Understanding What Coaches Can and Can’t Do

Take personal control of your progress and experience by knowing what to expect from coaches and what things are your personal responsibility in the box.


Coaching CrossFit poses a unique perspective on the trials of training. In high school, many of us experienced a coach seeking peak athleticism from hormonal teens with heavily involved parents and politics. In a standard CrossFit class, coaches aim to pull the best from each individual but must cater to different age and gender demographics, as well as the radical range of abilities. For accountability and understanding, it’s important for athletes to know what a coach CAN and CAN’T do.

CAN: Offer instruction on movements. A good coach will carefully instruct athletes on technique and progressions, and provide corrections continuously.

CAN’T: Force perfection every time. In the middle of a workout, although coaches will almost always observe and correct, it’s up to each athlete to take the fundamentals he or she learned and apply those to a workout.

CAN: No-rep you on slack standards. As a coach walks around assisting with standards during a workout, he may make you aware that your reps are not what he wants to see. A coach will offer the appropriate correction and watch until you’re able to apply or modify.

CAN’T: Hold you accountable for every rep every day. One or two pairs of eyes on an entire room of athletes won’t catch everything. Practice ethics and give yourself the benefit of the full exercise by sticking to standards and counting only the reps you know you should.

CAN: Give you options for modifications. CrossFit is scalable in so many ways that coaches will typically cover a number of options for modification and potentially give specific instruction to those who might have unique challenges.

CAN’T: Know exactly how hard you’re working. Coaches can tell whether something is easy or impossible, but the middle ground is more difficult to determine. So it’s up to athletes to know when a modification is too easy or when Rx is just too hard. Push yourself to progress.

CAN: Program workouts to help you progress. The best gyms will give you great programming specifically designed to help you progress in overall athleticism.

CAN’T: Require attendance and mandate extra exercises. Because every athlete is unique in his or her strengths and weaknesses, there may be some areas that require extra attention. And it’s up to athletes to tackle the workouts that address their weaknesses and put time in to skills they struggle with.

CAN: Provide guidance in case of injury. When an athlete makes a coach aware of an injury, he or she will often receive a modified workout or some suggestions for substitution.

CAN’T: Read your mind or serve as a substitute doctor. Coaches can’t know what’s bothering you and how much it hurts. And coaches are NOT doctors or physical therapists, so in the event that you’re experiencing pain, it’s important to address it with a professional health-care provider.

Coaches provide CrossFitters with the tools they need to achieve peak performance. However, it’s up to each athlete to put what he or she has learned into play. Coaching is imperative in keeping athletes happy, healthy and successful, but where coaches lack control, athletes must hold themselves accountable. Take personal control of your progress and experience by knowing what to expect from coaches and what things are your personal responsibility in the box.