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Member Surveys: CrossFit Coach Evaluations

Last year, I read “Work Rules!” by Laszlo Bock – which explains a lot of the best practices that Google has developed for building culture and developing employees.

One of the main points of the book is the regular usage of surveys. We quickly implemented a feedback survey on our coaching at SLSC, and we’ve run (basically) the same coach evaluation survey twice now, so we should be able to see some trends.

While we did not do any sort of advanced statistical analysis to figure out what the error bars on all of these measurements should actually be, I’m pretty happy with the direction that these numbers have been trending.

  1. Do they communicate individually with each person in every class (either to coach them, encourage them, or just to check-in and chat)?
  2. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018) : 3.79
    SLSC Coach Avg (January 2018) : 3.58

  3. Do they remain engaged throughout the whole class period (not socializing excessively, daydreaming, etc. – NEVER on cell phone)?
  4. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018): 3.68
    SLSC Coach Avg (January 2018): 3.64

  5. Do they make everyone feel welcome in their class (new members, current members, drop-ins, etc.)?
  6. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018): 3.76
    SLSC Coach Avg (January 2018): 3.62

  7. Do you feel like they legitimately want you to get better?
  8. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018): 3.80
    SLSC Coach Avg (Jauary 2018): 3.75

  9. Can they see movement flaws and offer helpful corrections?
  10. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018): 3.75
    SLSC Coach Avg (January 2018): 3.70

  11. Can they explain training sessions so that you understand what the point of each piece is and what it should feel like?
  12. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018): 3.69
    SLSC Coach Avg (January 2018): 3.71

  13. Can they scale or modify workouts appropriately for different abilities or injuries (not just push folks to do Fitness or Performance)?
  14. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018): 3.80
    SLSC Coach Avg (January 2018): 3.70

  15. Do you trust their judgment and their feedback?
  16. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018): 3.82
    SLSC Coach Avg (January 2018): 3.76

  17. Are they able to control class logistics effectively (punctuality, equipment utilization, space utilization, etc.)?
  18. SLSC Coach Avg (July 2018): 3.77
    SLSC Coach Avg (January 2018): 3.61

In January, one of our lowest evaluation scores had to do with the ability of coaches to individually coach and interact with each member of the class.

I found this to be completely unacceptable, since the entire point of coming to a gym like South Loop Strength & Conditioning is to receive high level coaching and consistent feedback. This is the fundamental value proposition of our business – and, if that’s not happening consistently, we are completely screwing up somewhere.

Upon digging into this issue during our coaches meetings and one-on-ones with coaches, we found a few issues.

Bigger classes started to present logisitics and time management issues for coaches, so they spent more and more class time trying to organize people, get equipment set up properly, and keep keep the class on time. This was taking away from their ability to coach.

So, we did a few things.

We adjusted some of the class programming that was presenting logistics challenges to be easier to manage in larger groups. There’s a few subtle things that can be done with group class programming that make it much easier to get everyone in the right spot at the right time that don’t take away from the actual training that we’re trying to achieve.

We prioritized pre-emptively handling logistics issues. Many times, coaches were being caught off guard by space issues, equipment issues, or set up issues. So, they’d plan on starting the workout at a specific time in the class, and then find themselves scrambling to try to get the class started with their training since they didn’t account for the issues they’d encounter when everyone tried to set up for their burpee box jumps on top of each other and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to fit.

By learning to anticipate these issues and get in front of them, coaches now have much more time and bandwidth to actually coach rather than just herd cats.

We also prioritized several strategies for understanding how to move through a class and watch each person. It’s easy for coaches to find a “favorite spot” and post up and watch the group training. However, this is not optimal for giving individualized feedback to each member of the class.

We’ve worked with coaches on specifically working through the group from person to person so that they’re able to watch and give feedback to every individual. Previously, coaches were more concerned with watching the whole group at once and scanning for problems – which put them in a reactive frame of mind. While a coach should have a big picture idea of what’s going on with the group as a whole, they will be much more effective zeroing in on one individual at a time and periodically zooming out to the group rather than always scanning the entire class.

We’ve also worked on the social dynamics of giving feedback and correction. While most members are hungry for correction and want feedback, there’s a small subset who react negatively and can become argumentative or disrespectful.

There’s also a larger percentage who struggle to implement feedback quickly or appropriately.

For a coach, both of these situations can be frustrating. It can feel like it’s a futile effort to offer feedback and correction when – for some not insignificant portion of the time – you are either snapped at or seemingly ignored.

A big part of getting coaches comfortable with giving constant feedback is teaching them to handle the various social dynamics of approaching someone while they’re training – and giving coaches a framework for how to be direct yet emotionally unreactive and unattached to outcome.

As a coach, you have to be willing to interfere with what someone is doing and make them uncomfortable with direct feedback, but you can’t be attached to actually having them do what you say. If you do, it’s easy to fall into traps of “sounding annoyed” or “getting frustrated” – which then makes the client react badly to your coaching.

So, there’s a strange and delicate balance to be found between being very firm and persistent and your desire for the client to improve their movement while simultaneously maintaining your own confidence in your ability to coach and control over your authority in the social situation independent of whether or not your feedback is actually taken and implemented.

By working on all of these things – as well as simply talking about it over and over and over and over again – we’ve seen a huge jump in our ability to coach everyone in every class.

Next priority is improving our ability to explain training sessions. We’ve already started in on this, and found it to be a huge weakness in our role-playing and discussion during coaches meetings. I have plenty of ideas about how to fix this and where our issues are, but we will have to wait until the next survey to see if we’re making a difference.


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