The #1 Sign You Are (or have) A Bad Coach

I’ve been coaching CrossFit since 2009.  That’s a pretty long time in this game.  With some quick back of the envelope calculation that’s roughly 6200 coaching hours.  That’s not including the hours spent programming, teaching seminars, discussing with friends and a variety of other work related but not necessarily straight hands on coaching.  That’s a whole lot of pattern recognition.  Over the last 4 or 5 years I’ve probably spent 4x that number observing coaches and trying to make them better.  So I’d like to think I’ve developed a keen eye.

With that eye I’ve discovered THE MOST AWFUL (and, sadly, extremely common) thing that makes you a bad coach:

Stop Making Things More Complex Than They Need To Be

It all comes down to the idea of Occam’s Razor which is one of most powerful frameworks in logic and reasoning.  Put simply Occam’s Razor is that all things being equal the simplest answer is the correct one.  It’s why I LOATHE tempo training (more coming on that) and why I love Westside.  

Tempo training (when used as a core tenant in people’s methodology) violates every facet of Occam’s Razor.  ESPECIALLY with new people.  When I’m teaching you how to get better I want you think of 1 and maybe if you’re really really talented, 2 things.  When you introduce something like tempo training you’re immediately focused on a MINIMUM of 4 things.  “How fast are you going up?”  “How fast are you going down” “How long do I pause?” It’s crazy to me.  Not to mention are you really gonna make the argument that a 4 second eccentric provides a noticeable and measurably different response than a 3 second one?  GTFO if you think that’s true.

Westside Barbell on the other hand goes the opposite way.  Westside style can very easily be distilled into the following idea: “ Lift things heavy.  Lift things fast.  Lift things a lot.”  How heavy?  As heavy as you can.  How fast?  As fast as you can.  How Often?  As often as you can.  There’s no pretension in their method.  Yeah sometimes they gussy it up and talk about percentages but I have it on good authority that a lot of the weights at Westside don’t even have legible numbers on them.  So exact percentages are largely a joke.  If keep things simple is good enough for the strongest gym in the world; it’s good enough for you too.

Why do a lot of coaches opt for complexity over simplicity? Simple: Ego.  Talking about the optimal tension and peak force contractions in hip flexion dominant closed chain movements sounds a whole lot better than “Squat heavier.”  And in the words of the Big Lebowski, “You’re not wrong; you’re just an asshole.”  The human body is complicated, no doubt, but your job is to understand that and make it simpler for people.  In the words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old you don’t know it yourself.”  

I remember when teaching a Movement and Mobility seminar one time an attendee (still to this day the WORST attendee I’ve ever met) asked why we don’t explain to clients how co-contraction of glute and quadriceps provides stability.  I literally responded “because you’re a bad coach if you ever use the word co-contraction to an athlete.”  Keep. It. Simple.  Save the anatomy and physiology for your fancy trainer dinner parties (which coincidentally if they exist you’ll never find me at).

I’m also pretty convinced coaches add complexity to their training to shift blame.  That way if someone doesn’t get better they can say “Well that’s cause you were doing a 42X3 tempo instead of a 34X2 tempo.  So ya know if you just do what I say you’d get better.  GEEZ!”

So if you wanna be a good coach don’t complicated it with extras.  Just keep things simple and harp on the the fundamentals until you’re blue in the face.  Find new and creative ways to say them, sure, but don’t opt for fancy for fancy’s sake.  Keep it simple and you’ll be a great coach in no time.

Andrew Killion