Making a Coach

“Josh does a good job of performing duties that are assigned to him, and is very intuitive about the field, but lacks self-motivation at times. Still needs work on being an effective coach in a large group setting.”

– Jason Riley

A little over 10 years ago, the above review was written about me. At that point, I’d been coaching for three years already.
I’ve been coaching “fitness” (or strength and conditioning, or whatever you want to term it these days) for more than 13 years now. And even to this day, I’m refining my craft, pushing myself to be better each day, pursuing excellence.
Just a few weeks ago, I attended the CrossFit Level 2 Certification course (along with Coach Margaret and Coach Heather), and you know what? I’m still learning. I still have things to improve on.
Even through all the ups and downs in my career, I remember my first time on the coaching floor like it was yesterday.
Back in 2002 or 2003, my brothers started attending a place in Brandon called Velocity Sports Performance. They were a facility that specialized in ‘sport specific’ training – they worked mainly on improving an athletes speed, power, and agility. How they did it is not at all different from how any number of places these days do it, CFG included. In talking with the coaches there, my parents told them that I happened to be going to the University of Florida to study exercise science. They said: “You should have him stop by next time he’s home to see what we’re all about…we think he’d like it.”
That was all it took.
After that, I spent every waking moment I could just hanging out there. Asking questions. Watching training sessions. Studying books and videos. Learning everything by basically following all the coaches around like a lost puppy. Anything that they needed done, I was the first to dive at the opportunity.
Sweep the floors? I’ll do it!
Reorganize equipment? I’m on it!
They taught me how to watch and analyze movement in the real world, not just a textbook. They taught me how to write up a single training session and how that single session tied into the overall plan for a specific athlete or even an entire team. I was exposed to youth and professional athletes – yes, we even had a few Tampa Bay Bucs come through there…Tampa Bay Storm too. It was at this time that I got my first exposure to Olympic Weightlifting courtesy of Rich Lansky as well.
But through all that – the shadowing, the learning, the questions – I still hadn’t officially coached yet. But one day I was sitting in the coaches office talking with them and glanced at the clock – 3:50…about 10 minutes before the next class starts. This struck me odd as normally by this time all the coaches were out on the floor, mingling with the incoming athletes – checking in, seeing how they were doing, etc. I ran out of the office to make sure we had people coming in. Sure enough, we did. I came back in to let them know people were out there and I received a “Ok, we’ll be there in a second.”
Five minutes later…I was back in there: “Guys, are you coming out here?”
“Yea…we’ll be right there.”
Last chance, 3:58, I run back – “GUYS! Its almost time to start class!”
And then they leveled me with: “Oh Josh…we forgot to tell you…you’ll be coaching class today! Get them started on time. We’ll be out there to watch and help if you need it…but we know you’ll be fine. You are ready.”
Talk about pressure and being put under the microscope. I can remember being so nervous that I almost ran to the bathroom to throw up. But you know what? I did just fine. As they said, I was ready…I just didn’t know it. They had been grooming me for this moment for months, they just hadn’t told me. Afterwards, they all shared a big chuckle at my expense, but then lavished me with praise. We all retired back to the coaches office where they each reviewed the things I did well and areas that I needed to improve. They also told me that they wanted me to start coaching regularly if my schedule allowed.
Pay? Not one penny.
Experience? Priceless.
Fast forward three years (in which I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience at the collegiate level) and I begin working at IMG Academies right before I’m set to graduate.
At this point, I had been coaching pretty regularly for a few years. I had experience with professional athletes, D1 collegiate level, youth and amateurs, even “average joe” types that just wanted to get in shape and be healthy.
But this was a whole other level of training and coaching that I had always dreamed about. Not only did we have top notch facilities (google it), but we also had the worlds best athletes coming through our doors from 5am – 9pm. (Yes folks, believe it – I may not be present for the early AM classes these days, but I’ve logged years of them!)
As the new kid on the block, I also had typical “new kid” duties to earn my stripes – you know, the stuff most people don’t like to do: clean-up, straightening, making things look consistent (and professional) for everyone that came through the doors. You could say that my OCD was honed here!
One of these duties grew to be my favorite; every day, I was responsible for meeting up with the “Adult Tennis Group” at 7:30am to warm them up before their tennis lessons. What they didn’t elaborate on was that this was the senior adult tennis group…youngest of which was 65! Here’s why I place so much value on my time with them: it taught me how to think quickly on my feet about how to adapt exercises on the fly to a population who couldn’t perform a large majority of the movements we were using with our youth and professional athletes. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
At the mid-point and at the end of my time at IMG, we were given reviews/evaluations. The opening lines of this post were one of those reviews. Go back and read it for a refresher if you need to…
Whew, tough huh?
Nope. That’s not how I took it at all.
Wouldn’t trade that for the world either. It is what has kept me motivated not just for the success of my clients (and my gym), but also for myself to be the best coach possible.
People ask me frequently about becoming a coach.
“What do I have to do?”
“What classes do I need to take?”
“When I can I start coaching?”
Well that depends.
I think that it takes an enormous amount of passion and patience.
Passion for the profession, otherwise you’ll never continue to strive for more knowledge and experience.
Passion for the results of the people you work for, your clients.
Patience for the opportunities to take on responsibilities. This may be stuff you don’t want to do, or feel is beneath you. Or it may come at a completely unexpected time, like two minutes before class is starting.
Patience for your craft and skills to grow and mature.
Patience for your field to catch up and embrace ideas you may have that are outside of the traditional box.
Patience for yourself.
Ok great, but how do you get all of those things?
Not a degree. Not a weekend certification. Not by attending a conference.
You get it by experience. You get it by doing. You get it by hanging around others that have it.
Over the past several months, all of you have seen some new faces on the coaching floor. This is by design. I was blessed to be mentored by some of the brightest minds in my field. I want to do the same. My mission as owner of CrossFit For Glory is not just in improving the everyday lives of all of our members, but also in creating new and better coaches.
To that end, all of our current (and prospective) coaches have a specific set requirements that they have to meet before they’re allowed to coach. And at the end of the day, they need to pass a question that I ask myself in private:

“Am I comfortable with this person representing CrossFit For Glory?”

After that, to get better they have one big thing they need to do: COACH! The only way to test all the knowledge they’ve gained through reading, watching, and listening is simply to put it into practice.
What does this mean for you? Better coaching. Being an instrumental part of something bigger.
And I know what you’re all asking yourselves…the answer is NO, this doesn’t mean you won’t see me anymore (you’ll never be THAT lucky!). I’m still here, coaching every day, continuing to push the bounds of my profession, and our gym, forward.
What do I want out of all this?
Simple: I want to change the world.

people working out in a group fitness class


Talk with a coach to see if working out at Coaching For Glory is right for you.
Book a Free Intro