Coach's Corner

4 Strategies for Teaching Big Groups

These simple coaching tips can go a long way.


Coaching groups is a tall order. It still seems to baffle trainers with only one-on-one experience as to how a CrossFit coach could teach a group, of say 12, to perform something like the split jerk. This may have more to do with their proficiency in the split jerk, for example, but that is neither here nor there.

Here are several key elements to progressing a group through a complex movement progression.

1. Less talk, more rock. As a coach, it’s hard to imagine that not everyone wants to hear a lecture on exercise. Remember, no one cares. Get them moving and participating fast. Sure, you can progress things slowly and break things down into parts, but if athletes are trying something or starting to move in the first minute, you might be losing their attention.

2. Set Your Language and Keep It. This seems like a small detail, but it means everything when it comes to coaching a big group. Your specific language choices can facilitate drilling. If the cue to jump and shrug, for example, is “Go!” a helpful tip is to keep that cue as “Go!” throughout the progression. Coaches that miss this opportunity may trade the precedent of “Go!” to something like “Jump!” and lose part of the audience.

3. Voice Inflection. Sure, what words you use is important. How you say them is an entirely separate tool in your arsenal. During drills and progressions, athletes can hear how you want them to move (especially when they need to be aggressive or move fast) by how you say your cues.

4. Convince Them It’s Easy. No one does this better than Carl Paoli. I love not only his progressions but also how he convinces you that nearly impossible things like handstand push-ups and muscle-ups are easy. Treat each piece of a progression like it’s easy. “Can you do this?” makes trying something a bit easier. Saying “Now, can you do this and this?” can disarm a complex movement into fun, easy sections.

These simple coaching elements go a long way, and though they may seem easy on paper, using them in practice is harder than it seems. The next time you’re teaching a progression to a large group, try to work these in.