Back in February, Marion and I took a business trip out to Phoenix, AZ to attend the Affiliate Excellence seminar led by the legendary Ben Bergeron. The purpose of the seminar was to listen to Ben’s philosophies and beliefs on how to run a successful affiliate.
Ben is the founder of CrossFit New England, coach of several CrossFit Games champions and teams, including Mat Fraser and Katrin Davidstottir, co founder of Kill Cliff, No Bull shoes, several large scale competitions, and most recently opened up two more affiliates in the Massachusetts area. He is someone that I look up to and model our operational philosophies after.
After a few hundred miles of driving and a full weekend dedicated to the seminar, I came back with the following conclusion: I learned nothing new. However, this was one of the best uses of my time and money that I’ve ever spent. Allow me to explain.
For years, I’ve always heard quotes from Ben that sounded eerily similar or almost exactly like the ones I’ve preached to my staff:
“Make the hour the members spend in the gym the best hour of their day.”
“We are in the relationship business, not fitness business”
These are some examples of beliefs we share closely. Until this seminar, I not only never had the chance to meet Ben, but to hear from him directly.
Seeing just how similar my beliefs have been aligned with Ben’s and how it has made him one of the top gyms and owners in the world, motivated me. I left the seminar with a stronger desire to not only carry forward the beliefs we share about running an affiliate, but to do so with more vigor and conviction. We were not only going to add somethings to our “to do” list, but we were going to ingrain some principles into our staff and gym’s culture. On March 11th, I held a team meeting where we I reviewed the weekend, the principles, and changes we were going to make.
Here are some points and changes I’d like to share with you, that came out of that meeting.:
Community is the foundation of the affiliate
Every owner and member likes to think they have the best “community”. But how do you actually define it? You can’t. To borrow one of Ben’s quotes:
“Community is recognizable the second you walk in, yet hard to define”
Signs of community in a box:
- Nobody finishes alone
- Do people stay after class to just hang out?
- Are there weekly events and get togethers that you as a staff or owner did NOT organize?
The question then becomes, how do you build community? The answer is simple. It comes from the staff and then is perpetuated by the members. The idea is to constantly striving to connect with people on a personal level. Always be
closing Caring, Communicating, and Connecting. We introduced the concept of the “Emotional Bank Account” where a person can make deposits or withdrawals into that bank account, or relationship with the athlete.
Examples of withdrawals:
- Ignoring needs of the athlete
- Breaking Promises
- Being Dishonest
Examples of deposits:
- Acting with integrity (“doing the right thing regardless of whether or not someone is watching”)
Examples while coaches are running a class: body language, if they are sitting or standing, how engaged they are
- Defend people if someone is being talked about or judged wrongly
- Sincerely listening to people. Listen to what they are saying and if they are asking for help inside or outside the gym.
- See the good in people. Understand that people will project their bad days or situations in their home life out onto a barbell, workout, or even coach. Don’t take anything personally.
- Putting the members’ experience before yours. The moment you cross the threshold to become a staff member, nothing comes before the members experience or workout. About to warm up for your heat in the Open and someone asks for help on their technique? Your heat will come later. About to PR your snatch and someone asks about hard tearing care? Walk them over to the first aid station. Your PR will have to wait.
All of these beliefs about Community in a box revolves around an expectation of the staff: You must look at the box not through your coaches’ eyes, but through the members eyes. You must be able to see what the members see. This is how the community is built.
Where you are expected to see this from the staff is in their presence while coaching and the way they conduct the class. They are expected to listen to you and your needs. They are expected to engage you and get to know you as athletes and people.
When a coach builds a relationship with the member, that relationship leads to trust, which leads to buy in, which leads to results.
Coaching and the coaching staff are the second level in the foudation of a good community
There is an overarching theme and expectation that simply showing up is never enough. This applies in coaching, the box, business, and life.
For immediate impact, we can focus on coaching. There are 4 main tiers of coaching, each with progressively more comprehensive engagement and knowledge required:
The challenge to the staff is to go beyond simply showing up. They must possess the ability to hype up the class, to see technical movement, create a plan to correct or enhance that movement, and all the while be able to mentor and connect with the athlete. They are expected to be a true coach and simply being a cheerleader, tactician, or trainer is not enough.
Drilling down further to the impact and role of a Coach, there are 3 principles that must be adhere to. These 3 principles re what they must strive to achieve in every class:
- Educate: leave the athletes with more knowledge than they came with
- Entertain: Keep the class fun. Know some members use this as an outlet or escape. Put on a show.
- Inspire: Inspire them to do more in the class. Inspire them and give them hope to achieve more outside of the gym
Further changes: CRx
This also becomes a good time to touch on our CRx programming.
Last November, as many of you know, I turned the main programming over to our Director Programming Matt Grimm. Since then, we have seen a more technical side of programming. We’ve seen more focused attention on intensity during working sessions complimented by strategic rest periods. We’ve also seen a longer, more intensive strength cycle. There are now different stages of the cycle ranging from a focus on movement patterns, linear strength progression, and clusters, leading to testing phases. The end result is that people are getting stronger and faster, while minimizing how beat up they are and/or injuries. It has been superb.
However, as with anything, there is not a one size that fits all. We understood that even though our blogs have educated everyone on the science and “whys” behind the technical programming, some simply prefer different. Some prefer the classic way of programming with more constant sustained levels of activity. This is how the HIIT classes and CRx tracks were born.
CRx was originally just a version of the WOD with the rest periods taken out, but moving forward we are looking to make it more expansive and robust.
I have decided to start programming again, and will be doing it in conjunction with Coach Matt’s lead on the main programming. I will handle CRx tracks when appropriate. On days where it’s suitable to simply delete the rest periods for CRx, that will happen. On other days, you may see a whole other type of configuration of CRx. This will also affect SWODs too in the future. For those who don’t like the isometric holds or focus on movement structure, A CRx SWOD phase will look a bit different with more traditional strength components like 5×5, Wendler or even the return of “Pumping Iron”.
The idea isn’t to offer one tier of programming vs the other. They are very much created in conjunction with each other. Depending on your goals, how your body feels that day, what type of stimulus you want, or even what kind of day you’ve had, you will be able to choose one or the other.
We understand that some days you want to have high technical structure, and other days you just want to come to the gym, throwdown and beat up some weights.
We are offering these choices with that in mind. We are offering this, along with the behind the scenes glimpse into our coaching culture to show you that we want the time with us to be the best hour of your day.
As always, thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions.