The Process of Developing Coaches

A Crossfit Critical Mass Coach is teaching.

When asked how to define a good Coach, John Koenig referenced martial arts: you categorize them by colored belts.

“They’re just at different points along their development as a Coach,” said Koenig, the co-owner of CrossFit Critical Mass in Fulton, Maryland. He explained how each belt color in martial arts represents what level you are, applying that same principle to Coaches — each Coach is at his or her own point in their journey.

For Critical Mass, its Coaches begin their development from within the Box. “Obviously, you want to pull your Coaches from within the community that you build because they’re going to jive much better because they’re coming out of the community,” said Koenig. “The vast majority that we have been successful with came out of our own community so they had obviously no previous coaching experience. Usually what we do is we have a roadmap for them.”

That roadmap begins with a potential Coach’s commitment to take the CrossFit Level 1 certification. If the prospect doesn’t put down money, Koenig said they aren’t sure if that person is serious.

After that commitment, the Box will take them under its wings. “We teach them in our Coaches development classes, focus a lot on some of the stuff that you would do in a CrossFit Level 2,” said Koenig.

So, while the certification class will teach the foundations of CrossFit, Critical Mass looks to teach its actual coaching method as well as how to deal with clients, how to handle sticky situations and how to deal with injuries, said Koenig. Critical Mass will also give Coaches-in-training various reading materials, and if any Coach needs some extra help — for example, their mobility isn’t up to par — the entire staff is there to help.

But when is a Coach ready to start teaching classes? “[It’s when] you know that they can make sure everyone does everything safely, and that they have the confidence to control the class and that they’re not going to self destruct over class,” said Koenig.

After a Coach is ready to start teaching classes, Koenig said it’s important to get him or her the authority he or she needs. “We’ll start calling them Coach,” he said. Since Coaches are coming from the membership base, Koenig explained it’s important to make it known that Billy is now Coach Billy by socializing the person’s new title around the Box.

Of course, the new Coach isn’t put out to sink or swim all by his or herself. Koenig said mistakes will happen so “you have to learn by doing.” Sometimes, Koenig said experienced Coaches will strategize with a newer Coach about how to teach a class or even set up equipment for the WOD.

Overall, Koenig said everyone deserves a shot, but it’s key to be honest with your Coaches. “You’ve got to give everybody a chance,” he said. “I don’t want to crush anyone’s dreams, but if it’s not working, it’s not working.”

Heather Hartmann
Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at