Too many cooks

Scenario: A coach is running a class by themselves but other coaches who may be doing their own training, personal training other clients, or just hanging around get involved in the class giving direction to attendees. Is giving advice or cueing athletes undermining the coach already doing the job and potentially confusing class members as to who or what to listen to?



Carl Paoli (Naka Athletics/ Gymnastic Wod/ Freestyle Connection):

“One voice. Period! When class is over the other coaches can talk to you about what they saw and you can discuss on best approach to help the client. This happens to me all the time and is one of the reasons I don’t work or collaborate with a lot of coaches.”


Ben Bergeron pic

Ben Bergeron (CrossFit New England):
“There is a long answer to this which I address in my business seminar (Business of Excellence), but I will try and give you the cliff notes version here.
It comes down to the professionalism and ability of all the coaches involved. If the head coach and the “outside coach” are talented in all the areas of coaching…

1. Presence and Attitude
2. Managing Groups
3. Seeing and Correcting
4. Teaching
5. Building relationships

“If they are a studs in these 5 categories than the outside help from other coaches will be a big plus to the class and those individuals getting the extra attention. It’s the reason football teams have a head coach and positional coaches. However, if either of the coaches have holes or aren’t confident the extra help could be seen as undermining and cause problems.

There is more that goes into this than meets the eye, but this is my .02 version.”

Freddy Camacho 2

Freddy Camacho (CrossFit of Fremont former CrossFit HQ Seminar Staff):

“I think you should have a coaches meeting and set the parameters for coaching from the sidelines. Chyna and I work off one another very well. She is a much better Olympic Weightlifting coach than I am, so it doesn’t bother me when she pipes in to cue up someones movements. I learned a long time ago to not undermine my coaches. It’s bad for clientele and bad for the coach. If I see a coach doing something WRONG, I pull them to the side and fix it. If I see a client doing something wrong, I just yell out the cue from the sideline in a way that doesn’t disrespect anyone.”

Gary McLean pic 2

Gary McLean (CrossFit 365):
“For me the scene you describe benefits the ‘interfering’ coaches ego and not the class. Clearly other coaches jumping in are also trying to help, but the jumbled mess of multi- voiced opinions is the reserve of the football terrace not a place of learning. One voice, one direction.

If coaches are getting it wrong, and we all do from time to time then advice or comments from other coaches should be directly after the class has finished.
The relationship between athlete and coach relies on cohesion between the two and this can’t happen with other people shouting over the top with good intention or just a know all attitude.

I think the only time I witness myself jumping in is when a class looks disinterested or not engaged. My tactic in this scenario is just to inject humour into the coach by direct p*ss-taking or better still just sharing an observation. Once the class concentrates together I leave them to it. But no undermining of coaching because this shows the punters I don’t trust the coach so why should they.

The quickest way to encapsulate this is, how many people taught you maths at any one time?”

Here is an old Facebook message where I asked a number of CrossFit affiliate members on the topic of multiple coaches within one class.

Question: How do you find multiple coaches cueing you in the same session if it ever comes up? More opinions more knowledge, or confusing as hell?

“To be perfectly honest for me it all depends on how much interaction I’ve had with the coach i.e. how I rate them based on previous sessions (Sorry, I know that sounds crappy!).

For example, Sean, if it were you and someone less experienced giving me different feedback then I would probably listen to you primarily and try to ‘bank’ what they tell me and possibly run it by you afterwards. However, if it was you and Karl Steadman for example then I’d be happy that both of your comments were top class so would be trying to look at both aspects.

From my experience in classes with 2 coaches it can only be beneficial for newer members as they feel they are getting the attention/feedback when they have very little idea about what is going on. The more ‘mature’ you get with your movements then I would think a lot of people will think like me on the above.(Rachel)

“I agree with Rachel and would add that as one becomes more mature and confident then one bring’s their own thoughts and experience into play. This may not always be right but it happens and can lead you to ‘side’ with the coach whose advice ‘fits’ with what your experience tells you.” (Anthony)

Me: Though a newbie can be glad of more attention does that lack of experience and ability to make a judgement call on what’s being cued make things more or less confusing though?

“I think it really depends on the size of the class – - but I don’t think one size fits all and sometimes it takes a different eye to spot something- also no reason why not to try different cues to see what works for you.” (Jane)

“For me yes! Better I think for coaches to divvy up newbies within a single session so they only get one coach per session.” (Anthony)

“New folks can only handle so much coaching so best not to inundate them with info. Best to have one coach with a new person.” (Krista)

ME: If the cues are all relating to the same issue I get that Jane, to find the thing that means something to you. However, if you have say, in your Olympic coach focused on your weight distribution in the feet, another on an early arm bend you have, and a third on rectifying your hips rising early..depending on what they prioritise first.. it becomes interesting!

“I think a good coach has the eye to spot technique in others and based upon their own experience can offer insight into how to achieve the success in whichever movement it may be. Movement is like a universal language in my opinion, so it can be interpreted in many different ways and more than one coach translating it can only be a good thing. I guess I would say that I would like to work with coaches that don’t lose anything in translation. That being said, I think coaches need to be as humble as the athletes they’re instructing in their approach, it wont always work! If others can help it should be embraced, I guess an issue would be that technique carries lots of factors on the road to success! Simple cues should be based upon sound theory explained previously, that way it can be understood universally. I’d happily train with coaches I feel can do this.” (Chris)

“I think it’s good in terms of learning from different coaches perspective … I think experience can be a factor, as I have found with my own training, Sean you were the first and only coach I’ve had pick up on my setup needing fixing due to lever lengths …but I’ve always gone away from a session learning something from coaches.” (Blaire)

ME: Just to clarify I think working with multiple coaches is great..and have no concerns when that is in different sessions as you still have consistency within the same session. I’m digging more in to multiple coaches in same too many cooks spoil the broth?

“Last word on it from me…I think if the coaches are all communicating with the members and each other then I think it works really well.” (Rachel)

ME: That takes some serious teamwork and leadership…communication being the key word you used!

“Some good points made here already. I find consistency is important, with both the coach as an individual, and their messages. Sometimes coaches can change a technical aspect when there is no need to do so, or based on something new they’ve learnt. By changing, I don’t mean different cueing working for different clients, I mean differing set-ups, initiation and end points. Again, I agree with keeping it simpler for newbies and increase complexity with experience/performance, though its always worth reverting back to simple cues. It’s always worth being more lenient with new starters in terms of their positions. I’ve seen this go missing in a few places.(Franny)

This was a very old article in the making for me. I’d put it to bed and forgot all about it but still had the feedback lying around, so I decided to put it out there. I think multiple coaches in a CrossFit general class can work fine with coaches who have a good understanding with each other and their egos don’t compete for status. When it comes to the Olympic lifts is where I believe it can.. and often does fall down. There are so many nuances relating to the Olympic lifts and coaching is opinions and there are many ways to skin a cat on the road to creating successful lifts and technique improvements.

‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’

It’s here where I see the most confusion for clients/members that they often don’t even voice initially. Trying to listen to everybody…paralysis of analysis kicks in. They can get frustrated as they feel they are being criticised for something they have OR have not been told to do before. Not yet knowing how to evaluate coaches differing styles and cues. Or they develop a blinkered approach to only listening to one coach. Below is a recent post to XIXI members on this topic. For me it’s important to address it quickly within a coaching team and dialogue is key here between coaching team members and then to their membership. It’s definitely an ongoing thing in CrossFit and is something that should be a constant evaluation to overcome stumbling blocks in learning and a cohesive progression for members.

“For some of our members I’m seeing confusion in interpreting what they are being cued between me and Ray. I’ve seen it before at the other CrossFit gyms I’ve been at and if left unchecked causes a lot of problems. Clients interpret things as inconsistency between what they are being asked to do. There is usually more to the lifts than something is right or wrong when it comes to technique. Coaches will always have different styles, cues and focus…ultimately the end goal is the same. To achieve a successful lift with efficiency. How that efficiency is attained can take many forms as there are many ways to skin a cat. Coaching comes down to what works for the individual (both coach/member)…what gives the coach the most success tends to shape the coaches style.

My vision for any CrossFit gym is to get members to a point of understanding. Of understanding the mechanics of the lift enough that they can digest information and use what means something to them..and works for them. Ask yourself did something you were coached make the lift better, same or worse? Instead of thinking in terms of this is FUNDAMENTALLY RIGHT..or this is FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG. There is also a difference between how you will address lifts for multiple reps in a CrossFit metcon.. to single rep max effort lift that people need to understand. I illustrated a point to Member A, Member B and Member C tonight to hopefully give them a better understanding on a particular issue of struggling in turnover that I’m seeing in people’s lifts. I talked on how an adjustment to someone’s set up can at times backfire OR improve it depending on the problem at hand. I showed them the problem (failure to turnover the bar in the snatch at the top/falling forward) then explained my reasoning for the solution. We then tested out the fix and applied the better, same or worse question. Hopefully they left with a better understanding of the nuances of oly lifting.”

CrossFit coaching involving bodyweight movements and lower skill elements is one thing with multiple coaches, Olympic Weightlifting is another where intermediate to advanced lifters are involved. Misinterpretation by athletes, poor communication between coaches and athletes are the elephants in the room for me. Along with competing coaching egos which I’ve seen plenty in my 8 years of CrossFit. Gyms and coaches who set the tone, meet up regularly to discuss coaching issues and then apply solutions will combat this but for me when it comes to Olympic Weightlifting I’ve concluded I prefer to work with a group of athletes alone and assign groups to multiple coaches to stick to for the session. I think it works better for athletes in their sessions to have one coach’s approach for the day. How do you feel about it?