3 Things to Have in Place Before You Worry About Coaching Development

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

We believe coaching is the true product of your facility. People may walk through your door to get fit, to be part of a community, or to burn off stress, but good coaching and community (which is driven by good coaches) are why they stay.

To build a better facility, you need to build better coaches. Which means you need to have a plan or system for developing your coaches.

But before you go down that rabbit hole, there are 3 things you should already have in place.

1. Have you shared your core values with your team? And do your coaches share those values?

Your values are what you believe. They are why you get out of bed in the morning. They set the tone for a facility and the priorities of the coaches.

If you’ve never really thought too much about it before, it’s pretty easy to quickly sketch your values out on a napkin or piece of paper. Just ask yourself: Why did I open a gym? Why should anyone care about this facility? Why do I want this business to succeed? Why do I keep coming here every day? What’s the purpose of this business? Be honest with the answers to those questions.

Now ask yourself: Do my coaches know what I stand for, and do they share my motivations?

If your reason for being open is to make money, make sure that the people who work for you also just want to make money. Because if the people who work for you are there to change lives, those are two conflicting ideologies. Which means you are offering two different products on the floor: one that is focused on doing what needs to be done to make money, and one that is focused on going the extra mile to make the biggest impact. Those are different value systems, different beliefs. There will be a lot of conflict in this sort of situation because the coach wants to be valued for their contribution but they never are; they are not surrounded by people who share their beliefs.

Likewise, if your goal is to change lives and to affect as many people as possible, you’re going to be disappointed by coaches who just want to make money. They offer a different product than what you want to offer.

So give your coaches your value system. Keep the coaches who share your values. Let the rest go.

2. Do your coaches coach the full hour?

Do your coaches coach from start to finish? Is there a coach led warmup every day? Do they coach skill work, then workout and then a cool down?

Coaches need to coach. They need all the practice and exposure they can get for their own improvement and for the engagement of your members.

We’re in the business of building relationships. Our job is to create change in every person in front of us, and that’s hard to do. It means we need to accumulate as many experiences dealing with people as we can so that we’re more prepared and more educated the next time something comes up.

Make sure your coaches are actually providing 60-minutes worth of instruction and value.

3. Are you using lesson plans or just programming?

Programming is just the workout for that day. Sometimes it includes a cool down, but it’s totally barebones.

What happens is that coaches often default to their go-to warmups (“Take a 400m run and some shoulder rolls!”), substitutions and scales. Sometimes they don’t preserve the stimulus of the workout, which makes the programming ineffective. From a member’s perspective, classes can seem inconsistent from coach-to-coach.

Lesson plans solve those problems. They are much more in-depth, giving coaches full warmups, scales, substitutions, a brief, goals for each fitness level, notes on how to coach the workout (and preserve the stimulus), and tips and strategies your athletes can use to crush a workout.

You don’t have to buy our lesson plans but you should seriously consider having these sort of plans for your team. You could sign up for a free 2-week sample (on our home page) to see how we do things and then just get your programmer to start doing it.

The point is:

  • Lesson plans are a fantastic way to push coaches beyond their comfort zones.
  • Lesson plans force coaches to learn new things and to put some energy into their professional development.
  • Lesson plans also show you which coaches truly care. Coaches who care will study and follow the plan. Coaches who don’t care will skip the lesson plan and wing it, coming up with stuff on the fly instead.
  • And finally, lesson plans get everyone on the same page, which makes classes more consistent from coach-to-coach. Something your members will appreciate.


So before you worry about how to find learning material for coaches, or how to quiz coaches, or how to build a coaching development program, put these 3 things into place.

We’ve learned this the hard way. We’ve been doing this for 10+ years. We’ve spent countless hours discussing coaching development with other affiliate owners. We’ve managed development over 70 coaches at one time. There has been a lot of trial and error. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. You can skip all that experimentation and time and dive right into the good stuff.

Put these 3 things into place and your coaches will improve, your community will thrive, your facility will grow.

CrossFit Podcast Episode 17.21

Pat Barber Podcast Interviews

I recently sat down with the crew of the CrossFit Podcast to discuss:

  • My history as an athlete
  • How I got started working for CrossFit
  • Training as a couple (with Taz)
  • Couples Therapy: A new program we’re about to launch that gives couples/friends 4 partner workouts a week
  • Parenting methodologies and our podcast “The Tribe Life” in which we talk with other parents about how to raise good humans

You can watch the interview here.

Julie Foucher’s Podcast, Ep. 68

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Podcast Interviews

We recently met up with Julie Foucher to talk about how we met, how we found CrossFit and where we’re at in life now.

We discussed:

  • Taz’s athletic background, finding CrossFit and starting an affiliate
  • Pat’s athletic background, collegiate sports and finding CrossFit through high school volleyball
  • The Glassmans, CrossFit Santa Cruz and the early days of CrossFit media
  • Working at NorCal CrossFit, and fostering coaching talent
  • Setting up systems so that everyone knows what they’re responsible for
  • Our thoughts on coaching, programming and continuing education
  • How we managed 60+ coaches in the Bay Area
  • Our mistakes with coaching development
  • Learning from our kids
  • Competing in the CrossFit Games individually and on teams
  • Three things we do on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on our health
  • One thing we struggle to implement that could have a big impact on our health
  • What a healthy life looks like to us

We also talk about emotional intelligence and coaching, which is something we feel very strongly about:

“The strongest thing a coach can have is a high level of emotional intelligence. So the ability to connect with people and see what they need and where they’re currently at. Whether it be where they’re currently at in life, or where they’re currently at in their progression through a movement, the ability to feel and sense the subtlety of human emotion is hands down the most important quality a coach can have.”
– Pat Barber

Julie’s podcast is called ‘Pursuing Health’ if you want to listen to other episodes on your phone. Otherwise, just press play on the video above to watch the interview.

Let us know what you think about the conversation!

Active Life Podcast, Ep. 15

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management, Podcast Interviews

Heyo! Check out Episode 15 of the Active Life Podcast. We talk about:

  • Gym culture
  • Extreme ownership
  • How to earn and keep the trust of your members
  • “Uncoachable” people
  • Some hard lessons I’ve learned when managing teams
  • Staff communication
  • My thoughts on the resentment some affiliates feel towards HQ
  • Programming vs. session plans
  • … and a whole bunch of other stuff

Please give the episode a listen and let me know what you think!

Additional Resources
How to test-drive friends and irritate people
The ‘uncoachable’ athlete (an Instagram post by Active Life)

CrossFit Movement Demos & Instruction

Pat Barber Coaching Development

Taz and I searched through the CrossFit Journal archives and the world wide web to compile a list of videos and resources on just about every movement, and then we organized everything we found so that coaches can quickly and easily find what they need. This is a master list that we’ll add to and update every so often. It’s not a quick read. 🙂 It’s meant to be something that you refer to when you need it. That is unless you want to binge and watch everything in one sitting. Which would be sort of crazy. (Our kind of crazy.)

There are some old school videos here, and not all of them are perfect but that isn’t the point! Each and every one of these has a nugget or two that can help your game.

Let us know if you think we missed something.

Box Jump

Burgener Warmup


  • Burpee — CrossFit Demo
  • Skill Transfer of the Burpee with Carl Paoli
  • Burpee Skill Transfer with Carl Paoli — Part 1
  • Burpee Skill Transfer with Carl Paoli — Part 2
  • Burpee Skill Transfer with Carl Paoli — Part 3
  • Burpee Skill Transfer with Carl Paoli — Part 4
  • Burpee Skill Transfer with Carl Paoli — Part 5
  • Burpee Skill Transfer with Carl Paoli — Part 6







Jump Rope

Kettlebell Swing








Rope Climb





Tire Flip


Turkish Get-Up

Wall Ball

End of Three Fitness Podcast, Ep. 47

Pat Barber Podcast Interviews

Jerred Moon, of End of Three Fitness, is a strength and conditioning coach who runs a business and podcast focused on developing better humans. He coaches and writes programming, but his goals go beyond getting people healthier. He wants people to move more, be more productive, be more positive, and think critically. We both want people to be stronger, faster, smarter, kinder and happier. And we both believe we can help people be better humans by coaching fitness because we both understand that coaches coach people through a lot more than just deadlifts. We are counselors, mentors and friends to those who trust us.

So I was excited to go on his podcast and talk about building better humans. In the interview, I discuss:
– My thoughts on the L2 and L3 seminars.
– Why I believe awareness, or paying attention to how people respond to you, is the key to jumping ahead as a coach.
– Emotional intelligence (EQ) and coaching.
– My favorite Games memories.
– Why I believe in always assuming positive intent.
– My one tip for becoming a better coach (and human).

You can listen to the podcast episode here.

And please let me know what you think about the interview!

A Question on Priorities

Pat Barber Gym Management, One Minute Q&A

In today’s One Minute Q&A: We read a lot of stuff on the internet now about these amazing new affiliates with showers, fabulous changing rooms, fully kitted out with rowers, assault bikes and GHD machines for everyone in each class. In what order should you prioritize the following: equipment, size of facility, coaching, community, programming, atmosphere.

The Chief Life Podcast, Ep. 64

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management, Podcast Interviews

I recently talked with Stacey and Matty of The Chief Life Podcast about the beginnings of CrossFit in Santa Cruz, New Zealand and Australia (which is where they live). Then we dove into a bunch of other stuff:

  • How I interview coaches, plus my hiring process.
  • How the coaching development program at NCFit evolved to lead 60 coaches in the Bay Area. We briefly discuss a few things we incorporated into the program, such as weekly meetings with coaches, knowledge packages with articles and learning material, a coaching summit, and so on.
  • How you might cater the material of your coaching development program to the two different types of coaches at your gym: lifers and part-timers.
  • Why I think session plans are such a great tool for coaches.
  • My opinion on the importance of competitions and competitors in CrossFit, and how they can impact a community for better or worse.
  • The parallels between effective coaching and effective parenting. And how we all need to do a better job of owning our part in the situation when something goes wrong.

Please give the podcast a listen and then let me know what you think!