Active Life Podcast, Ep. 15

Pat Barber Coaching, Coaching Development, Culture, 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)

A Question on Priorities

Pat Barber Culture, 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, Coaching Development, Competitions, Culture, 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!

How many classes should a coach coach?

Pat Barber Coaching, Coaching Development, Gym Management


How many coaching hours per day is too many? The answer: It depends.

There is an inverse relationship between quality and quantity when it comes to coaching classes. The fewer classes we coach, the more energy we have to put into each class.

Why should you care? Because quality coaching is the product of a gym. Just about everything that makes a gym great can be traced back to passionate and engaged coaches — a connected and supportive community, a safe space where people come in and suffer every day, excellent coaching and education, you name it. In short: good coaches make gyms money. When coaches are too tired or burnt out to deliver a solid hour of attention and focus, your members are not getting the best product possible.

So how much is too much? How many classes should a coach coach in one day? In a week?

It’s often a good idea for newer coaches to just get in the gym and coach as much as they can. That’s because they’re learning, and they need the practice and exposure to the process to expand and refine their craft. They will get exhausted from doing this, but these beginning coaching stages are the “grind” as they say in the Instagram world, and they must #grinditout to get better.

When a newer or less refined coach goes beyond their class number threshold, the product they are offering goes from not-that-great to a bit worse. The drop off isn’t that drastic because they don’t have far to fall, as they are not yet capable of offering anything too special as a coach. We all suck in the beginning, and that is okay. Continued exposure to coaching will give them more experience and make them better in the long run.

When a more experienced coach goes beyond their threshold, instead of providing individualized attention to each athlete, the coach becomes a group manager who is simply keeping things organized and on-schedule. The drop-off is clear and drastic, and unlike a new coach, an experienced coach does not benefit from the continued exposure to members/coaching because they are already experienced.

Volume is what leads to burnout. This can be too many classes in a day or too many classes in a week. Some coaches can handle 5 classes per day if they get 1 day off in between to recharge their batteries. Other coaches prefer to work 6-7 days per week and only a couple of classes per day. It all depends on the coach.

So what’s the perfect number of classes per day in and in a row? Everybody’s threshold is different, but on average I would say no more than 3 classes in a row. We’re referring to head coaching here. Ideally, you would coach 2 classes then rest, and then coach another class for a total of 3 classes in one day. You could also coach 2 classes, rest, then coach 2 more for a total of 4 classes in one day, but that’s the maximum you should be coaching in an ideal world. Assisting is different. If you factor this into the scheduling, you could coach 2 back-to-back classes, assist for 1 class, rest, and then coach 1 more class (for a total of 4 classes in one day). You can play with that aspect ratio of assisting to coaching as you like, and you might also want to consider prime classes vs. lower attendance classes. All of this depends on your threshold as a coach, and what else you might have going on in your life.

Remember, we are talking about a fictitious, perfect schedule situation where the gym has a surplus of capable people, and the coaches are making the kind of money they want to make. So we are talking theory here, rather than the reality, for most gyms.

A few quick tips on what makes a good class, so you know if you are doing something different:

1) Are you prepared before the session and know everything you are going to do for the class?
2) Are you engaging with every member multiple times per class?
3) Is everyone in class, even the people who are more experienced, improving from your class?
4) Are you making eye contact with people as you coach the class?
5) Is there Teaching, Seeing, Correcting, Motivating and Inspiring happening throughout class?
6) Are members talking to each other and smiling when appropriate during class?
7) Did class flow smoothly from start to finish with no major downtime where people were disengaged and not doing anything?

We don’t say any of this to make you feel bad. We’re saying this to make you feel better about evaluating your schedule and being honest with yourself and your team. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure coaches don’t burn out because they are coaching 5 classes a day, 6 days a week.

Have fun out there and change some lives.

Beyond the Barbell, Episode 97

Pat Barber Coaching, Coaching Development, Gym Management, Podcast Interviews

While in Miami for my first Wodapalooza experience, which was awesome, I met up with Ben Alderman & Blair Morrison of the Beyond the Barbell podcast to talk about developing coaches.

Here’s what we discussed:
– the current definition of “coach” and how I want to change it
– emotional intelligence (and how it applies to coaching CrossFit)
– what to look for in a potential coach (how to choose a coach)
– the road trip test (for hiring coaches)
– what to do when a coach just isn’t getting it
– my evaluation process for reviewing coaches
– my system for managing 60 coaches in the Bay Area
– why I believe my wife’s session plans are what made me a better coach
– how session plans force coaches to develop their knowledge

Please give the episode a listen and then let me know what you think: Beyond the Barbell, Episode 97 — Coaching a Coach

Brute Strength Podcast, Episode 79

Pat Barber Coaching, Coaching Development, Culture, Gym Management, Podcast Interviews

I recently had a wonderful chat with Mike Cazayoux about being the best coach, developer of coaches, husband and dad I can be.

We talked about A LOT:
– what the best gyms are doing,
– how to get out of a coaching rut,
– how to build community, and
– how to create a good team culture (between owners, managers and coaches).

Then we dove into more personal subjects, like how I talk with my two boys and what I think about masculinity.

Give the episode a listen: Brute Strength Podcast Episode #79 — Building Better Affiliates