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Old 10-31-2007, 06:56 PM   #1
John Schneider
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Pittsburgh  PA
Posts: 191
Chasing Virtuosity

Some of the threads as of late have me thinking about how to make myself the best coach I can be and what it takes to make that happen. I also realized that I havenít seen a bad CrossFit trainer yet. So, what is it that sets us apart from your average personal trainer at 24hr fitness? It has to be more than just having superior programming, after all functional training is such a buzzword nowadays and high intensity training has been in use for a long time and variation is one of the fundamental principles in exercise prescription. What allows you to separate yourself from just being someone who can teach exercise to becoming a true professional who enables people to realize their full potential?

To start, I like to reference Coach Glassmanís article ďFundamentals, Virtuosity, and MasteryĒ Maybe itís just the Marine in me identifying with the Marines at the battle of Iwo Jima where ďUncommon valor was a common virtue.Ē but the definition of virtuosity as doing the common uncommonly well really resonates with me. So, if itís that element of virtuosity that sets us apart as professionals, how do we develop that aspect of who we are?

I worked for an Army LtCol in Iraq who was a slave driver, but had a great talent for teaching. One of his little sayings that I have adopted was that you learn to be a good leader through education, training, and experience. Really, that is what we should be shooting for, to be leaders. The same thing applies to CrossFit trainers. We should be leaders in our gyms and in life. To get there we need to focus on those aspects of education, training, and experience. To neglect any one is really cheating yourself and your athletes because they are all inter-related and it is a continuous process.

Education provides the fundamentals necessary to gain the most benefit from training and experience. It prepares the mind to accept the information you get exposed to during the training and experience phase. CrossFit addresses the education piece through the CrossFit Journal. The quality of information that HQ puts out on a monthly basis blows my mind. Iíve actually come to think that there is an advantage to insurance companies requiring a mainstream PT certification from a national organization to provide coverage. Yes the information is cookie cutter and once youíve been exposed to CrossFit, itís almost painful to wade through some of the misconceptions that permeate the mainstream, but there is added value in all knowledge. At the very least, a good foundation in anatomy and physiology will never hurt you.

Training is where that education starts to materialize into something useful. This would be the internship of a collegiate program. The better the people you have to intern under, the more you will benefit from it. The certification process of CrossFit really does a good job with this. I didnít think you could get so much from one weekend, but the amount of knowledge that is presented and the benefit from having your form critiqued, then learning how to coach corrections to poor technique is priceless. And the coaches that CrossFit has are unparalleled as an organization. Just being around people like Coach Berg and Coach Rip will seem to make you a better coach. Having good examples to emulate goes a long way.

Experience is what everyone loves. Itís the sexy part of the learning process. If you had to pick one of the three as the most important most would pick experience. You canít really gain the most from it without the first two though. Going at experience blind will cause you to land on your face. Not all experience is good. I like the emphasis that is put on the black box and measuring, observing, and repeating your input and results. This gives us a way to measure the quality of our experiences. It is very common to hear a trainer say ďI love this exercise, I have my clients do it all the timeĒ. They have a lot of experience, but if itís a low yield exercise then that experience is next to worthless. I think this will be the next horizon for CrossFit to overcome. There are so many affiliates now that quality control and maintaining the reputation of the CrossFit name will be a challenge. The concept of having affiliates rather than a franchise allows for a freedom of expression I think we all enjoy, but we have to maintain ourselves as professionals and grow as leaders to prove that model superior.

So, for the community to grow in quality as fast as it is in numbers, we need to make the individual commitment to challenge ourselves mentally as hard as we do physically and to chase after virtuosity the same as we do a new Fran PR. And with that out of my system, Iím motivated again to go back to my school work and grind out reading some research.

Train hard, have fun!
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