“Okay class here’s the warm up. 3, 2, 1, go!”. Followed by dead silence. Sound familiar?
There are many GREAT CrossFit coaches out there who struggle to engage with people outside of teaching them how to move. Of course, as a coach, your primary job is to ensure that clients are safe and well prepared for the workout of the day.
Yet, one very important reason why people continue to exercise in a group setting is because they want to be ENTERTAINED. Yes, that’s right. People want to escape their day to day stressors to zone out, break a sweat, and LAUGH! How do we do this as a coach? We become entertainers.
I first learned this through my good friend at Croga CrossFit, Dave Musgrave. While teaching me how to coach, he mentioned that we are coaches and entertainers. He didn’t really go into great detail about this, but it stuck with me.
I began to think about all of the best CrossFit classes I have taken in my life. I realized that most of the memorable classes were NOT the one’s where I learned a cool technique. They were the classes where I had a great time and the coach made me forget about my stressful life. What an awesome hour of the day!
I realized very quickly that I needed to be a very credible source of information on an athletic level, but I also had to be able to mix humor and entertainment in with quality information. I began to think to myself, “What are some things that I can quantify and relay to anyone out there who struggles with entertaining/engaging with their CrossFit community?” Here’s what I came up with.
*Note: I feel the need to give these disclaimers. Do NOT talk about politics, religion, sexual preference, or anything else you wouldn’t want to bring up the first time you meet your significant other’s parents. If you have to think to yourself, “Should I say this or not?”, then you probably shouldn’t say it.
Also, the entertainment value of your class should never come during actual instruction/demonstration of movements. I learned this the hard way and it is not a good look for anybody. It also should not happen during the workout when people are trying to get after it. The last thing someone wants is to bust out laughing while they feel “pukie” coming on.
KNOW YOUR CURRENT EVENTS
It’s easy to stir up a group conversation just by saying, “Did you hear about Lady Gaga tripping and falling on stage?” Or, “How about them Warriors? Did you see that game last night?” Staying up to date on funny and interesting current events is a great way to engage the group and get them talking. Funny social media videos/memes are also good to talk about. For those of you who keep up on current events and sports, this should be a breeze!
Personally, I struggle with this one BIG TIME! I am a social hermit and literally have zero clue who won the last Super Bowl or what celebrity is getting divorced. Because of this, I do one of two things.
One, I’ll do a quick google search of “celebrity gossip” before class and talk about that. Second, I’ll identify a member in class who is up to speed with pop culture or sports and ask them for an update. This is great because it makes them feel unique (which everyone is!) and is actually super easy on you as a coach. All you have to do is say, “Yo Karen, what’s up with the NFL these days?”
KNOW WHAT MOVIES ARE IN THEATRE
Similar to staying up on current events, stay up to date on what movies are out. If you saw a movie, talk about it! Give a quick review and recommend whether or not people should see it. Ask people what movies they’ve seen lately and ASK QUESTIONS! If you’re like me, you don’t watch many movies. No problem, google “new movies” and ask people if they’ve seen the newest movies and have them do a review.
TELL PERSONAL STORIES
This is my favorite! Tell the group about something you did over the weekend. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy exciting. Just a simple, “Yea I did laundry and vacuumed all weekend. It sucked! Anyone else suffer through being an adult?” Or it can be something fun that you did, “Yea I went skydiving, it was freaking awesome!”
I find this to be very easy for me. I have two small children and they are always doing something funny. I’ll share a tidbit here and there. Classes love this information because it humanizes you. You are a human being with daily life issues just like everyone else. This one breaks down barriers like no other, try it!
BE SOCIAL MEDIA FRIENDS WITH YOUR MEMBERS
This one piggy backs from the last one. When you share stuff on social media, your members will see it and it will make you more human.
On the flip side, pay attention to what they post and mention it next time you see them. This is definitely noticeable. Say something like, “Hey I saw you went wine tasting last weekend, fun!” This means a lot to members. Especially when there are hundreds of them, it helps them understand that you care about them as a person and not just another member.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE A FOOL OF YOURSELF
Within reason, do not be scared to make a fool of yourself. I do this all the time and people love it. I’ll tell a stupid dad joke or do a silly dance move. Although it’s embarrassing and people may shake their head, deep down inside they LOVE it.
Whatever your perceived weakness is, mention it often. If you’re an older coach, talk about how “back in your day” was the stone age and make a funny comment about how old you are. If you’re a young coach, talk about how hard it is to stay off your phone for the hour long class (or something that traditional youngsters are known for).
People love when you are okay with your flaws. It goes back to humanizing yourself. However you choose to make a fool of yourself, don’t be afraid to!
With this being said, you don’t want to be a total clown either. If you are constantly making a fool of yourself intentionally, then it devalues you as a coach. Make sure your clients are aware that you know what you’re talking about when it comes to Crossfit and fitness. Make sure when you make fun of yourself, you are not making fun of how out of shape you are, or how little you know about CrossFit related information.
COMMENT ON DRESSWEAR
We all know who this person is. Matching shoes, socks, t-shirt, and headband. Acknowledge this ASAP! “Daaaaaaaaang Linda! Comin’ in fierce with that outfit!”
If someone got a new pair of shoes, say how cool they look! Someone has a funny or cool shirt, mention it! Anything interesting looking is grounds for a conversation starter.
If you say something and they clearly don’t want to talk about it, then stop and move on to the next. Not everyone wants the spotlight on them.
DID YOU GET A NEW LOOK?
Try not to do this at random, but if you notice something different about someone’s hair/beard, then chances are they did something different. Ask about it. “Whoa Jonathan your hair is looking DOPE! Did you get a haircut? What kind of hairspray do you use?”
Going back to making a fool out of yourself, I use the term hairspray intentionally. Guys rarely use hairspray these days so making it seem like I think guys still use hairspray is kinda goofy (at least I think so, I crack myself up). Make a mention of anything that looks new, compliment them on it, and see if that opens up a new conversational door.
IF SOMEONE CRACKS A JOKE, GO WITH IT
The first rule of improv is just go with it! If a member cracks a joke (assuming it’s appropriate) or pokes fun at you (again, assuming it’s playful), just go with it! Going back to being able to make a fool out of yourself here. Most of the time, this is the members way of feeling like they are a part of the community and trying to bridge the gap between member and coach.
I’ve seen some coaches get very defensive when a member tries to be playful with them and it’s never a cool look. Don’t be that coach who takes it personally.
GET TO KNOW PEOPLE AS INDIVIDUALS
This is the most important one and it takes the most time. Developing relationships and getting to know people’s individual characteristics and personalities will help create trust and inside jokes. The trust will allow you a ton of wiggle room to be more playful with them. Getting to know them will give you the ammunition to make it playful.
Here’s an example. I know two close female friends who used my hour long CrossFit class to get in kick ass shape, but also catch up with each other on a social level. I loved this! However, sometimes their conversation could be distracting to the rest of the class.
I began conversing with them in regards to their personal lives and they mentioned that they had gotten together for a drink the night before. I asked them what their favorite cocktail was and they both said it was Gin and Tonic.
One of them said, “We can only tell our drinks apart because she orders it with a lime and I order it with a lemon.” This was pure gold because from then on I would refer to them as “Lemon & Lime”, especially when I wanted to get their attention if they were distracting the class.
Playful, entertaining, and effective. This was possible ONLY because I took the time to get to know them on a personal level. Try to learn just one thing about one person every class and this will become possible!
Think about most of what you do as an entertainer in a CrossFit class as being a volleyball player. You’re just the lobbyer. You lobby the ball as high as you possibly can and let the crowd spike it down. This is a great way to build community and make any class entertaining.
These are just a few things that come to mind when I think about how I entertain a CrossFit class. Try them out and let me know what you think!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Danny Burde and I am a Level 2 CrossFit Coach with 25 years in the fitness industry. From 2018 – 2020, I was the head coach at one of the world’s premier CrossFit gyms, NC Fit in Redwood City (California), where I trained the trainers. During this time I prided myself in mentoring, guiding, and teaching other coaches on how to be the best they can be.
If you are a coach and want any information on what I’ve learned throughout my time as a functional fitness specialist, do not hesitate to reach out. I’d love to hear from you!
If you are an athlete, gym goer, or someone new to fitness and want to work with me remotely, check out my services!
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