10 Questions to Ask a Remote CrossFit Coach
(1) Why are you a remote coach?
This seems like a basic question and therefore a lot of athletes are tempted to skip it. But a coach’s ‘why’ is very revealing about the type of person you will be working with (hopefully) for years to come.
Chances are if you liked the way he or she answered the question, you have similar values and would be compatible. Plus, it’s a great way to ‘break the ice’ before getting into some of the harder hitting questions below.
This way you don’t feel awkward asking about time per client or onboarding right away, and you are more likely to get honest answers out of the coach as well since trust is slowly being built.
(2) How long have you been a remote coach?
This is all about experience level in the remote setting.
A person can be a fantastic in-person coach, but if they don’t have the systems in place for coaching an athlete from thousands of miles away, that experience is useless to you.
This is the main reason why I’ve created resources l like our YouTube Channel and the Movement Library. I include links to videos and educational resources so I can coach / teach my athletes from anywhere.
My point here is improving an athlete’s gymnastics movement faults in-person is a completely different skill than from behind a screen. It can be done, however, the right system must be in place.
Lastly, there is no teacher like experience. If the coach has spent at least a few years remote coaching a battery of athletes, you are much more likely to have a positive experience.
(3) How much time per week do you typically spend on a client?
This is without a doubt one of the most important questions to ask.
Because it reveals so much about the service you are paying for.
To illustrate what I mean, let’s take a quick look at 3 different remote coaches…
Their response: “I don’t know exactly” or “as long as they need”
Let’s say this person charges $100 / month for 20 clients, that’s a salary of $24,000. This means this person likely has another part time job. Say they work ~25 hours per week on their other job, that leaves 15-20 hours per week to spend coaching. That means this coach could spend up to 40-60 minutes per week on you.
This coach is cheaper, but likely for a reason. Chances are they trying to build a higher volume of clients and don’t spend as much time on each. The likelihood of randomness in their programming and sparse or no feedback and interaction is likely.
Their response: “About about 60-75 minutes on program design and another 30-45 minutes in feedback and video review.”
Charges $300 / month for 22 clients, that’s a salary of $79,000. After expenses, insurance, etc. he is making a fair wage. If they work 35 hours per week, and spend another 5 on admin, that’s about 1.4 hours per week spent on each athlete.
The amount of time per client comes at a cost. Many people won’t be willing to pay the higher price, but with a higher price comes a much better service.
If this is the price the coach is charging and they have that many clients paying that price it means two things, 1) the people they are working with find their coaching worth the price, and 2) this coach can spend much more time on thoughtful program design, providing feedback on training results, messaging and occasional video calls.
In other words, this is a great option for higher-level athletes and people who can afford to swing the costs.
Their response: “About 15-20 minutes on their program design, plus some additional time for client interaction.”
Charges $240 / month for 58 clients, that’s a salary of $167,000.
The main thing to remember here is, the more athletes a coach has, the more strung out their resources (time & energy) become.
While Coach C, on the surface seems like a ‘better deal’ than Coach B, it’s will become clear shortly that you are low on their priorities list. After all, if they took an extra 20 minutes per week per client for messaging and video review, that would mean they had to work an extra 18 hours.
What this means is Coach C is a remote programmer, not a remote coach. They probably obtain the minimal amount of feedback and interaction to write the next week or stretch of programming.
(4) What does your onboarding process entail?
Your coach should have a very clear step-by-step answer for this.
For example, “we can jump on a call and chat for a few minutes” in translation actually means, “I don’t have an onboarding process.”
A quality remote coach will answer these questions without having to be asked about they directly…
- Do you get on a video call? How long is it?
- Do you do a movement screen?
- Do you do Strength or Energy Systems Testing?
- Do you do sport-specific testing?
- How often are follow up conversations / video chats?
If the coach doesn’t bring up at least a few of these items, they either aren’t a professional, or they are trying to save time so they can take on a higher client load ...which -in my opinion- isn’t very professional either.
Onboarding is by far the most time consuming part of the coaching process. For this reason some coach’s charge for their initial consultation, myself included.
The reasoning is pretty simple: I can easily spend four to five hours doing the onboarding process. If an athlete chooses not to hire me, that’s a lot of wasted time and energy for zero pay.
To have something to compare against, all of the following steps are included in my initial onboarding fee of $150.
Step 1: Email (or) Direct Message Exchange (Followed by consult payment)
Step 2: Onboarding Paperwork (Background, Athletic History, Training Log)
Step 3: Movement Screen: 20-Point Assessment (To find mobility restrictions, asymmetries, motor pattern flaws, etc.)
Step 4: My “Homework” (Taking detailed notes on the athletes past cycle of training based on their log, doing data analysis of their PRs, reviewing previous Testing Data, viewing videos and data analysis of Open Performances or Online Qualifiers, and viewing past training videos to begin to formulate a plan for this unique athlete.)
Step 5: Initial Video Call, 60-90 Minutes (Life goals, current training priorities, training schedule, program delivery and feedback, etc.)
Then -and only then- can I begin program design.
My point is, there should absolutely be an onboarding process that leaves you feeling confident in your coach’s abilities and convinced that they care for you as their athlete.
Personally, I take great pride in “my athletes,” even though I make sure to refer to them as an “athlete that I coach” because I feel it acknowledges the person first.
(5) What other athletes do you coach that share my goals?
This goes back to your coach’s experience level, but specific to your goals.
- What other athletes do you coach that have made it to a CrossFit Semifinal?
- What other athletes do you coach that have gotten their first muscle-up?
- What other athletes do you coach that have lost 30+ pounds?
- What other athletes do you coach that compete in Weightlifting?
If the coach has led multiple other athletes through the same process you want to go through, your odds of success are much higher, and your speed of growth will likely be much faster.
An experienced coach will be willing to turn you away if they know it’s not the right match.
For example, I recently had an athlete message me about 1-on-1 Coaching for American football. After a conversation, I steered him to another coach I know and trust.
Why? I have never played football, I don’t know all the nuances of the specific positions, and I don’t coach any football athletes. It’s not that I am unable to make him a better athlete; it’s that I have chosen my lane and I stick to it.
This makes it is much easier when an athlete comes to me for coaching in a discipline that I consider to be “in my wheelhouse” (e.g. CrossFit) it’s easy to feel confident in my abilities to deliver a top notch service.
(6) How often do you talk with your athletes?
- Do you use an app, email, text and/or video call for this interaction?
- How willing are you to jump on a phone call or video chat, if there’s something important to talk about (e.g. changes in goals, start of a new cycle, moving to a new gym, etc.)?
Not all coach’s will go out of their way to contact you to check in. And believe it or not some coach’s expect virtually zero communication outside of some minimal training feedback.
Over coaches will “check in” every few days, and some, as often as every single day.
Some coaches will only communicate through an app, and they open your file once per week. They may send you a message or two, check your training results from the previous week, then build out your programming.
Others communicate through email, text, etc.
Usually, this goes back to the time each coach is willing to dedicate to their athlete (see question #3). In general, you get what you pay for.
I’ve even heard of "remote coaches" sending athletes their programming as lines of text in an email each week. No videos, coach’s notes, or supplemental materials included.
For reference, I have five ways I interact with my clients…
First, I message clients (via What’s App) as they (or I) have questions or comments regarding training and life. This ranges from daily conversation to every few days.
Second, I communicate with comments on their training results spreadsheet. On average, this happens a few times per week.
Third, I email weekly athlete check-in’s that keep an eye on important recovery metrics (e.g. sleep hours, mechanical pain, inflammation, etc.)
Fourth, I provide video review for technique. This takes place as a screen record with voiceover and is sent via YouTube unlisted link.
Fifth and lastly, I get on video calls every couple of months to catcg up, talk about a new cycle of training, or recap after a competition.
(7) Do you program warm-ups, cooldowns, accessory, mobility & movement work, and recovery days?
Again, this goes back to the amount of time a coach dedicates to you.
Some coaches only program -what I refer to as- “the stress.”
In other words, they write strength work, intervals, MetCons and other conditioning work, but they don’t write warm-ups, movement prep, accessory work, cooldowns / flushes, mobility work, or what to do on recovery days.
To illustrate my point, here is the same session programmed from two different coaches…
Coach A’s Programming
Back Squat (5×5) 80%
Russian Kettlebell Swing (4 x 12)
For Time // 21-15-9
Coach B’s Programming
A. 3:00 AirBike @ Ramping Pace
B1. Seated Hip Rotations (3 x 30s) Rest 15s
B2. Air Squat Hold with Rig Support (3 x 30s) Rest 15s
*work to get as upright as possible while keeping the heels down
B3. McGill Side Plank (3 x 20s / side) Rest 15s
*poke your finger in your external oblique like we talked about to cue a brace
C. Back Squat (5×5) 78%, 81%, 83%x3
*take at least two warm-up sets before jumping to 78%
D. Russian Kettlebell Swing (4 x 12) 40kg+
*if you are able, add a band for additional resistance after set 2
E. MetCon (Tester)
For Time // 21-15-9
*it’s been 6 weeks of higher power, shorter duration intervals preparing for this retest. You are ready. Let it all out there. All Gas!
F. Flush – 5-7:00 AirBike
-3:00 Frog Stretch
-2:00 Couch Stretch per side
-1:30 Elevated Cat Pose
That’s the same session! Well…sort of.
Now consider which coach is going to help you become the best athlete you can be?
(8) Is everything you program individualized?
Sometimes coaches with many athletes deliver a cookie cutter program and then tweak it based upon athlete needs.
Chances are you didn’t hire a remote coach for them to send you a blog style program.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with online training programs -I mean, heck, I write The Protocol– but that’s the whole point on online programs…they are more affordable because they are written for a group.
However, remember there is a big difference between not programming 100% of sessions out of laziness, and taking advantage of a select doses of communal workouts.
My point is, I often have the fitness competitors I coach do The Name Game, but that’s because I want the ability for them to complete a qualifier style of workout where there is pressure, standards, competition and other athletes to compare your results to.
Regardless, if you’re hiring a remote coach, the vast majority of what your coach programs should be written exclusively for you.
(9) If I get sick, injured or other last minute changes come up, will you rewrite the programming?
When Covid first hit, nearly all the athletes I coach had their gym shut down within a two week period.
This wasn’t just an issue of someone being sick where they should modify or skip sessions; it was starting a cycle from scratch for every athlete I coach.
This meant figuring out each athlete’s equipment they had available to them, readjusting training priorities that still aligned with their goals and reprogramming all their workouts…that I had already programmed.
It was extremely stressful and time consuming.
Many coaches didn’t do it.
By not actively communicating with their athletes about next steps, possible solution or alternations, they essentially said, “Figure it out on your own.”
In the event that you go to a last minute out-of-town work trip, get a head cold, or tweak an ankle… you need to know whether your coach will help you navigate the issue and reprogram if necessary, even if you aren’t their ‘star athlete.’
(10) What is your cancellation policy?
While no one likes talking about the end, the reality is you won’t be with your coach forever. Eventually you’ll have a reshuffling of priorities or choose a different road. Even the best coach-athlete relationships will -at least formally & monetarily- come to a close.
And when they do, it’s important to know if you simply stop paying them at the end of the month or if they have you locked into a policy that requires X number of weeks or months of notice.
That way you know what you’re on the hook for, and don’t end up with extra fees or charges.
What Should You Do Next?
Contact a coach.
Ask honest questions.
Reach out to an athlete they coach.
Preview some of their programming.
And then hire your best candidate...what's the worst that could happen?
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