Signed. Sealed. Certified.

There’s a reason in grades K-12 that you are taught all subjects: math, English, science, history. After all, variety makes you well-rounded.

Coaching CrossFit is no different. Experience and versatility in Coaches is not just valuable but essential. Their certifications show what they know and can help to round out your gym — while keeping its Boxy form of course. But how do you choose one certification over another?

“We’re always looking for people that have outside knowledge,” said Sean Wells, the owner of Oregon CrossFit in Bend, Oregon. “Any knowledge they bring to the table, then we can utilize that as far as just a greater knowledge of Coaches inside the training facility. The more outside knowledge they have … then we can utilize that in here at Oregon CrossFit.”

Wells explained they use kettlebells often in their training. While he said basic CrossFit certifications in Coaches are the first thing that catches his eye, those with kettlebell class certifications and specialty classes are considered next. Finally, it comes down to certifications in the endurance world or strength conditioning.

It seems a Box’s focus has an impact on what education the gym’s owner will push his or her Coaches to pursue. David Rubin, the owner of CrossFit Durham in Durham, North Carolina, said his Box runs a very strong barbell, Olympic lifting and weightlifting club, which helps to decide what certifications would be best. “I usually encourage folks to get a CrossFit Olympic Lifting or U.S. Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach certification so they can get a real good background in the Olympic lifts,” said Rubin. “I think the CrossFit Gymnastics certification is another one that is just another really good solid building block because of all the body moving things we do day-to-day. I’ve encouraged lots of our folks to take the CrossFit Kettlebell certification when it comes available.”

Meredith Simmons, the owner of CrossFit Riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware, said with so many Boxes now, people are going to start shopping for the best CrossFit gyms out there. “I think [the Level 2 is] going to be the next thing people are looking at when they shop is see that people are more than just a piece of paper certification of a Level 1,” she said. “It shows that they’re going above and beyond and learning more and extending their knowledge. I think that for the sake of the members, the Coaches need to have that information and knowledge to coach their classes.”

But, the subsidiary certifications aren’t out of the question. The Coaches at CrossFit Riverfront need to draw up a game plan to show how they would use one of these special certifications if they expect Simmons to chip in. “The subsidiary certifications depend on how they would like to use them. For instance, I paid for two of my Coaches to get the Football [certification], because we’re doing an athletic program now for teams and college students.”

However, CrossFit certifications are not the catch-all. Wells has over 10 certifications, about half in non-CrossFit fitness programs, classes and training camps. “I tell people to not be narrow focused as far as just CrossFit,” he said. “CrossFit has got a great series of subject matter, different certifications, but there [are] other programs out there that have been successful, and if people have certifications in those, then you got to look at those and judge those on the same level as CrossFit.”

But it wasn’t just about exposing the Coaches to new material. It was also about the members and exposing them to more information inside and outside CrossFit. Wells also said that by offering a variety of classes, more members and their needs are reached and fulfilled.

By having Coaches with a variety of certifications and knowledge, Rubin said it enabled his Box’s programming to sweep wider. For instance, take CrossFit Durham’s Yogability program, a class that combines yoga with mobility. It was offered after one of his Coaches got her yoga certification. “Until she finished her yoga certification, we were not running that class,” he said. “As she finished it, and we talked about what that class would look like design-wise and schedule-wise, we added it. And I would not have added it had she not gone and got that certification.”

In fact, the programming of CrossFit Durham is night and day compared to where it was six years ago, said Rubin. And it has a lot to do with trainer certifications. “It’s still CrossFit, but what it looks like is very different, and that is because we all keep up quality because we know that the business is evolving, CrossFit is evolving, the athletes are evolving, so the Coaches and owners need to evolve too,” he said.

Even with the push to gather outside knowledge and educate themselves through certifications, Rubin said it really all comes back to simply improving their CrossFit. “I do think [it’s] important for CrossFit Coaches and owners to still dabble or get exposed to some of the other certifications or just ideas that are out there,” he said. “Not to do it in place of CrossFit, but to make our CrossFit better.”

Heather Hartmann
Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.