Staffing the Best Coaches

best coaches

A large majority of Affiliates open their Box because they love the structure of CrossFit and seeing the changes in their clients. Once the business side takes over and the Box grows, an owner has to shy away from coaching to focus on financial and operational growth.

Because of this, hiring exceptional staff to coach and lead the members of your Box is imperative. Owners Tristan Keeffe and Jim Loperfido knew once they began to look at their business, Solace New York, from a long-term perspective, investing in the right staff would set them apart from their competition.

“We realized very early on that Tristan and I are passionate about CrossFit, but ultimately we had access to far greater talent than we have ourselves,” said Loperfido. “We would be doing a disservice to our community and our members if we didn’t utilize that. That ultimately became the market separator for our business and a protector for our business.”

But talent costs money; so, pay structure for your employees should be discussed and altered as the business evolves. When Solace first opened three years ago, Keeffe and Loperfido were set on providing a living wage to their staff, which is not easy in Manhattan as the average salary is around $100,000.

“That was one of the challenges we faced as a new gym, was being able to afford talent and then being able to pay them a wage that makes them happy,” said Keeffe. “We paid an hourly wage as much as we could when it came to classes, but really the way we attempted to make up the rest of that salary came around by providing them exposure to other revenue streams, like private training and events.”

In the beginning, it can be easy to make blanket decisions around employment and pay to that specific role, but that may not be the right mix for the specific person. As Solace’s business strategy has evolved with the growth of the business, they have begun to tailor the compensation for each staff member.

Keeffe and Loperfido both explained while one staff member might be motivated by their looming monthly rent, you may also have another employee that thrives off the idea of receiving performance bonuses.

“You really need to understand your employees’ motives to accurately incentivize them and retain them,” said Keeffe. “For a lot of people, that’s things outside of pay like career progression, exposure to learning from people with higher skill sets or exposure to other verticals that they may have not thought they would be interested in. If a Coach comes in and started out in the Body and high-intensity world, and then discover that they have a passion for yoga, we have the ability to exercise some of that intellectual curiosity.”

Paula Jager, the owner of CrossFit Jaguar in Tampa, Florida, also found incentives were important in terms of keeping her staff happy. And since the staff is on the floor with the members each and every day, they are what will keep the business afloat.

“At certain times of the year, with certain employees, we have a percentage bonus based on overall growth,” said Jager. “They are imperative in retention. You can have a great sales process, but if you can’t keep new members you are never going to stop that leaky bucket. The Coaches get to know the members on a different level than I do as the owner, so they are really important in retention.”

As Jager explained, the task of retaining members falls heavily on your Coaches, so it’s important to be deliberate in the hiring process. When there is a hole in a schedule there is a desire to fill it quickly, but if you get the wrong person in the seat, it is much more expensive in the long run.

Keeffe explained in terms of hiring Coaches, find talent first and then work to keep it. If you know someone is incredibly talented and shares your vision, but you don’t have a specific role for them yet, it doesn’t mean you should let them get away.

“Your business is a sum of its parts, so if you’ve got great people you are going to have a great business,” said Keeffe. “Ultimately, that may evolve and it may change the dynamic of the business, but if they are the right people then it’s going to be a good evolution.”

Those parts that make up the sum of CrossFit Jaguar sometimes swing between Coach and other job titles. While CrossFit Jaguar currently pays their staff based on hourly wages, the employees also make more for personal training sessions or administrative jobs.

“Some of my Coaches do both admin and coaching,” said Jager. “Coaching a class will get them a different pay structure than filling in some hours with administrative tasks. Also, personal training is a different pay structure. The prices are set by the business.”

Making sure your Coaches are happy — whether it be within your pay structure or perks they may receive by working for you — is important in running a successful business.

“Most Coaches got in this business with just a Level 1 and a passion,” said Jager. “Not that money is everything, but they also need to make a living, and feeling like they are getting a little piece of the pie incentivizes most people.”

Kaitlyn is a staff writer for Peake Media. Contact her at