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A Love Note to My Coaches

A Love Note to My Coaches


Notes on Trident’s Coaching Philosophy

I used to know it all.  Really, everything.  I had to; I had 8 years of coaching experience under my belt, lots of certifications and a few happy & successful athletes.

Then, in 2009 I walked into a CrossFit to be greeted by the world’s smallest giant force of energy, aka Andrea.  I had been in only once before, had not been coached by this woman and yet, from across the room, I heard her yell with pure joy, “ELLEN!”  Let’s be real; I was confident that she must have noticed and remembered how insanely awesome I was in my trial workout (this was, after all, during my know-it-all awesome years) and I may have strutted, just a bit.  My strut lasted about 30 seconds until the next person walked in and got the same greeting.  She knew our names, cared about our stories and cared to help us be better.  With just one genuine greeting, I had been coached.  The strut ended and my journey into how to be a coach began.

The next day I met the world’s fastest talking man, aka Chriss.  His warm-up made me cry, his instruction made my head hurt, his workout made me sick to my stomach, and his high-five made my night.  This amazingly fit-looking cheetah-man had not once made me think about what I couldn’t do…he had only caused me to consider what I might do better.  With a smile and a high-five, I had been coached.

Until that week in February ’09, I had thought that coaching was about knowledge and information.  Races would be won or lost based on physics and physiology.  Truly disciplined athletes would do what was necessary, as dictated by their coaches and the science, to get it done.  Gifted athletes shouldn’t need pats on the back to go fast…and those that did weren’t the fast ones anyway.

February 09 felt great.  I just thought I had been bitten by the CrossFit bug.  The workouts were a sweaty, burning mess and it was cool to be working hard with a team again.  But deep down something was shifting.  I was being expertly coached by two insanely awesome and energetic people.  They knew their stuff, for sure, but their knowledge wasn’t what kept me walking back through the door.  I wanted another high five and another giant hello.  They were coaching my ego and damn did it feel good.  My know-it-all world was being rocked on its axis.  I didn’t know anything about coaching!  It hurt a bit, but I was in the good hands of generous people who were happy to share their knowledge.

Chriss and Andrea aren’t the only ones who have rocked my world over the last two years.  I recently had a coach throw himself to the floor when I missed a pull-up.  I don’t know if you’ve seen Chad’s special summersault, but it is truly ‘special’.  I had never before felt someone else’s juju do some of my work for me, but I am confident it was his will, not mine, that got that third pull-up in a row (it was the fourth and the miss that resulted in him writhing on the ground).  His joy in coaching, his good humor and his true investment in his athletes is a daily inspiration to me.

And don’t even get me started on the Delaneys.  The poetry in their movement has caused me to understand what CrossFit HQ means by Virtuosity.  Combine that with just enough sarcasm to make your inner underachiever feel bad about itself and you’ve got coaches who are going to make you want to kick your own ass.

At Trident we field a lot of questions about coaching/opening a box.  I think it is easy to see that something is going right and many want to know how we do it.  And so here it is.  Watching and learning from the best has provided me with the Trident recipe for great coaching:

Care.  Care a lot and care often.  Care with enthusiasm.  Care loudly.  Care enough to want to cartwheel when an athlete gets it right.

Listen.  Listen without judgment, without prejudice and without end.

Understand.  Understand goals, limitations and fears even if they don’t jive with what you know to be right.

Keep it simple.  You might actually know everything but no one else cares.  Just help your athletes move better.

Laugh.  If you find steps 1-4 hard to do, laughing and causing laughter is a good cover.

Finally, be grateful.  As coaches we get our juice from the successes of others…we must remember to thank our athletes for inviting us on their journey.

Trident coaches, thank you for my re-education.  Trident family, I am grateful for you.  You are my heroes and my inspiration.  I am lucky to be sharing this journey with you.  Thank you.

Ellen Gallagher

Chriss Smith

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