As a coach at Reebok CrossFit ONE, the fitness center at Reebok’s headquarters in Boston, I spend my time coaching employees, planning events for the gym and advising our corporate wellness offerings – from worksite ergonomics to our wellness practitioner.
Last summer I had the opportunity to challenge myself by leading in a new and exciting way: I was asked to coach Team Reebok CrossFit ONE throughout the competition season for the Reebok CrossFit Games, ending with a final competition in August.
What I learned is that coaching a competitive fitness team and coaching a team in the office isn’t all that different. The following principles are universal:
1. Challenge yourself to constantly grow for the benefit of others
Being a leader doesn’t make you the best or the most knowledgeable person; it means finding ways to bring out the best in people – including yourself. As a fitness coach, I’ve studied topics like anatomy and physiology in order to better support the team.
2. No job is too small, no rank is too high
Being a team player is critical to your team’s success. At our HQ gym for example, everyone folds towels – period. It’s not a glamorous or exciting task, but it carries significance: It demonstrates to our team that no one is more superior than another. We share responsibilities, as any coach should with his or her own team.
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3. Know your team dynamics
What people envision for themselves and what a leader envisions for them can be two different things. As a leader, your responsibility is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team members, determine how these dynamics can work together, and communicate what expectations you have for them based on these characteristics. In my case, this meant understanding how men and women train, recover and get stronger differently, then leveraging these differences in order to collectively improve as a team.
4. Push your team to get better – thoughtfully
My favorite part of coaching is working with individuals who didn’t look at themselves as athletes before and helping them find a new sense of self. In CrossFit training, as with anything else, not every team member will always feel 100%. Ultimately, this requires communicating feedback consciously in a way that both promotes progress and makes people feel good – a combination of pushing people outside their comfort zone while also giving positive reinforcement.
5. Become comfortable managing across levels
Taking charge can be intimidating. As head coach, I was not only coaching seasoned athletes, but also my own boss. I had to find the confidence to assert myself and trust that I was in this leadership position for a reason – that I was bringing value to the team. While it was challenging at times, it made me reflect on my strengths, which I could then leverage to help the team reach their full potential.