Is Being a Coach All About Better Movement or Much More?

July 01, 2018

Photocredit: Crossfit Hawthorn East

I used to spend 98% of my time as a coach thinking about movement...

How can I get an athlete to move better or differently?

How can I rearrange this movement so that it makes sense in their body?

But then I stopped coaching as much. I wasn’t waking up most mornings in the dark to yell encouraging things at sleepy humans trying to get a workout in before their lives started. I stopped scouring the internet for coaching progressions. Stopped winding my mind around the proper mechanics of a squat. Some might say this lack of continuing movement education has made me a worse coach. And those some people might sometimes be me. But is that why athletes come into the gym? To move better? Maybe. But is that why we stay? I’m not so sure. 

I coach once a week now. Twice if I’m being real crazy. Sunday mornings are my jam. A friend texted me one Saturday night: “You’re coaching tomorrow. Does that mean we have to talk about feelings and partner stretch?”

100% it does. (Throw in some peppermint essential oil before the WOD to help with breathing and general feelings of magic goodness, and I’m officially on duty.)

Yes, my job as a coach is to make sure that everyone is moving in a way that they won’t get hurt. Yes, it is also my job to make everyone better movers once they’ve surpassed the danger zone. But I also think it’s my job to make the next 60 minutes better and more connected to the people around you than any other minutes in your day (minus perhaps fam, lover, friend time.) 

Ask anyone who doesn't do CrossFit about CrossFit and they’ll say we’re all a bunch of weirdos. Good. We are. And we’re a bunch of weirdos because we have the time to actually connect with the humans who are lifting next to us. We get to BS and commiserate and talk about our weekends. But the real magic is if it doesn’t stop there. If in the warm-up mid-stretch we can say we might be on an emotional struggle bus that is depression and then later that night we get a text saying “if you ever need me to just sit in silence with you, I will.” 

Here’s what I care about most when I coach. Where I spend 98% of my thinking time. The Whiteboard. How do I "break the ice" of a class and get people to laugh together? How can I give them agency to decide what kind of workout they’ll choose to embark on? Not just what weight or mods they’ll do, but whether they have the emotional ceiling to destroy it today or not. 

Connection and ownership are my number one goals at that board. I always ask a question. Name and favorite podcast or what makes you happy right now or who was your childhood sweetheart (real or famous). Yes, we burn five, maybe seven minutes there. Precious mobility or progression time. But people are also laughing. People are looking at each other in the eyes and learning something. People are being seen and heard and appreciated. Maybe that doesn’t make you stronger.

But maybe it does.

This is a guest post from Maddie Berky. Maddie has been a coach and athlete in the CF community for the last 5 years at CF Verve in Denver, Co, and was a regionals athlete in 2014. She's currently a holistic nutritionist and life coach specializing in all things food, sex, and worthiness. For more Maddie, or to work with her, check out or follow her on Facebook or Instagram @madwellness