Why I Hope to Lose All My Clients
I once had a boss (We’ll call him “Norm”) who, while in every way was a horrible boss, did say one thing that made sense and stuck with me. He said that his goal as a boss was to “lose every single one of you to promotions.” Meaning, his plan was to be such a great employer, motivator, and trainer that his employees were merely passing through on the way to being promoted to something higher.
When Losing Clients Is a Good Thing
In a perfect CrossFit coaching world, every one of our clients should be just passing through. Like employees that we lose to promotion or children that we nurture and care for then turn loose into the world, our goal should not be to fill up the class with regulars - but rather, to fill up the class with transients. Athletes that we train well, then send off into the sunset to take on the world.
Every good teacher should feel that way. If you coach with the right motivation and intention, you are never doing it for your own satisfaction but rather, for the betterment of your students. And as such, your goal is for them to succeed. In fact, it’s the ultimate testament to your coaching ability when they do. Our job is to move them along the track, make them better, then wave goodbye as they move on. That might mean they move on to a competitive track, as coaches in their own right, to another box, or perhaps simply as better overall athletes who no longer really need coaching at all.
How I Lost a Client to Success
Sometimes when new clients walk in, they are already primed with prior CrossFit experience, prior athletic experience, or at least with a modest amount of intuition. Then there are those who come to you completely star-gazed and wide-eyed, having never touched a bar or a ball. Those are the success stories waiting to happen.
Melissa Oshin is one such a story. Mel (pictured below) started with me at CrossFit Power Performance back around spring of 2010. The first workout she encountered that day was “Nancy” although it was spiced up with a rope-climb per round. I remember having her use a PVC pipe for the overhead squats, and like a trooper, she battled through it, rope-climb subs and all. Mel was one of those where initially you thought, “Oh boy, I’m not sure she will be back.” But sure enough, the next day, as we met at the local track for a full 400m overhead walking lunge workout, she was there.
And she kept coming back. Even with a rather vexing heart issue that caused her heart rate to rocket past 190 bpm with little exertion, she kept coming back. Today, what I see are photos and results from competitions of which she is a part, lifting heavy weight, competing, generally continuing the path to bad-assery that began four years ago with PVC pipe. Total success - I lost Mel to a promotion.
Don't Just Coach the Coachable
Funny, but that’s how we should see all of our clients, whether they go on to compete, coach, open their own boxes, or just stay put, CrossFitting away day after day. Shouldn’t we be coaching every single client as if our goal is to, as Norm would say, “lose them to a promotion”?
We should, but sometimes we get caught in that trap of coaching the coachable. Nurturing the future rock stars of CrossFIt while we sometimes allow the less coachable to simply fade into the swarm. I remember this feeling as a guitar instructor. The really fun students were the ones who got it, who intuitively picked up what you were feeding them and played it back. The ones who struggled week after week with the same damn “C” chord were just plain drudgery.
So it is with your CrossFit clients. It’s only human for us to gravitate toward the talent, to want to spend more time and energy on the potential stars, or the ones who get it. But the true mark of a coach, a great coach, is being able to put the same energy into the kid struggling with the same movements day after day. After all, he is paying the same money as the others, with the same goals. He or she should get the exact same effort from us, as coaches, that the potential rock stars do.
The Real Value of Being a Coach
Every client that walks in the door might ultimately be that kid, that “Steve Jobs who thanks his high school speech teacher in the commencement address at Stanford University.” We easily recognize the future Speallers, but do we recognize the ones who, while they struggle and are the least fun to coach, might someday finally get it and really excel as CrossFit Athletes?
It’s worth finding out. Think about it. If all you do by making someone "stick with it" - with quality, involved, and concerned coaching in the early days - is help someone extend his or her life by even a year, you’ve quite literally given the gift of life. That’s a powerful motivator to up your coaching game.
Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.