“The coach discovers his or her humanness and humanity while being a clearing for others to do so.” In this episode, I share some of the 360-degree feedback I asked for from the athletes I am fortunate to coach. Seeking improvement is a hallmark of a great coach, and sometimes the best feedback comes from the ones that depend on you. Join a class with me at Revival Fitness until July 2022!
What was your first impression of me as a coach, and has that changed over time?
“I was a little intimated of all the coaches when I first started going to classes and Gabe was a coach. The feeling did not last long with Gabe because in subtle ways he had a way of folding you into the group and making you feel welcome. He always drilled class in a way that could be understood, talked about scaling, and that there was no shame in, and then he would push you to get out of your comfort zone. He is a big reason why I have stuck to the 6 am routine.”
I was taught that a good coach is responsible for setting the tone for a welcoming environment for all athletes, no matter what their current skill level. Every athlete’s story starts somewhere and continues from there, and it’s my job as the coach to meet you at your current chapter and help continue your story. That relationship is built over time and must come from a genuine place of interest and understanding of each athlete’s goals. A good sign that you are forming the right relationship as a coach is that athletes seek out your classes and coaching as a permanent part of their fitness routine.
“My first impression was that you were high energy, confident, and knowledgeable. You seemed to know what you were talking about with confidence. You also made a point to meet and talk to everyone in the box during your classes. You did and always do a great job of including everyone.”
Being an early morning coach, I feel it’s my responsibility to ensure there is high energy in class. I can do that through my coaching delivery, music choice, variety of warmups, and anything else to shake that sleep off and get ready to work out. I understand some people may need a little more time to wake up, so I do my best to read people to check in with them later once they are more awake so I can get better engagement from them.
“I thought your “trying to be friendly and nice” was very annoying! When it turned out that you weren’t pretending it changed everything and went from annoying to just friendly and nice :)”
If you know me personally, I don’t really have a “fake version” of me. What you see is what you get, for better or worse. I was glad that my initial impression wore off and that they recognized I’m not trying to be anything, I’m just me. Hopefully, that sense of authenticity makes me a more grounded coach you can relate to.
“Being newer to CrossFit, I remember the nerves I felt when learning the workouts and form. I felt at ease coming into your classes because I knew that you would be there to help with any new skill that I didn’t quite have, and he was excited to help. Your enthusiasm for fitness made me excited to be a part of your classes. You’re engaging, know how to make class fun, and he is great at breaking down movements to help us perform better.”
Any new fitness routine, perhaps especially CrossFit, can be very intimidating. My job as a coach is to reduce your fear of looking at the entire forest and give you a few trees to focus on. Looking at fitness through a smaller scope of vision will reduce that fear and show you that you can do things you were previously intimidated by. This could be working through progressions to get your first pull-up, or working on small technique improvements to nail a Personal Record. As a coach, my responsibility is to find those small seeds of opportunity and help them grow to your potential.
If you were initially intimidated or struggling with your individual fitness goals, how did my coaching help set you up for success?
“You are extremely motivating. I want to perform better when I know you are watching. You hold athletes accountable but you do it with respect”
This comment reminds me of when I felt the same way with one of my previous coaches at CrossFit 808. When she was the coach for class, I knew I had to dial in everything but she would call me out. By name, and not quietly. She often said “I’m not your friend, I’m your Coach. If you want to get better, you need to step it up. If you want someone to be nice to you, find someone else.” That level of coaching (including affiliate management and how to grow a team mentality inside of a gym) always stuck with me and I’m very happy to hear that I’m emulating a positive example that impacted me.
“Gabe’s style of coaching helped with my fitness goals because he was accepting of all levels and abilities. My goal was just to do something consistent when I first started but quickly evolved into pushing myself to be better than I was the week before. He helped me see that progress happened day by day and to keep putting in the work.”
Pushing an athlete to push themselves is an ultimate goal for any coach. I can give an athlete all the advice in the world, but if they don’t hold themselves accountable for that advice, progress may be compromised. I say compromised because I’m very confident some athletes can outgrow me as a coach and needs even more advanced training to keep improving their performance. I would love for an athlete of mine to no longer need me and need a better coach!
“By not acting like you’re some almighty superman that can do everything but instead share your struggles and show that it’s ok to struggle.”
Touching back to the topic of coaching with authenticity, I think it’s super important for me to project an image that I am just a normal athlete like everyone else, no more no less. I may have more experience compared to others, but by no means does that make me “better.” I also encounter the same issues we all go through: work frustrations, family matters, personal injuries, etc. None of us are immune to the woes of life, so by sharing some of my struggles I hope to engage athletes so they feel comfortable in our interactions and that I’m not superior, I just have a different responsibility in that hour as your coach.
“Your friendliness, approaching each of us individually during strength training and yelling my name at my quitting point from clear across the room.”
I rarely coach from one location in the gym. I am consistently walking around to check forms, offer individual advice, and ALWAYS ensure the safety of all athletes involved. I try to find angles where I can view multiple athletes at once, make some spot comments, then move on. I also realize that if I give an athlete some advice and they don’t fix a problem right away, they can often get intimated or embarrassed if I stand there and continue to watch. Instead, I’ll walk away to give them some space, yet continue to watch them see how they respond. If I see them make the correction, I will yell across the room “Good job [name]!” because I want to know that I’m still watching even though I moved away. Similarly, if I see someone slacking off, I have no qualms about calling them out to get them back on track. This is different from being tired or struggling; I can tell the difference. As I often like to say, “Don’t half-ass something. Whole-ass the right things.”
What are some of the coaching WEAKNESSES you see in me so I can improve on them?
“You need to get stronger!!”
This could not be more on point! My pure strength numbers often pale in comparison to other athletes. I have to rely so much on technique because my top-end strength just isn’t there. I’ll definitely be adding more strength components to my overall programming now that I have recovered from some injuries.
“Voice cracks…Sometimes not giving the advanced athletes some of the tips and focusing on the lessers (we all do this, but I like tips too!)”
Fun fact: often when I’m using my “command voice” to project my voice so everyone can hear me, my voice will crack like a 12-year-old boy. I usually lean into it and keep cracking my voice, but I’m glad we all laugh about it. More importantly, this feedback is really important for me to dial in. I can’t overlook more experienced athletes because they can improve as well. It may seem like you’re wasting your time, but you’re not. As the coach, you are responsible for everyone, not just those who immediately need you.
“When you’re grumpy or tired it looks like you’re trying to hide it. You do a pretty bad job of that! Unless you are grumpy way more often than it shows bit successfully hide it?”
To be honest, I’m not really sure how to process this one, but perhaps they are trying to say I don’t have a good poker face and I wear my emotions on my sleeve, which is true. However, regardless of what is going on personally in my life, I had to put that stuff away for the hour and be present as a coach and leader to the athletes. I may not be 100% successful in putting the stuff away, but I must remain committed to serving as their coach during class and temporarily pause on my personal issues until after class.
“Trust in yourself more. You have it and your gut is on point.”
Every leader has fears, including me. My fear as a coach is that I am failing the athletes I am responsible for by not helping them unleash their potential. I work really hard to deliver top-notch coaching experiences, even when the chaos of large classes and new athletes is present. I can lead and coach any class, I just have to trust more in my processes and preparation. No coach should ever stop learning, and I am no exception.