I made a point of ending my last article by saying I was going to interview 3 great CrossFit coaches to see what they have in common. Some similarities I found were: quest for more knowledge and experience, a passion for helping others and a love of the sport. I’ll bet other great coaches share these characteristics.
The coaches I interviewed are August Schimidt of East Valley CrossFit, Grant Peterson of Gainey Village CrossFit, and Devin Thaut of the Power in Motion Institute. Part II features a discussion with August.
August Schmidt – East Valley CrossFit:
- What brought you into CrossFit?
~In the fall of 2000, I moved to San Diego and became friends with Coach Burgener. Two years later, I relocated to Arizona, but stayed in touch with Coach. I don’t remember the year, but at some point he started telling me about CrossFit. He was using Kettlebells and other methods that we hadn’t previously used to train weightlifters. During that time period I was working as a Strength Coach at a school in Mesa, Arizona. For the most part, I still stuck to fairly traditional strength & conditioning methods and didn’t really look into CrossFit.
In the summer of 2006, I left my job at the school to pursue private business opportunities. This change led me to set up a gym in my garage, where a few of us trained. We tried a lot of different things and had fun. One of my good friends and training partners, Stu Christiansen, had been exposed to CrossFit through his father (who was a Phoenix firefighter). Stu was pretty insistent that we should try CrossFit. Eventually, I broke down, tried a CrossFit workout, and the rest is history.
- What do you think makes you such a good CrossFit coach?
~ Several of the qualities that I think are important to being a good coach are: caring about the people you’re coaching, being passionate about what you’re coaching, and having experience in the field that you’re coaching.
Your athletes need to know that you care about them. It’s important that they understand that you are working together to get the best out of them and the team. They need to know that you care about their well-being, and that you aren’t going to put them in unsafe situations. Once your athletes know that you care about them and trust you, they’ll give you full effort and commitment. It’s kind of a tacky saying, but it really is true: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
People can sense when you’re passionate about something. If you’re passionate about what you’re coaching, the passion will spread to the people around you. Being deeply passionate about your sport or craft is a big part of what keeps you going once the novelty of your chosen sport has worn off. It’s the passion that keeps you coming back day after day. It’s the passion that drives you to study your sport, learn the history, study the theories and methodologies, and build relationships within the community.
Finally, experience is vital to being an effective coach. There are a lot of lessons that can only be learned through living. Every time you compete, you learn. It takes years to develop a deep understanding of any sport, craft or art. After years of studying your sport, you’ll see things that only other experienced coaches see. We all have to start somewhere and the enthusiasm of a rookie coach is powerful, but nothing can replace the wisdom that comes with years of experience.
- What do you love most about coaching?
The two things that I love most about coaching are the people and the beauty of the sport. Everything boils down to relationships; the coach-athlete relationship is very special. A coach has the privilege of mentoring athletes, and the right coach can be a life-changing influence. Coaches have the opportunity to teach people how to approach problems, and how to work in structured and focused ways towards accomplishing their goals. Possibly most important of all, the coach creates the culture of the team. The coach can teach athletes how to treat people, how to build people up, and how to create a culture for the betterment of everyone on the team.
- What’s one thing you would change about the CrossFit community?
Every community has challenges, and I think that there are very few challenges that are unique to the CrossFit community. Based on what I’ve seen, CrossFit is comprised of hardworking, successful, and generous people. CrossFit is hard. It can be uncomfortable, but it is also very rewarding. I want to be surrounded by people who work hard, who understand that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and who are supportive of one another. CrossFit has been an extremely positive force in my life. Because of the opportunities created by CrossFit, I have been able to find a situation where I can apply my talents—where I am passionate about the things I’m doing, and am surrounded by great people!