Values and Philosophy for Coaches - Part III: Build Your Own Values

04-05-2018 Willem Hilberdink

In the previous two parts, we talked about coaching values and training philosophy. We will get more practical in this last part of the series, illustrating how your values and philosophy can take your coaching to the next level. You do not necessarily need to be a good athlete to be a great coach, but you do need to be a good educator, in terms that you need to be able to get your intentions and methods across to your athletes. Being a good educator is not just limited to didactic skills, it also includes your willingness to transfer knowledge; your willingness to put in the effort to make your athletes understand your motivations behind what you make them do on a weekly - or sometimes daily - basis. So, where do you start? 


Coaches face a variety of decisions outside of the realm of just correcting movements and teaching exercises: get angry at this athlete and send him out of class or have a quiet and relaxed chat afterwards? Coaches might find themselves asking: "Can I physically touch this person when correcting their movement pattern, or do I stick to verbal cues?" or "can I program this workout or is it too intense?". A head coach or box owner should know what the attitude of any of their coaches should be when a new member enters for the first time and should have an idea of how much - or little! - any of their coaches should engage any participant of a class they are coaching. Ask yourself this question: when does a coach do a “great job”? 

Having a clearly outlined philosophy and a pre-existing set of values will offer you a natural and consistent answer to all coaching related questions that could ever arise. Not only a head coach or box owner should be able to naturally answer these questions, but all staff members of a box as well. For that reason, involving your staff in the process of coming up with and writing down your values is essential. As a head coach or box owner, this is part of your job description: ask your coaches how you can help them convey the gyms tone of voice to the athletes, through their own unique coaching style. Doing this will not just help develop your staff into true ambassadors for your gym, but also provide all your athletes with a consistent customer experience. However, involving only your coaches and staff is not enough, the values of your gym or company should also be internalised by the rest of the community, because often times the first person a new member speaks to is not a coach, but a member of your gym. In the light of "community development" which I discussed earlier in this article series: you need to be able to rest assured that if you convey a first impression through your social media of 'inclusiveness' and a 'welcoming atmosphere', the first athlete of your gym a new member bumps into isn't acting like a macho dick in a coach-led class. Operating on a written-down set of core values, means you can rest assured your community exemplifies the atmosphere you want to create and that you can rest assured your coaches will answer the questions you might face as a coach or box owner in the same way as you would answer these questions yourself.


The first step is identifying and defining which words or phrases you use often as a coach: “intensity”, “progress” and “work ethic” for example. What do they actually mean to you if you would have to explain them? The best way to ensure a consistent experience for your athletes is by writing an answer to the previously posed question and writing down the words and values that mean the most to you and your gym. Your core values or training philosophy can consist of anything that is important to you and defines your gym. This could be “having a positive attitude", "honesty", “teamwork” or “no complaining” to name a few examples, as long as these are not empty phrases and these words have an actual deeper meaning to you. Setting up your gym's values or philosophy is not just writing down words; the process itself means defining the core of your company. Every future decision you will make, from training programming to dealing with disruptive members, will be heavily influenced by what you decide to write down. I know this can seem like a lot of work or slightly confusing or overwhelming, so hiring someone who is an expert at this can be a very wise step. Just like you would hire an electrician if your lighting and wiring would need fixing, it's not a bad idea to hire a brand strategist. We did the same, our brand strategist not only co-authored this entire series, he also helped us define our core values by simply talking to us, reflecting on our talks and helping us implement our values into the business. A big part of being an entrepreneur is delegating stuff you need help with to experts, and building your brand, values and philosophy is something you can always use help with.


The coaching values of your gym do not necessarily have to be your personal values, but your coaching style is always influenced by both. Without realising it you probably already have a set of values and principles that you - possibly subconsciously - act upon when you do anything, including your job.  Having a different set of principles to act upon - coaching values in this case -  than the personal values you already hold and act upon can be confrontational sometimes. That's why defining and writing down your coaching values will make you reflect on your own values and principles and in turn will make you more consistent in your actions and a better coach. Possibly even a better person. The challenging part starts after you've defined your values: now you actually have to stick to them. Every good coach makes hard decisions; great coaches make these hard decisions based on a pre-existing and underlying set of principles and values. Once your values challenge you - or your coaches - to behave a certain way and at the same time help you make consistent decisions in difficult situations, you know you have found your core values. 

Willem Hilberdink

About Willem Hilberdink

Willem is a coach at UnScared CrossFit and one of the co-owners. A former personal trainer, powerlifter and Philosophy graduate he is now responsible for the day-to-day operations at UnScared as well as marketing and social media.

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