How to Evaluate Coaches

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

The biggest trap an evaluator can fall into is: “Are they me?” That is, do they coach exactly as I coach? Instead, you should be evaluating their effectiveness as a coach and whether or not they actually connect with the people in front of them. Ultimately, it’s about how well people respond to them.

This video goes into what I’ve learned after years of evaluating coaches.

I’ve also created a Coach Evaluation Checklist to help you look for specific elements while observing coaches.

How to Establish Coaches as Authorities

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

Are you a gym owner whose in the position where members keep coming to you about things instead of going to your coaches? If you want to redirect those conversations to your team, this video has a few ideas for how to establish coaches as authorities in your facility.

Take Care of Your Coaches

Janet Navarrette Coaching Development, Gym Management


Know Your Product
When you opened your affiliate, surely you did it with the intent of selling CrossFit. You wanted to make people better by using the best strength and conditioning program that is attainable for all walks of life. How quickly after did you learn your product was actually coaching? Oh, spoiler alert: if you haven’t come to that realization already, your product is coaching.

CrossFit is self-sustaining. I can buy a few pieces of equipment, do main-site workouts or subscribe to programming or even create my own, and it would be a lot cheaper than paying a monthly membership. You might argue that there’s no community and the gym space provides that. To which I would ask, who is truly at the forefront of creating that community? Hint: Rhymes with shmoaches.

So, how well do you know your product? Are your coaches fully equipped to execute the vision of your affiliate?

“You Give Before You Get”
Great coaches are constantly giving. With every cue, every modification on the fly, every time they step into the gym, they are instantly in a state of giving (even if they’re not technically on the clock). They spend time thinking of what the perfect class music will be while remembering everyone’s injuries and how they’re going to drill the snatch and be entertaining at the same time.

When a person gives so much, they need to replenish their reservoir. They have to work in time for themselves, but how can they? Because the minute they stop, they’re not making money. This can be a recipe for disaster that then trickles down to the members and the whole community.

As a small business owner, payroll is probably one of your highest expenses. So, it’s understandably hard to justify high salaries and benefits. You might only have one full-time coach and probably a high number of part-time coaches. But, there are other ways you can set your coaches up for success aside from paying them fairly.

Check-In
As a manager/owner, it’s important to continually check in with your coaches to ensure they are not on the verge of burning out. You must get ahead because if you’re not careful, it will happen. Take them out to lunch. Listen to what’s going on in their lives. What are their goals? What are their passions? Let them vent about that member and listen to their suggestions. The important thing here is that they feel heard, so make sure you listen.

Schedule
Some coaches prefer mornings, some prefer two classes in a row, while others prefer to space them out. Take the effort to best accommodate their preferences. It’s difficult to do this all the time, but knowing that there is effort and that you respect their time goes a long way.

Focus Only on Coaching
Coaches should focus on coaching only. Hire someone else to handle sales or handle the gym cleaning. Don’t spread them too thin with other responsibilities. The only exception is if they’ve otherwise expressed interest in those areas.

Constant Communication
Have a group text, newsletter, FB group, carrier pigeon, etc. Do what you have to do to always be in continuous communication with your coaches. Let them know updates about the gym before you announce anything to members. Get their feedback. This builds trust, and being in a trusting environment for a coach is very important.

We are in the business of giving. And it’s a constant cycle that will ensure the success of your business. It starts with how you treat your product. How you value your coaches will flow down to how your coaches value your members, which flows down to how your members value your gym.

Try these tips out and see if you notice a difference!

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 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 a werewolf or a vampire?

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, 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.

Find Your People

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

Coaches, find a gym who shares your ‘why’ if you want to be valued for the energy and effort you put into coaching.⠀

If the gym you work for has a different value system, they’re never really going to recognize or value your work.⠀

Even when you go an extra mile.⠀

In this scenario, it can feel like “nothing is ever good enough.” ⠀

You’re a coach for one reason.⠀

And they opened a gym for another.⠀

You want different things. You’re offering different products. You have a different vision, different priorities. You do not share the same mission. They want x, you want y.⠀

Square peg, round hole.⠀

Stop trying to make it work. It ain’t gonna.⠀

Find your people.⠀

And give them your energy.⠀

Otherwise, you’re wasting it. ⠀

A Lazy Coach

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

When we see a coach doing the bare minimum, not cleaning the space, not really connecting with members, not being the best version of themselves, we see a coach who isn’t taking ownership of their role in the community.

That coach doesn’t feel it’s their responsibility.

That coach doesn’t feel at home in the facility.

And that’s a problem.

This exact scenario can often be traced back to 2 separate issues:

  1. The coach doesn’t feel valued.
  2. The coach doesn’t feel like they’re making an impact. (So nothing else really matters.)

Let’s break that down a little more.

If a coach doesn’t feel valued, acknowledge them more. Show them some friggin love. Let them know why you’re stoked they’re on the team. Let them know that you noticed when they did such-and-such.

Check-in to make sure you share the same value system and priorities. If there’s conflict there, let them go so they can find a gym where they can thrive and love their work.

If a coach doesn’t feel like what they’re doing is meaningful, or that they don’t personally have much of an impact, that’s often pretty easy to solve.

Find out what they’re passionate about. Give them the space and creative control to bring that into the gym. Let them expand their influence. Let them take ownership. Are they super into obstacle races lately? Great. Let them bring something related to that to the table. Figure out what makes them feel alive and excited and super chatty. And then let them lead. Who knows, it just might set you apart from the box down the street.

Create a text/email thread and share success stories, before and afters, etc., to remind everyone of what kind of an impact their making in people’s lives. Teams really need this sometimes. We can get bogged down by all the BS.

You might also try planning a few community events so that coaches and members can get to know each other a little better. Never underestimate the power of human connection.

We’ve found that when coaches are acting ‘lazy’ laziness is rarely the problem. There’s something else going on. And it’s our job as leaders to figure out what that is.

Good Leadership

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

If your gym culture is about who’s right, then it follows that it’s also about who’s wrong. When the time comes, they’ll be looking for the person to blame and shame.

Quick, who’s fault is this? Who can we scapegoat?

Instead, let’s create a culture built around a solid value system.

This way, everyone is on the same page.

The team moves as one force, a collective of individuals working together to achieve a mission or vision.

They share the same ‘why.’

They want to achieve the same goals.

There’s no time to get distracted by who’s right and who’s wrong.

That doesn’t matter.

The mission, the “why,” is what matters.

Doing the right thing is what matters.

If one person succeeds, everyone succeeds. If one person fails, everyone owns their part in the failure.

One person’s shoulders do not carry the weight. Neither does one carry the glory.

These are the types of teams we all want to build. And we believe it starts with focusing more on the values/priorities/mission of your facility.

Why are you open? What do you want to achieve with your community? What do you want to offer people? More than a workout?

Does your team share your ‘why’?⠀