach you about the six key attributes of a great CrossFit coach. If you are a coach or an aspiring coach, or if you're trying to judge whether or not your coaches are any good, I've broken down the best six attributes that are essential.

I've included a video in today's blog with guest host, Lindsay. Lindsay is a level three trainer at CrossFit headquarters, and she's also a seminar staff. She teaches levels one and two plus the entire coach development and internship process at the local affiliate. 

She's a red shirt; she's the person who teach people how to teach CrossFit, which is awesome. At one point, it was something that I wanted to aspire to do. So, if there's anyone to be helping WODprep out with content on what makes a GREAT CrossFit Coach - Lindsay is the expert. We're super grateful for her to be working with us.

If you are a coach, you're already training people, or if you're a coach that's trying to learn how to actually coach better and, more specifically, run a better business of coaching, I have some important information you might be interested in:

>>> I'm actually running a mentorship group to help people learn how to run online fitness businesses >>>

What makes a great CrossFit coach?


The first key attribute is teaching. What does that mean?

So when we're talking about teaching, we're talking about how to simplify our knowledge into digestible information for athletes to understand. That's taking a large body of knowledge and distilling it into an easy way to communicate it. That's it.

A great example of this in other industries are people who are really, really smart. They know all the technical lingo; they know everything there is to know about a subject, but they can explain it to a fifth-grader. 

A typical example that's used here is Richard Fineman. He's a fantastic scientist; he's famous for being able to explain really complex physics in a simple and easy-to-understand manner.

So if you're good at teaching, if you have this first attribute, you can take all the knowledge that you know about CrossFit and not only be able to teach athletes but first-time beginners too, and they'll understand straight away.


Key attribute number two is seeing. Seeing that, I just am looking at the athlete, right? Not really.

Seeing is a little bit more involved than that. Seeing involves being able to evaluate mechanics as sound or unsound if you're in a good position or not, so good position.

For instance, if I'm squatting and my hip crease is getting below the top of my knee, a bad coach might not notice that my mechanics were a little off. So seeing is being able to notice when things have gone awry, or when they're correct, and giving praise.

You have to be able to look at mechanics, not only when the athletes are moving (dynamic positions) but also in static positions and be able to see specific body parts as well as cross-sections of body parts.


Key attribute number three is correcting. Correcting is being able to make noticeable changes to an athlete's mechanics.

To give you an example, if I see an athlete squatting terribly like before, being good at correcting or having this attribute is being able to say something that makes the athlete have a positive change.

You want to be asking yourself, are you getting the athlete the results they're after? 

This doesn't mean going around a correcting everything all at once. Instead, it's being able to correct one thing at a time, and usually, it's not the most obvious fault that's to "blame".

To give you an example.

If I go back to the poor squatting position, as a coach, you want to be able to correct that quickly; however, a lot is going on here.

One of the main things that the knees were touching, so the correction could be to push the knees out.

If I was an athlete, "I'm like, oh, yeah, perfect. I'm alright. I'll push the knees out, like yeah, no worries."

That's great that the athlete has been able to take this cue on board, and a good correction was made; it wasn't necessarily a good correction this time.

Here's why.

The athlete is now just focusing on that one correction and not how it fits into their overall movement. Typically, over time, I see that correction then become an over-exaggeration

To overcome this, I would need to do something different to get me to do what you want the athlete to actually do.

To do this, I've found it super advantageous when communicating with humans to say the same thing in as many ways as possible.

I see a lot of coaches that only have one cue.

They only have one phrase - "drive your knees up". The athlete doesn't do it. "Drive your knees out". Right.

It's important to have a big toolkit of different ways you can get that athlete to dry their knees out.

To give you one more example. How would you get an athlete to dry my knees out? If I just I'm not listening? 

Visual cues are also a great way to get the athlete to pay attention. Orientate yourself in front of your athlete to show the fault. Be able to visually demonstrate the contrast before and after the correction. That way, you'll be helping their brain to connect the dots from verbal cues into action.

Group Management

Key attribute number four of a great coach is group management. 

Oh my gosh, I still remember the first time I had to coach a class of over 15 people and just about did me in, but it was an amazing test of my group management skills.

When you're teaching people about group management, what do you primarily focus so that you can provide a really awesome client experience?

Planning out everything ahead of class helps you navigate all the little intricacies that can go wrong. so, then you can focus on giving the people what they want.

Whether you have consciously noticed it or not, great coaches always seem to be one or two steps ahead. They know exactly where the class is going.

They miraculously have the warmup and right where athletes seem to grab the equipment for the next class, and it's just everything is flowing smoothly.

That's because most of these great coaches have pre-planned their class structure.

Lindsay and I have spoken about conversations we've had with many coaches, and many find lesson plans to be restrictive, but as Jocko Willink says, "discipline equals freedom".

Having that discipline of structure for some sort of lesson plan allows you much more freedom, and it also helps you be present. The fallout if we don't have a plan for these things, it's very easy to miss out on some of the other key attributes of a coach, right?

Presence and Attitude

If we're really good at managing a group but don't have key attribute number five, it all crashes and burns. Key attribute number five is presence and attitude. What does that mean?

This comes down to your care, empathy and passion. This is typically something that can't be taught. You have to care about the humans in front of you as that transcends everything else we do as coaches.

Have you ever walked into the gym, and the coach just didn't acknowledge that you were there? Didn't say "hey", or if they did, just moaned about everything? Sucks right? Who wants that? 

Contrast that with, "Hey, can you go start the clock for everybody? All right, sweet. Good job, guys. Awesome work.". That's so much more fun, right?

I would argue that someone who has care, empathy and passion but isn't really good at any of the other things attributes probably will impact more lives positively than someone who's incredible at steps one through four, and has no care, empathy, or passion, especially no passion that bleeds into their members. 

I've probably done it in the past. I know not everyone shows up chipper and happy. However, I've certainly been to some gyms where the head coach has all the knowledge up here in the world, so good at cueing and correcting skills, but they coach class like they don't care.

Most likely, in that instance, you're not going to be influencing people with passion.

If you go to a class, and it's like chewing on gravel. Nobody wants to go to that class. Our job is to educate, entertain and inspire people, and if you're uninspired, people will notice.

We're not saying that you need to play the role of entertainer. We've all seen the quintessential coach that just tries to entertain people to the max. You know the ones constantly cracking jokes, and they just want everyone to like them, but they have no substance behind it. In contrast, this coach has passion and is trying to get people motivated and excited, but will ultimately not help them to be better athletes. There's a very fine line. You have to tread carefully if you want to be a great CrossFit coach.


Key attribute of a great CrossFit coach is demonstrations. It's very tempting to pick a member out of the class and do the demonstrations for you. But this is the difference between a good and great coach.

You need to make sure that your movement looks decent because monkey see monkey do. Understandably, if you know there's a class member that is able to perform a movement better than you, then sure! They'll be able to visually demonstrate the movement better, that goes without saying. The class with do exactly what you show them.

But this attribution is so much deeper than that.

It really speaks to the culture that you're creating and your space. And if you're coaching, you are recognised as a leader, and that leadership will trickle down to the rest of the folks that are in the gym.

So if you never scale a workout? Why should they scale a workout?

If you don't follow the gym's programming? Why should they follow the gym's programming?

Lead by example.

As a coach, regardless of whether you view yourself as a leader, you are a leader. You are literally leading a class, and more people than you probably think, look up to you.

Chances are you're you might be fitter than a lot of people in your gym, and many will be looking to you because you are fitter than them.

They will be saying to themselves, "What are they doing? Oh, they're not doing any of the advice that they told me to do. I'm not going to follow what they tell me I'm going to do as they do." 

So you have to lead by example, both in movement and by the way you carry yourself both inside and outside the gym.

What can you take away from the 6 attributes to becoming a great CrossFit coach?

  • Teaching
  • Seeing
  • Correcting
  • Group management
  • Presence and attitude
  • Demonstration

In the comments below, in your opinion, what do you think is the most common missing attribute?

Whether you're a coach or whether you're someone who attends CrossFit gyms? Or whether you're someone who's never been to one and just as a football coach or something similar? 

What is it? What is the number one missing? Attribute? Write that in the comments below? 

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