Values and Philosophy for Coaches - Part I: Core Values

28-02-2018 Willem Hilberdink

What sets a great coach apart from a good coach? After taking way too long finishing a Philosophy degree followed up with three years of leading a growing team of coaches being Head Coach at UnScared, it became clear to me. If I’m unaware of my own core values, there is no real meaning to - or philosophy behind - the words that I use when coaching, I’m simply just another person telling another person to work out. Every great coach has a set of coaching values and a training philosophy as a fundament for their coaching style and the physical workout they expose their athletes to.


In the book "Values and Ethics in Coaching" values are described as an extension of the way we view the world and necessary principles we need to adopt to properly function in a world that constantly forces us to take decisions. Values we apply in coaching styles are grounded in how we view the world and what we see as important in life. Coaches tell people to work out. Good coaches tell people how to exercise the right way, but great coaches have a clear vision in order to create a consistent coaching experience for all their athletes. In order to not let ‘Core Values’ and ‘Training Philosophy’ be empty buzzwords, we need to define what they mean for the gym, the coaches and how they relate to the community.


Every gym, fitness company or coach would benefit greatly from defining their own set of values, rooted in individual beliefs and principles. In order to provide a clear idea of what coaching values might entail for a gym, it’s helpful to discuss UnScared's values in the same way as we would discuss them during our Coaches Development Program.

UnScared's four core values are:

  • Ambition: chasing progress and a sense of achievement 
  • Honesty: treating our athletes with sincerity and truthfulness
  • Nurture: striving for mutual trust and confidence between everyone involved
  • Respect: providing opportunities for everyone without judgement or bias

We expect coaches to care (nurture) about members and athletes, and invest in their individual progress (ambition), while being non-judgemental and understanding of their journey (respect), unafraid to call them out on their bullshit (honesty). I could talk about these concepts for hours - and we actually have with Emiel Sondag, our brand strategist - but for the sake of brevity, it's more useful to elaborate on the use of these values. To make these values more tangible, they are incorporated in our “UnScared Coaching Standards”: an explicitly written down set of standards for our CrossFit and Strength coaches. These include rules like ‘Address each athlete in class by their first name’, ‘no talking badly about members’ and ‘being available on the floor before a class’, among many others. 

The utilisation of the core values of a gym or CrossFit box extends way beyond providing guidelines captured within ‘Coaching Standards’. A gym's core values determine what kind of mantra’s we print on our shirts and decide the way we communicate inside the box between athletes and coaches and on social media. They’re essential to consistently communicate what we stand for, ensuring our target audience perceives that message. Apart from that, a gym's core values determine other things as well, such as what kind of memberships a gym offers (unlimimted or not?) and what kind of people it employs. Our core values provide a guideline for our tone of voice, the vibe and atmosphere in a class but most importantly: how the coaches, athletes and members interact with one another.


With the risk of falling into the cliché of being the change you want to see in the world, the end goal of incorporating coaching values and translating brand values into Coaching Standards is instilling change in the behaviour of athletes and members. Up to now I've talked about what our values meant to the brand, gym and coaches. The magic however lies in the synergy between the coaches and athletes. An athlete approached with honesty, who is nurtured and respected by a coach will treat themselves, their peers and workouts in the same way. I would implore all the box owners and coaches reading this post to take a minute to think about which values define their coaching style and thinking. To all the UnScared athletes reading this: do the above mentioned values mean anything to you and do they seem to connect to the experiences you have with UnScared? 

I will discuss 'training philosophy’ in Part II of this blogpost series: What sets a training philosophy apart from coaching values and how does a training philosophy determine the programming and lesson plan design of a CrossFit box? Stay tuned!

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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