‘Coach’ – What does that really mean?

What does it really mean to be a coach?

Coaching is an interesting relationship regardless of what side you’re on be it coach or athlete.  I have the unique perspective on both sides of this topic.  I’ll explain my view on both.  My apologies for the length of today’s blog, but it’s a hot topic to me.

As an athlete:

I’ve had several people coach over my 5+ year CrossFit career.  I’ve found as I got better and expanded my world both inside and outside CrossFit my idea of what a coach is has changed.

My perception of ‘coach’ really changed when I qualified for  the 2010 CrossFit Games.  I knew I was going to the big show, and I knew I needed to step up my game.  I found myself driving to Toledo every weekend to work with Fred Lowe on my olympic lifts because we never really did the lifts.  I found myself driving to DC alone so I could up my intensity by training with Christy Philips and Julie Foucher.  I diligently researched nutrition and cleaned up my diet.  I often worked out alone and had too find my fire internally.

My first perception change happened at the 2010 Crossfit Games.  To this day I’m soooo glad Christy Phillips and Mel were there for me. I was overwhelmed, scared and felt alone.  My coach was there, parents were there and people from the gym, but under that stadium before and after workouts I was alone.  I looked around and many athletes had a coach that never left their side until they ran through the tunnel.  Perception change: Why didn’t I have that?

In August 2010 when I decided to open my own box I was on my own.  I connected with a local strongman gym.  Being my weakness at the 2010 Games was clearly raw strength.  I worked with a ‘coach’ once a week and he literally made the statement- ‘I MADE YOU!’ when I told him I was parting ways with him in January 2011.  Made me????  You’re kidding right?  Come to find out that my ‘coach’ was busy trying to weasel his way into all my sponsors using his coaching relationship with me to get in the door.  Without that connection his business and brand wouldn’t have that ‘in’ anymore.  When I realized that I parted ways as fast as I could. Perception change: coaches shouldn’t want to train you just to get ahead in their career.  They should be invested in their athletes success and the process for the love of the process.

I spent the next 8 months completely turned off on the idea of a ‘coach’.   Training  alone and programming for myself.  It wasn’t until August of 2011 that I was willing to even open the door on the conversation of having a ‘coach’.  I had a few people approach me about being my coach in the last year, but that wasn’t the way I wanted to enter the relationship.  But I also knew that I wanted accountability, critique and support.  I wanted to work with someone that already made their name and wasn’t trying to make a name off my back and was truly invested in making their athletes better for no other reason that loving the process.

Enter Brian Yoak.  I’ve known Brian for 4+ years now, and I’ve always had the utmost respect for him, his values, his morals and of course his knowledge.  Knowing I had trusted and respected Brian as a friend and peer I approached him about working with me.  He accepted without hesitation, and since then I talk with him on a daily basis, review video with him, receive programming help.

Would I say Brian is my ‘coach’?  Yes but- I wouldn’t give credit to any ONE person for my training.  Brian is my point person for my day to day training and the most involved earning him the title ‘coach’ from me.  I would also say that Brian is ONE of many coaches I have.  I work with Mark Canella on olympic lifts.  I work with Chris Mason on nutrition and supplementation.  I work with Marty Shea on swimming.  I work with the entire CF community for best practices.

Don’t get me wrong…. every ‘cocach’ I’ve had over the years has taught me new things and helped shape the person and athlete I am today, I just wouldn’t say they made me or got me anything.  My commitment to better myself, my inner drive and my constant quest for knowledge have made me what I am.

As a coach:

I have 120 members at Coca CrossFit that I’ve been coaching for a year and half now.  Some that are now starting to compete, and some that really have a shot at doing big things. I always feel weird when they call me their ‘coach’.  I think part of that is because I’ve still got so much to learn.

It’s still hard to believe that they’re coming to me for advice, guidance, counsel.  I’m the one they’ve entrusted to get them stronger, fitter, better.  I know that my 5 years of CrossFit and 2 years of competition certainly give me a unique perspective.  I’ve traveled across the country and visited several boxes.  I’ve met and worked with hundreds of coaches.  I’ve competed with the best.  Those experiences have taught me what it takes to be the best.  I don’t ask anything of my athletes that I haven’t already done myself.

I do my best to bring the best resources to the table as well.  I bring in specialists to lead clinics.  I brought in Chris Mason to talk with supplements.  I brought in Josh Bunch to talk nutrition.  I brought in Andrew Durniat to talk kettlebells.  I talk the mental and emotional side of competing.  I do my best to give my athletes the resources to be well rounded mentally, emotionally and physically while taking them to the next level.

I keep my eye on them, and hold them accountable to what they said they were going to do.  I’m truly invested in watching them grow.  I want to be there when they succeed, and I’ll certainly be there if/when they stumble.  It’s my job to be there through it all and keep them going.

OK …. OK….OK…. LONGEST BLOG EVER!  I’m aware of that, but this is a topic I could talk all day on.  A coach is a great thing to have and to be if the relationship works.  It has to be the right person that you truly trust to lead you in the right direction.  The person that is going to take you to the next level.  Or in my case, the people you think will take you to the next level.  It may change throughout the years as you change as an athlete and that’s ok.  It’s about what’s best for the athlete not the coach.

I have a coach and am a coach, and both sides of this relationship are important.