Coaching Challenge: Connecting = Trusting

Pat Barber Coaching Challenge, Coaching Development

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship… Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”⠀

Brené Brown knows her stuff.⠀

And every coach knows that we’re in the business of relationships.⠀

We cannot push people to their thresholds and force them outside their comfort zones if they don’t trust us.⠀

Trust requires connection, relationship.⠀

So the first order of business is to connect with people more often. ⠀

Start with 3-5 people each class if you want to keep things simple.⠀

Ask yourself, how can I make these 3-5 people feel more seen, heard and valued?⠀

It’s a natural, in the moment thing.⠀

Be where your feet are.⠀

Fully engage in conversation. ⠀

Pause, take an extra moment to make eye contact and really coach someone.⠀

Ask more questions. Listen carefully. With an open mind and heart.⠀

Let them be vulnerable. Angry. Confused. Shy. Loud. Human.⠀

Notice how truly connecting with someone makes you feel in your body.⠀

How could connecting more make you feel differently about being a coach?⠀

Coaching Challenge: Greet Your Clients

Pat Barber Coaching Challenge, Coaching Development

Every single time a client walks into your gym, you need to connect with them. ⠀

You need to look them in the eye, acknowledge them and say hi. ⠀

If they’re new, if they’ve been a member for three years, just say hi. ⠀

It seems like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to forget something so small when things are a little hectic at the gym. ⠀

Which is a bummer because this simple gesture breaks down barriers and helps people transition from the outside world (and whatever has happened in their day) to your gym. ⠀

For a community to thrive, people need to feel welcomed and acknowledged.⠀

We all want to be noticed, to belong, for someone to care that we showed up.⠀

Sure, we want that accountability, but we also want to connect.⠀

We are social creatures who want that tribe, village, clan, fitness family, whatever you want to call it. We want it.⠀

So make it your goal this week to greet every person that walks into your gym.⠀

Give everyone the experience of belonging.⠀

Coaching Challenge: You are a Performer

Pat Barber Coaching Challenge, Coaching Development

One of the skills that has been most useful to me as a coach is my history with performance.⠀

I don’t mean workout performance.⠀

I mean theatrical performance.⠀

I studied musical theater and went to a high school where we all participated in multiple shows throughout the year. Pirates of Penzance. Into the Woods. I loooove it.⠀

Transitioning from the stage to the front of a CrossFit class was totally natural.⠀

I wish I could give that type of training to every coach with a snap of my finger.⠀

For today, all I can offer is a reminder that when you walk through the doors of your facility, you need to have the mindset of a performer.⠀

You are there to provide an experience.⠀

You are there to serve.⠀

Leave your problems outside.⠀

Leave your bad mood, your excuses, your tiredness outside.⠀

I’m not saying you can’t be human.⠀

But you can’t chronically take away from the experience members are there to have.⠀

That facility is a container, and you need to bring a certain energy to that space. From this hour to that hour, you are the absolute best version of yourself that you can currently offer. ⠀

What you might need is a ritual to help you transition from the outside world to the facility. Or, put differently, to help you get into character.⠀

Maybe it’s a playlist while you drive. Maybe it’s a few minutes of breathing.⠀

It’ll totally depend on whether you need to unwind or get pumped up. ⠀

My point is to have a few simple rituals on hand to help you transition from your everyday personality to your performer.⠀

That’s this week’s challenge: A). Remember you’re a performer providing an experience; B). Try a few rituals to get into the right mood/mindset.⠀

Coaching Challenge: Respect Your Space

Pat Barber Coaching Challenge, Coaching Development

This week, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to treat the facility as though it’s your second home.⠀

Not a disorganized, untidy second home.⠀

But something you respect, a place you’d be really proud to show your loved ones.⠀

This, of course, is pretty broad.⠀

To reign it in, and make it measurable, we’re challenging you to look for things that are out of place as soon as you arrive at the facility.⠀

As your greeting and mingling and settling in, look for things that need to be picked up or re-organized.⠀

Maybe there’s trash on the floor.⠀

Maybe someone didn’t put their equipment away, or they put it in the wrong place.⠀

Maybe the bathroom is out of toilet paper.⠀

Tidy things up as if your mother is coming over. Treat the place as if it’s yours. ⠀

Try to find at least 3 things every time you get there.⠀

See. Notice. Do something about it.⠀

This will not only show people that you care, it’ll also remind people to respect the space. ⠀

Coaching Challenge: Faster or Slower?

Pat Barber Coaching Challenge, Coaching Development

Today, in every workout you coach, we want you to ask yourself: Should this person go faster or slower?⠀

That’s it.⠀

That’s your coaching drill.⠀

Ask yourself that question with every person.⠀

Do they need more intensity? Are they missing the stimulus of the workout? Are they resting during their weakness/deficiency so much that they’re missing the point of the workout? Speed ’em up.⠀

Do they need to work on mechanics? Slow ’em down and cue ’em into better positions.⠀

(Are they complaining that the workout wasn’t hard enough? Here’s an intensity test to try.)

Would You Rather…

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

When I see new (or new-ish) faces in a class, I love to use icebreakers as a fun way to introduce them to everyone. Using these questions can totally change the vibe of a room. Everyone relaxes. The group feels more connected, more welcoming and open. And the newer people feel more a part of things, less like an outsider.

The best questions to use are ones that are quick and easy to answer — If you had one extra hour of free time every day, how would you use it? What’s the weirdest gift you’ve ever received? If you were a boxer, what entrance or walk-up song would you play? What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? What’s your favorite vacation spot?

I’ve got a list of 143 icebreakers to pull from if you’re curious.

You could use these for coaches meetings too, as a way to have a little fun together before talking business.

The result is still the same: The feel of the room softens, lightening the mood or tone. A more familial energy settles in, making people feel more comfortable and connected to each other. And you have a bit of a laugh while getting to know everyone a little better.

You could also start with a little game of Would You Rather…

Would you rather go into the past and meet your ancestors or go into the future and meet your descendants?

Would you rather have more time or more money?

Would you rather be able to talk to animals or speak all foreign languages?

Would you rather read an awesome book or watch a good movie?

Would you rather put a stop to war or end world hunger?

Would you rather explore space or the ocean?

Would you rather be stuck on an island alone or with someone you strongly dislike?

Would you rather be too busy or be bored?

Would you rather live where it is constantly winter or where it is constantly summer?

Would you rather be a little late or way too early?

Would you rather live in Antarctica or the Sahara Desert?

Would you rather be able to take back anything you say or hear every conversation around you?

Would you rather be fluent in all languages or be a master of every musical instrument?

Would you rather have your own boat or your own plane?

Would you rather sing like an opera star or cook like a gourmet chef?

Would you rather be able to breathe underwater or fly through the air?

Would you rather live without music or T.V.?

Have fun with it. Keep the questions light, easy to answer, and free of triggery stuff.

Should you quit?

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

Coaches, do you know your personal philosophy? It’s what guides the choices you make and the actions you take.

If you’re unclear on what your personal philosophy is and if you’re living in alignment with it, here’s how to map out your beliefs and values.

When you have that knowledge, ask yourself: Does my facility share my values?

As former affiliate owners and Coaching Development leaders, we know what it’s like to lead a team of 60+ coaches. Our goal every day was to figure out how to serve and support coaches so that they could turn around and better serve the community.

There is no silver bullet here. No one size fits all approach.

But we’ve found that at the root of some of the healthiest teams is a shared value system.

If the priorities of the owners are different than the priorities of the coaches, there is going to be friction.

A coach wants to be acknowledged for the work they do, but if the owners have a different idea of what matters and where energy should go, the coach is never going to feel valued for their efforts.

Which is why it’s essential that both owners and coaches are clear on what their values are and if they’re a good match.

Honestly, this should be discussed in every coach interview.

Both parties should be upfront about their “why,” beliefs, vision, and values.

When there is not alignment, you get teams where some people care about being welcoming and inclusive, and the other half just want to work with elite athletes; where some people care more about changing lives and the other part of the team just want to make money and build a fitness empire.

These sort of teams will splinter eventually. Because there is no shared vision or goal.

People are operating from different values, and that WILL show up on the floor. It will show up in the product you offer.

David Osorio of CrossFit South Brooklyn discusses his affiliate’s three guiding principles in this video:

One of the best quotes from the video is, “People don’t come for the equipment; they come for the experience.”

For a facility to offer a consistent experience, a team needs to be on the same page.

There needs to be a standard they can filter their words, choices, and actions through; something that helps them evaluate how they behave in the facility and what kind of experience they’re providing.

The next step, after you’ve mapped out your values and beliefs, is to determine if you can live in alignment with those values in the facility where you currently work.

Can you be your best self there?

One definition of integrity is how closely your life aligns with your values. You do what you say. No matter who is watching or listening, or if anyone is there to hold you accountable. You walk the talk.

Your habits, your lifestyle is in tune with your values.

So, we’re essentially asking you if the facility you work for gives you the opportunity to live with integrity?

If so, you can stop reading here.

If not, the obvious follow-up question is: What now?

Do you quit?

Find another facility?

Open up your own facility?

Let’s explore a few of your options. The key word there is “few” because this certainly is not an all-inclusive list. Ultimately, you know what’s best for you. Pay more attention to your inner wisdom (not your fear) than you do to us.

Change the Culture
Maybe the owners of your facility are not that involved in the daily operations. Perhaps they’re not really clear on what their values are, or they’ve been so busy and overwhelmed that they’ve sort of stepped off the path and they’re headed in a direction they actually don’t want to go in. There could be an opportunity for opening up conversations about the guiding principles of your facility so that you might help steer it in a different direction. Be very mindful of how you approach the owners. Do your homework. Practice your pitch. Bring solutions to the table. And do not behave in a manner that could get you fired if you’re not financially prepared for that possibility.

Coach Elsewhere
Okay, you’ve made the mistake of working at a facility that doesn’t share your core values. Been there, done that. As they say, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Start looking for other affiliates who also care about what matters the most to you. Do your homework. Take some classes. Become a member. Get to know the community. Take it slow. Don’t rush the process. Ask to assist coaches or coach a few classes. Ask questions about their core values, vision, and beliefs. If you feel good about it, slowly start backing off at your other facility.

Mix It Up
If there’s not another facility in your area, or it’s impossible to get enough hours at another facility, you could take a more unconventional route. You could create your own program, something that doesn’t directly compete with your current facility. You could coach no-equipment WODs in the park on Saturdays and Sundays. Or start a program for new moms and parents. Or something specific to your location that isn’t really offered by any affiliates in the area. This is basically the advice people give to most creative people who don’t feel challenged by their day jobs anymore. It’s for the pastry chef who wants to make unique desserts, but the masses just want bagels. It’s for the artist whose corporate clients want boring logos. If they put the burden of their creative fulfillment on their jobs, they’ll be miserable. But, if they can step outside of that, and change their mindset, they can set different expectations for their job and find freedom in the artwork they create outside their 9-to-5.

From Coach to Member
If you’re deeply rooted in a community because you’ve been there for years, it’s going to be difficult to quit and walk away completely. Some coaches try to transition to being members of the affiliate. Just know that even if you’re not coaching anymore, other coaches are still going to come to you and share their miseries. You’ve been part of the team for a while, so shifting your relationship dynamics from coach/staff to member isn’t going to happen overnight. Be prepared for a gradual, awkward shift. Set boundaries and stick to them.

Open Your Own Gym
There’s not enough space to really discuss this one here, but there are a few questions to consider before you go all Jerry McGuire:

  • How has your background prepared you to open and run an affiliate?
  • Have you put in the work necessary to launch a successful facility?
  • Are there people you could partner with to help? What do you bring to the table, and what do you need from others?
  • Can you weather the storm, financially?
  • How is opening a facility going to solve your problems? Is it really going to make you happier?

Be real with yourself. Make sure you’re not like the person who wants the glory of competing in the Games without putting in the work. Have a game plan.


There is no one right way to do anything.

Get creative. Think about all the possibilities.

Change your attitude. Reframe the situation. Cultivate a mindset that’s going to get you on the right track.

Then do what’s best for you right now.

Find a way to love the process. Because if you’re only focused on the destination, you’ve lost already.

Then, when your body and mind is telling you it’s time to rethink the whole thing, do just that and reevaluate.

Coaching Challenge: Make Contact

Pat Barber Coaching Challenge, Coaching Development

During today’s workout, as you cruise through the group, make sure you touch base with each and every person at least once.⠀

You can make contact in a variety of ways.⠀

Call them by name and give them a cue.⠀

Walk up and watch them.⠀

Make eye contact and encourage them to speed it up or push harder.⠀

Check for safety, ROM issues, inefficient movement, if they’re going too fast/slow, and if they need motivation.⠀

Just make contact in whatever way they need in the moment. With every person in the class. At least once.⠀

To kick it up a notch, go for 3. Make contact at least 3 times with each and every person.

Good luck out there.⠀May the force be with you.

Coaching Challenge: High-Fives All Around

Pat Barber Coaching Challenge, Coaching Development

This week’s challenge is quick and easy.⠀

At the end of every workout, we want you to high-five everyone in your immediate vicinity. ⠀

Give air high-fives to people across the room.⠀

Tell them what a great job they did. Acknowledge their progress. Joke around. Have fun with it. ⠀

Celebrate their hard work, and give ’em a high-five.⠀

What Are Their Goals?

Pat Barber Coaching Development

If given a choice, most human beings will choose the type of training they need the least. ⠀

Cardio people love those metcons. ⠀

Barbell lovers want that strength piece. ⠀

It happens on a more micro level as well with certain movements. ⠀

To identify your deficiencies, think about when in a workout you rest or hold back. That’s your weakness. ⠀

You go hard on what you’re good at and then relax a little on that next movement because you don’t feel safe or confident enough to maintain intensity. ⠀

It’s important to think about this because when members complain about a workout or a program, what they’re often complaining about is working on their weaknesses.⠀

They want more of what they love.⠀

And what they love isn’t necessarily what’s going to get them more fit.⠀

That, of course, requires a conversation between coach and client.⠀

Ultimately, it’s about the goals of the individual.⠀

Are they in the gym to get as fit as they can be?⠀

Are they in the gym because they’re interested in lifelong fitness?⠀

Are they in the gym to have fun?⠀

Are they in the gym to get crushed? Do they want you to give them the hardest workout you can put them through?⠀

What are their goals?⠀

Now, look at what they want.⠀

Is what they want to do going to get them where they want to be?⠀

Because, in our experience, the answer is often no.⠀

Some people want to touch the barbell as much as possible. It’s fun. It’s Instagrammable. ⠀

But when you look at their longterm goals, giving them more volume isn’t what they truly need.⠀

They need to work on their weaknesses. They need to practice other skills. They need better mechanics (and you don’t need constant exposure or redundancies to get this, in our experience).⠀

Above all, they need to understand intensity. This lack of understanding is often the root of a lot of complaints and concerns. Here’s a quick and easy intensity test to try with your members today.

We’re not saying we’ve got this all figure out. No one does.

We do know, however, that talking about goals and explaining intensity can often lead to much more productive conversations about why an individual doesn’t think the programming is working for him/her.