You might feel like you don’t have time, amongst all of the other things you have to do, to spend time working with your coaches to improve—but you’re wrong. Your coaches are the single most important aspect of your business. They’re the first point of contact between your gym and its athletes, and ensuring that they’re skilled in their craft and always improving will make your athletes happier, healthier, and safer.
In this post, we’ll talk about five key elements for any coach development program.
How do I help my coaches improve?
- Provide regular, consistent feedback
- Make your feedback actionable
- Be creative!
- Keep it fresh
- Help your coaches improve themselves
Provide the coaches who work under you with the same kind of support you provide to your athletes, and you’ll see their coaching improve in no time.
1. Provide regular, consistent feedback
By far the most critical piece of any coach development program is making it regular and consistent. No athlete who comes to your gym twice a year is going to improve their fitness, and no coach is going to develop virtuosity without regular feedback. You need to be meeting with your coaching staff on a regular basis if you want to see them improve.
One of the biggest problems that gym owners face is having a number of part-time coaches with other jobs and responsibilities, making it hard for everyone to meet together. There are a few ways to get around this. One is to make the meeting less regular, but longer (say 90 minutes or 2 hours once per month). This isn’t ideal in terms of frequency, but it's certainly better than nothing.
Another option is to focus more on individual feedback to your coaches, rather than having group meetings. Make it a point of taking a class from each of your coaches on a regular schedule. This option is especially nice in that it lets you get a WOD in and provide your coach with feedback all in one go. Just make sure that you’ve got time after class to sit down and talk with the coach about what you liked and what they could do better.
2. Make your feedback actionable
Just as your cues to athletes need to be short and actionable, so too with the feedback that you give your coaches. “Your warm-up was too long” isn’t helpful to your coach—they’re probably aware of that if their class ran over. Even "make sure your warm-up doesn't take more than ten minutes" isn't terribly helpful. But walking them through how to make a lesson plan, or encouraging them to do the warm-up themselves before class to see how long it takes (and then add a few minutes for wrangling athletes) provides them with concrete steps to improve and work on when you aren't there to help.
3. Be creative!
In the Instagram post below from CrossFit ONE Nation, you can see one of the gym's coaches leading a group using only his voice, with no visual or tactile cueing. This is a great exercise, and the kind of activity you want to think about incorporating into your coach development program. You probably have a good sense of your coaches’ weak spots—brainstorm activities like this one that can help focus on their specific areas for improvement
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Coaches, how clear are you with your words? Here coach Lachlan runs through one of our weekly coaching development drills. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The goal is to teach without the assistance of visual cues, demos, or even seeing your athletes. The athletes respond to only what they are told. It provides a lot of insight into who accurate you are, how much jargon you use, and simply if you are actually saying what you want to. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We start every weekly coach’s workout off with 10-20 min of development work and drills. Everyone from our interns to our head coaches participate. Coaching skills are perishable, we take that serious fact and make it fun. • #Stepone #CrossFitOneNation @lachlanjamesss @greggmartino #CrossfitCommunity #BestofBoston #BostonFitness #CrossfitBoston #CrossfitNeedham #CrossfitWaltham #CrossfitOneNation #ONENationFitness #NeedhamFitness @crossfitaffiliates @crossfittraining @crossfitgames • 100 Holton Street #Boston MA 10 Charles Street #Needham MA 221 Bear Hill Road #Waltham MA www.crossfitonenation.com
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4. Keep it fresh!
Don’t get stuck in a rut! Just as you should be mixing up how you run classes, with a variety of warm-up and cool down activities to keep your athletes from getting board, you should also develop a range of different coach development activities and exercises.
Think broadly about what it means to be an effective coach when planning for your development sessions. It isn't just about the basics—it's presence and attitude, it's effective class management, it's triaging which athletes to provide feedback to first, etc. All of the aspects of being an effective trainer should be included in your coach development program.
This is tightly tied to the last point. Avoid coming up with one or two creative ideas, and then doing them over and over. Every session should be a unique experience for your coaches, pushing them to grow and develop.
5. Help your coaches improve themselves
No matter how consistent your coach development meetings and feedback are, you aren’t going to be able to give input after every single class. You also need to empower your coaches to improve their craft when you aren't around.
The best way that I’ve found to do this is with a coaching journal. At the end of each shift, ask your coaches to sit down with a notebook, or a running Word document, and jot down notes about what happened in class. This is just for their eyes, not yours. I keep mine digitally, and after writing down my notes, I go through and highlight good things in green, and things I'd like to improve in red. I also have a few general reminders at the top of the document for things that I like to have at the forefront of my mind when I'm coaching.
In time, your coaches will be able to read back through their notes and identify recurring strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses that they can address. Although it's obviously challenging to fully and accurately critique one's own performance, your coaches are still going to find things that they didn't like about their coaching that they can work to improve on their own.
If you'd like even more time to spend working with your coaches, rather than on administrative tasks, consider implementing user-friendly gym management software to save you time, so you can focus on your passion, your gym community.
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