What is a professional?
An expert right?
Or moreover, “(noun): a person engaged or qualified in a profession.”
Lately, in consideration of a recent listing for employment opportunities at CrossFit Central, hiring some new coaches to join the CrossFit Central family, I’ve been putting some thought to the question:
What exactly does a professional look like in my line of work?
It may sound odd—a professional coach.
Where is the corporate office or fancy briefcase?
But for as long as I have been a trainer, a CrossFit coach, a business owner, I have aimed to be a professional—and I believe it is of utmost importance for the integrity of CrossFit as a whole, as well as the mission of CrossFit Central.
After all, I may not be a black-suit-wearing, desk-sitting, lunch-business-meeting-leading CEO—(quite the opposite: Lululemon Wunder Unders and CC t-shirts tend to be my go-to attire, I do below-parallel squats more often than I sit, and my meetings take place over coffee or protein shakes instead of lobster bisque and crab cakes)—but the same values of professionalism are the heartbeat of my work.
Integrity, excellence, leadership, accountability, positivity, respect, responsibility, teamwork, and virtuosity (doing the common, uncommonly well) are musts in my book when it comes to your work as a coach—or any profession for that matter (be it a top sushi chef, a hair dresser, lawyer or dog walker) .
So I throw this question out there to you—from new hires, to fellow coaches, members, avid CrossFitters, fitness enthusiasts, current couch potatoes—and everyone in between:
What is a professional coach to you—and what would you like to see in a professional coach?
Nowadays, it seems like anyone and everyone can technically become a Level I CrossFit trainer, personal trainer or fitness instructor.
Attend a seminar, read a book, take a test, obtain a certificate.
In theory, and in consideration of our society’s ‘health crisis’ (ie. Obesity, fast-food industry, rampant diabetes, etc.), this is all great!
However, in many instances, there seems to be a break-down in knowing what it takes to truly be a professional coach or trainer.
All too often, I’ve seen it happen—particulaarly within the CrossFit community.
Take “Sam” for example. (*Note: ”Sam” is not real—only a case study)
“Sam” found CrossFit about a year ago and he loves it.
He loves the competitive edge, the community, training to improve his performance every day.
“Sam” has stars in his eyes.
Since CrossFit has become his passion, he decides that must mean he needs to become a coach.
After all, he’s at the gym any chance he gets anyways—so might as well make some money doing it.
His 9-5 gig as a sales associate at a corporate office is just not cutting it.
Great. There is definitely passion.
So “Sam” signs up for the next CrossFit Level I Seminar, pays $1000, takes a test, passes, and boom: He’s a Level I Trainer.
The next step?
Getting a job.
“Sam” markets himself as an employable CrossFit Level I Trainer at a local box and boom—gets the job.
Great. He is definitely invested in pursuing coaching, is knowledgeable and skilled in a variety of areas and loves connecting with people,
HOWEVER…Little did “Sam” realize the amount of effort it would take to actually work as a professional trainer—and make a living doing it.
Beep, beep, beep.
The alarm goes off at 4:43 a.m. Time to get up.
Sam sleepily crawls out of bed, throws on his layers of sweat pants and long-sleeve tops and fills a portable coffee mug to the brim with hot coffee to withstand the 34-degree chill in the air at the box that morning.
5:30, 6:30, 7:30 a.m.—he is coaching the morning classes, back to back.Trying to be as enthusiastic as possible—but struggling to keep his eyes open and toes from freezing.
8:30 a.m.-he has time to swallow a couple hardboiled eggs whole and eat a banana before his 8:30 a.m. personal training client arrives a few minutes late.
Then 9:30 a.m.-he has one more client.
And 10:30 a.m.-a coaches’ meeting.
11:30 a.m.-he drinks a protein shake to get amped up for his 1 p.m. workout, while returning a couple e-mails and then trying to squeeze in a short 20-minute power nap, propped against a couple ab-mats in the gym.
12:30 p.m.-mobility time.
1 pm-3 p.m.—solid training sesh. This is what he loves. This is why he does what he does.
3 p.m.—“Sam” eats some chicken and a sweet potato, returns more e-mails and corresponds with clients about their goals, their progress, their questions, etc.
3:30 p.m.—one more personal training session with a client who confides she is not seeing results and she feels stuck. “Sam” asks her how her nutrition plan is going. She tells him she just can’t seem to give up desserts and her love for wine every night with dinner. He encourages her to just try to stick with the program for 1-week. She brushes him off and states, “But there must be some other way.” “Sam” sighs.
4: 30 p.m.—time to get ready for the evening classes.
5 p.m. & 6 p.m.—more coaching of the same WOD he coached earlier on in the day. He is a little bored of watching people deadlift and push-up by this time, but tries to keep his head in the game.
7:30 p.m.—finally gets home to his warm house, throws some bison and veggies in a skillet, eats up, showers, checks his Facebook, then begins to wind down for the night.
10 p.m.—Sam is exhausted. This is the optimal time he tries to get in bed by—sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.
…Wake up and do it all over again.
While this is just a case example, all too often I see the shock of what it takes to make a living as a coach when first-time coaches step into the arena of juggling a full schedule.
From coaching classes to leading at least 2-4 personal training sessions most days, corresponding with clients outside of class for every one-hour you are in class, finding your own personal time to train, attending meetings and maybe, just maybe, squeezing in a nap, life as a professional coach is not always peaches and cream…
That is, it’s not always peaches and cream (or should I say, sliced apples and creamy almond butter?), unless you truly love what you are doing.
Loving CrossFit, and loving to work out, is one thing.
Loving coaching, leading others and inspiring others to greatness are another thing.
If you’re considering, one day, becoming a coach—I would encourage you to evaluate what it takes—and if you are up for that.
As a coach, a professional coach, it is of utmost importance that you take your job seriously.
It’s not a time to passively sit back, walk the class through the movements, and let the members do the workout written on the whiteboard.
You must always be ‘on’—watching form, demonstrating proper form, constructively critiquing movements, encouraging your athletes by name, leading the class with enthusiasm and gusto.
No, you don’t necessarily have to be the most outspoken or outgoing individual in the world, but you most certainly need to engage your clients and be ‘there’ with them—not babysitting them, but right there in the fight of each and every workout with them.
Your job, as a coach, is to help better each individuals’ physical—and mental—capacity; to assist each individual in achieving their personal goals they desire to attain out of CrossFit.
When you coach, it’s as if you are on a “stage”—the clients look to you to lead, and lead well.
In order to do so, merely holding a Level I Trainer certificate is not the end-all-be-all, ‘enough’ to becoming a professional coach.
Do what you love, love what you do.
As CrossFit Central embarks on this new hiring process for some stellar new coaches to join our staff, I want nothing more than a group of coaches who are ready to partner on our same mission—with passion and a genuine desire to become a professional.