An article posted today at http://www.byerscrossfit.blogspot.com
Coaches Week: Lu Crenshaw
I first met Lu Crenshaw of CrossFit Allegiance while at the Science Exercise Cert in Forth Worth. She and I were inseparable all weekend, stirring up trouble and annoying Tucker through breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the moments in between. Aside from connecting immediately from a cool chick perspective, I soon discovered that Lu’s athletic coaching style was a perfect fit for how I like to train. She figured out right away that I need to be pushed and I’m not afraid of tough love, but she also picked up on some of my weaknesses as a trainee, and some of my insecurities as an athlete. Our session at GSX was some of the most productive time I’ve spent in the gym. She made fun of me, she explained concepts to me, she encouraged me and she demonstrated for me… a special and unique set of actions that, as a coach, brought out the best low-bar squats I’ve ever done. And she did it all in less than ten minutes.
As a new trainer, I am constantly thinking about how best to communicate to my clients the technical aspects of the movements I am trying to teach them. But Lu is helping me understand that HOW I communicate WITH them is just as important – if not more – than WHAT I communicate TO them. Below, Lu talks about what it means to you and your clients to be an empathetic coach.
Coaching with Empathy
(An article by Lu Crenshaw, CrossFit Allegiance)
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell
As a former Division 1 soccer player turned CrossFit coach, I have found that empathy and understanding are my biggest challenges. I am used to digging deep and busting my ass every WOD because of who I am. Because of this, I hold a very high standard for others, and expect the same from them. This is not necessarily a bad thing – my high standards and expectations usually drive good results for my clients. However, I have found that when I temper these standards and expectations with empathy, I can drive my clients to perform truly great achievements.
Most clients are reluctant to even walk through our doors. They’ve got plenty of reasons why it took them so long to come in. FEAR is really and truly the underlying factor. New clients are scared. Stepping into a CrossFit box is a whole different world, and they are usually grossly unprepared for what we are about to ask of them. CrossFit is physically demanding, but even more than that, it is a mental battle each and every minute. We have to teach them to win that battle, to dig deep and find the potential they never knew existed. In many, this is mental, emotional and physical strength that has been dormant far too long.
This process also requires a client’s vulnerability, and trust. Clients need to know they can let their walls down and allow their insecurities to emerge without the fear of rejection. They need to know that failure is okay – in fact, that failure is an important part of the process. And if they fail, they need to be confident that we will be there to push them through… whether that be encouraging them with, “You’ve got this, I know you do”… or telling them to get up, stop being a pussy and PICK UP THE BAR. Both of which, of course, I would say in the most loving and empathetic of tones. They need us to be tough, but we need to know who our client is and how far we can push them. How deep is their deep… how intense is their intense?
Our clients desire our approval and need to know that we are proud of them and the effort they exert. This is manifested in a different way for each client – and that is where a coach’s empathy comes into play. Clients need to feel safe both physically and emotionally; but they also need us to bring out the best in them, through any means necessary. The Firebreather doesn’t need us in the same way as the insecure, weak, over-stressed “desk jockey” (who drinks too many venti caramel frappaccinos, extra caramel, hold the whipped cream). The Firebreathers already know what is inside them – they just need us to DEMAND it of them. The Desk Jockey, however, doesn’t understand CrossFit. He needs us to teach him what “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity” is truly all about – and what it can do to change his life.
CrossFit is a unique program, in which you can take many generations (grandparents, mothers and fathers, young adults, teenagers and pre-teens) and have them all do the exact same WOD. But we as coaches must understand that they are all at a different place in their fitness levels and in their lives. Through our coaching, each one will find something new, inspiring, even life-changing within themselves. Whether they remember what it was like to be fit somewhere in their past, or discover new potential to be powerful, or see an improved quality of day-to-day existence through fitness, it is our job as a coach to bring that out in all of them, while bringing them all together.
I challenge you to find empathy in your own coaching – the kind of empathy that takes you AND your clients from good to truly great.
Lucianne “Lu” Crenshaw is the owner of CrossFit Allegiance, in Medford, OR. Lu has a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology, and is a former D1 soccer player. She is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, and is certified in Barbell, Gymnastics, Running/Endurance and Science of Exercise. She currently travels on staff as certification coach with both Mark Rippetoe and Jeff Tucker.
And I’m just gonna say it, ’cause you’re all thinking it… DAMN, that girl has a rockin’ ass.