Just a few thoughts on the pros and cons of the whiteboard.
Transitions are tough. Many children, teens and adults alike struggle with the change in expectation, environment, and energy that are often brought on as a result of a transition. One of the most significant transitions our members (of all ages) must go through every time they walk in the door is just that — the simple act of arriving and settling.
If your box is anything like ours, it’s not only a space for strength and conditioning, but it’s also become a social community; a gathering place for like-minded people to decompress, connect, socialize, and be reminded of the many benefits of healthy, active living.
Often, much of this is done in the 10-15 minutes before class, while warming up or mobilizing. In the words of Greg Glassman, “the needs of the elderly and professional athletes vary by degree, not kind.” I believe we can further extend this idea to our pre-WOD rituals as well. No matter our age, goals or reasons for coming to the gym, we all likely enjoy the added benefits of training in a positive, social community. Kids and teens are no different.
So if we all need that time to transition into the space before class starts, to warm up our bodies, and to socialize with our peers, to what degree can we provide this experience for our younger athletes?
If left to their own devices, children and teens will likely begin raising their voices, turning the rig into a ninja warrior jungle gym, using the PVC pipes as lightsabers and, inevitably, someone will end up hurt; hurt ankles, tailbones, heads, hurt feelings… it’s not an ideal way to start a class.
Here are a few ideas to help your younger athletes access the many benefits of pre-WOD bliss:
Teach them a simple, dynamic warm-up
Use class-time to teach a 3-5 part bodyweight warm-up. For older kids and teens, you can make a poster and stick it to the whiteboard before class. For younger kids, you could draw some stickmen and arrows on a poster to remind them. When they arrive early for class, it’s their job to perform the prescribed warm-up.
Ideas for this warm-up include leg swings, inchworms, bear crawl, burpees, shuttle runs, jumping jacks, etc.
Create set spaces in your facility for different activities
Most kids and teens programs will take place after school, which means the athletes will likely need to change, eat a snack and decompress from a long day of listening and sitting. Establish a set space in your facility where they should hang out when they want to eat a snack before class. Items to keep handy here are a garbage can, recycling bin, broom, and dustpan. Trust me on that one. When they have finished eating and checking their text messages, phones and food are left behind, and they head to the warm-up area of the gym. Having these physical boundaries will help the kids stay focused on the job at hand and successfully transition to the next one.
Ensure you are prepared for class before the kids arrive
Get your WOD or session plan written on the board, set up any equipment you might need and brief your assistant before the doors open for the kids. Not only will this make you feel more confident and prepared for class time, but the kids will arrive to an organized space and a Trainer who is ready to greet them. You can then use those 10-15 minutes before class to connect with your athletes like you would any other class! Ask them how their day was, what they had for lunch, what they’re looking forward to this weekend. Establishing this connection before class will set you up for a respectful and engaged session, plus you will have a better understanding of how your athletes are feeling that day.
Have a self-directed challenge or game set up
This is our secret weapon to starting class with happy, focused and warmed-up kids. Either set up a familiar game for them to take the reins on (explain it to the athletes who are changed and ready), or write instructions on the board.
Examples of this include:
- Max effort plank, handstand, bar, hollow, or dip hold: do this in pairs with one person watching the time for their buddy
- Max distance broad jump: create a starting line and use chalk or tape to mark their efforts
- Medicine ball piggy in the middle: kids in a circle, squat and throw a light ball to someone on the other side without the person in the middle intercepting
- Skipping: simply lay out the skipping ropes and let them play
- Bean bag toss: working on accuracy while throwing a bean bag into a bucket
Decide on your expectations and be consistent
Once you have decided on a pre-WOD plan for your class, teach them what to do and consistently reinforce the expectation. If they see you letting one kid eat their snack while they watch their buddy hold plank, then they will know that breaking the rules is okay. Consistency allows kids to relax into the environment because they always know what to expect. You will earn their respect and trust, paving the way to a great session once the clock starts.
Establishing a partially structured environment for your younger athletes to engage in as soon as they arrive will greatly improve the experience of your group class. We are Trainers, not babysitters, and we have a lot to offer these kids. Not just how to get stronger, faster and more fit, but how to be respectful in different environments, how to prioritize and prepare for our activities, how to be social and have fun while in a shared, public space.
Enjoy creating a positive pre-WOD space for your kids and teens. They may not directly thank you for it, but I can almost guarantee you’ll thank yourself!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Sharing fitness with the younger members of our communities can be fun, rewarding and profitable. So, what are you waiting for?!
Here are three tips to get you started on the right foot:
1. Gauge interest within your membership
It’s a common concern that if you start a kids program, you won’t have enough kids to fill the class. Not only is a 3-kid class a little boring for the athletes, it likely won’t generate enough income to pay for the trainer! So the first step would be to connect with your members. Whether it’s through a survey (try a service like Survey Monkey), a post to your Facebook page, a tally on the whiteboard or a question on the bathroom wall, starting with the folks who already believe in what you’re doing and support your business is a smart first step. Ask them the following:
- Are you interested in a kids/youth program?
- How old are your children?
- What other after-school activities are your children regularly involved in, and when?
The results of this Q&A should give you a solid indication as to the level of interest within your box, what age group would be ideal to start with, and, potentially, what schedule (days/frequency) would be ideal.
2. Start small, keep it simple
Good science means controlling the variables. To know whether or not your program is improving the fitness of the children, bringing financial prosperity to your box and creating a positive experience for staff, members and participants, you might want to start with just one age group and observe the results.
→ Choose the age group where you’ll be able to offer a class to MOST of your interested members’ kids. How to best arrange age groups is an important topic, but one for another post.
→ Choose a day of the week, maybe 2, a time, and a price.
→ Roll up your sleeves (or encourage a Trainer on your team to do so) and get ready to have some fun! Don’t worry — most kids won’t bite.
3. Seek inspiration and support
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your program; there are a wealth of resources out there to ensure your success. As a start, WUWO offers programming for kids and teens and the CrossFit Journal has great ideas for games and coaching cues. If you’re struggling with details specific to your affiliate or would like further support implementing or expanding your kids/youth programs, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We would love to see you succeed in sharing your passion for fitness with our younger generations.
“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?
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.
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.⠀
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, but it’ll also remind people to respect the space. ⠀
Today, in every workout you coach, we want you to ask yourself: Should this person go faster or slower?
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.)
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.