Five Signs you’ve got a Great Coach

Coaches. We see them every day we come into the gym. They are there whether we’re having a great day or an awful one, PRing or struggling just to make it through the WOD. They see the good, the bad, and the ugly, can push us to success or cheer us out of the depths of self doubt.

I am extremely grateful for the awesome coaches we have at our gym. Although Alchemy is my first CrossFit experience, so I don’t have much to compare it to, in my opinion, we are blessed with some really great coaches who know their stuff, care about their athletes, and want to see us succeed.

You may find that you have a greater affinity for one coach or another at your gym (and I think that’s normal, given differing personalities and coaching styles), but I have noticed there are certain things across the board that make a great coach.

1. They know you well enough to know when you’re not giving it your best.

Sometimes you’re just not feeling it. Sometimes you’re sandbagging it on a workout. Sometimes you don’t push yourself as hard as you could. A good coach will know you as an athlete, see when you’re not working at your full potential, and call you out on it (case in point: that time I re-did 15.3 because Coach Duncan said he knew I could do better).

2. They’ve told you to take weight off the bar.

…or scale back a movement if you’re not performing it with good form. Look, everyone wants to be a badass and RX the heck out of every WOD, am I right? And coaches love to see you push yourself and succeed. But what they love even more is seeing you do a movement with perfect form, even if it means sacrificing those precious two letters beside your name. A good coach will make you work on form over and over again, and not let you go up in weight if that means compromising integrity of movement, or safety. A good coach will see you start a WOD, struggle, and come off and tell you to strip off some of the weight. Because a good coach wants you there for the long haul.

3. They’ve told you to put weight on the bar.

This is related to #1, and the flip side to #2. If your coach knows you and what you’re capable of, and sees flying through a movement that should be heavy or difficult, he should come over and tell you to up your game. A good coach knows the stimulus of the workout, and doesn’t want you to make something that is meant to be long and heavy into more of a metcon because the weight is easy for you. A good coach knows the time and place to go heavy and challenge yourself, and will challenge you to add weight when appropriate.

4. They help you set realistic (but sometimes ambitious and scary) goals.

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you’ll know how important and valuable I think goal setting is (full post on 2015 CrossFit goals here). I think a lot of the success I’ve had in Crossfit is owing to the goals I’ve set for myself. But I didn’t start out with that direction. I would say that, although I worked hard from the get-go and devoted some extra time to skill work, for the most part, the first 6 months of me doing Crossfit were more just about trying not to suck (my own words). It wasn’t until my coach saw all of my focus and discipline, took me aside and helped set some goals that I began to have something to work towards. Since that first goal setting session, we sit down every few months, or after I’ve achieved a milestone (like my first competition or getting a pull-up) to re-evaluate and set new goals. A good coach will help you set goals that are achievable, but at the same time, push you out of your comfort zone a bit and go for things that you might not have on your own (like doing Fran or Mary RX. Gulp).

5. They put everyone on the same playing field, regardless of ability.

This one was huge for me starting out. I tell people all the time what a non-athlete I am, and how nervous I was when I first started. But from day one, I never felt any better or worse than anyone else. All of our coaches are really inclusive, and give all the athletes the attention that they need. No one is singled out for being more or less experienced. That’s not to say that the coaches won’t give you extra attention if you’re new or struggling with a movement (they will), or sometimes use a more experienced athlete to help demonstrate technique, but, ultimately, everyone belongs just as much as the next person, and a good coach will be sure to maintain that atmosphere of equality, no matter how great the range of athletic abilities in the class.

To all of the Crossfit coaches out there, at my own gym and around the world: THANK YOU. You are a huge part of what makes this community great, and often don’t get the appreciation you deserve.

If you are reading this as an athlete with a great coach, go tell them how much you appreciate them. I guarantee it will make their day!

Am I missing anything? What would you add to this list?

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