Thursday 160811

5 Rounds for time:
100′ Handstand walk
Run 400 meters
5 Muscle ups

Post times to comments and BTWB

Today's public service announcement, #TheMoreYouKnow

Today’s public service announcement, #TheMoreYouKnow


Certified? Certificate? Does it REALLY matter? I certainly think so.

By Courtney Shepherd

I have had several encounters over the last few months with people in the CrossFit community misidentify their level of coaching. What does that mean? It means they have referred to themselves as “Certified Level 2 coach” or “Level 1 certified trainer”. Those are misidentifications because in the CrossFit world there is no such thing as a “Certified Level 2 coach” or a “Level 1 certified trainer”. It was because of these interactions that I took it upon myself to discuss this in a Facebook group specifically for Affiliate owners. I believe that these instances are simply due to a misunderstanding about the levels of coaching that exist in the CrossFit community. And what better way to disseminate the correct information than by going to the leaders of the community and reminding them. They can in turn use the information to remind their fellows coaches and staff. As you can imagine, dropping a nugget of information in a group setting on social media can be met with resistance. The conversation may have offended a few. It may have sparked some spirited debate. And, at this very minute, it may still be going on. I would not have written the post to begin with if I did not truly believe in it’s message, no matter how badly it’s message has been misunderstood by others. I also believe in putting my money where my mouth is, which is why I have brought the subject to this blog post. 

So what minor battle did I begin on Facebook? Clarifying what a CrossFit trainer can and cannot call themselves, and why. Why is this something that should be important to you? Because you deserve to know about what makes me qualified to do my job. And you deserve, as a consumer, to have as much information at your fingertips when it comes to choosing who you pay for any given service. 

To be able to teach a CrossFit class and take money in exchange for such teaching, at minimum I need to have a Level 1 certificate. I got my Level 1 certificate in July 2010. I starting coaching at Verve in January 2011. The Level 1 is a weekend long course where I was taught the basic information I needed to start my coaching journey. After this seminar, I was able to call myself a “Level 1 Trainer”. This seminar did not certify me in any capacity. The next level is Level 2, it has also been know in previous years as the Coach’s Prep Course. This course is designed for people to attend after they have some experience under their belt. It does not teach you the basics of coaching, but rather it puts the coach in the spotlight. The CrossFit HQ staff members watched as I coached groups of people. Following my coaching they broke it down and gave me feedback. Some good, some bad. I’m not a perfect coach, I’m not the best. . . but I will constantly work to be. So following a weekend of having my work evaluated, I left with so many things to work on, improve upon, and the knowledge to give Verve members a better product of coaching. I earned the ability to call myself a “Level 2 Trainer”. Still not certified by any means. 

The next 2 Levels are the Level 3, or Certified CrossFit Trainer, and Level 4, Certified CrossFit Coach. These are certifications. These are not credentials that can be attained in a classroom or over a weekend. The Level 3 is a 4 hour long written exam that is taken at an off site accredited testing center. Before anyone can even sit to take this exam they must have first put in a minimum of 750 coaching hours. The knowledge base covered in this exam goes beyond CrossFit. It covers nutrition, anatomy and physiology, the Olympic lifts, programming, seeing and correcting movement, and more. It covers information that requires someone to have gone above and beyond in research and study. It requires that over time, a Level 2 CrossFit Trainer made an effort to expand their knowledge, learn as much as they could, and put all their leanings into practice with coaching. A lot of coaching. The Level 4 is the practical exam. It is having a panel of HQ staff sit and watch you coach a class. But unlike the Level 2, there is no feedback. There is no discussion, it is an exam. They will evaluate the lesson/ class plan, the warm-up, how the movements are taught/ corrected/ scaled/ modified, and the trainers overall presence and attitude. This exam proves that not only do these people have the information but they know how to put it to practice. 

There are tens of thousands of Level 1 Trainers. Less than 400 are Certified CrossFit trainers. And less than 100 are Certified CrossFit Coaches. 

There are 2 main arguments that were brought up on Facebook. The first, “What does it matter, everyone uses the terms wrong, which makes them pointless anyway”. That statement is the exact reason my post was written. A lot of people use the terms wrong. If we, the people who know the difference, correct those using it incorrectly, the problem can be solved. . . because these terms ABSOLUTELY matter. These are our credentials. We would never let people get away with calling someone who took a first aid course “doctor”. If everyone that has knowledge about basic CPR and first aid was called doctor, you are correct, we would not understand the full credentials that make a doctor a doctor. That title would become meaningless. As a society we correct people when they make these misidentifications, “excuse me, that person is not a doctor. That person is a computer analyst that put a band aid on you”. Why do we fear doing this for the profession of a CrossFit coach? “Excuse me, you are not a Level 1 Certified Trainer. You are a Level 1 Trainer.” See. Not so hard. 

Second argument, “What does it matter? Those Levels don’t actually make you a good coach. I know plenty of Level 1 Trainers that are better than some Level 3 trainers.” Duh. Welcome to every profession in the world. I know some computer analysts carrying a case of band aids that are better doctors than some doctors. But this is where you as a consumer get to really be involved. This is the reason there are more than one doctor in the world, especially more than one doctor that specializes in a certain area. It allows you the opportunity to get a second opinion. . . because some doctors suck. Some coaches suck. Some coaches take tests well and don’t care about applying the knowledge. But as a consumer it allows you to narrow it down even further. Having credentials allows you to look through coaches bios and gather a basic understanding of their experience level. It will require you to go to the gym and actually see if they put their money where their credentialed mouth is. And you may find it doesn’t, it is a guide. These Levels work two fold: they give coaches a goal to work towards. They provide a dangled carrot that forces me to work towards virtuosity in my chosen profession. While I will never be perfect, I have something to work towards. Something that when achieved, sets me apart from others. Which is the second way that it works. It gives anyone looking to find a local CrossFit gym information that may help them choose. Granted, these Levels are not everything. They do not 100% define the person behind them or the people that may not yet process them. I would never claim they do. 

Verve has some of the best trainers I know, I may be a bit biased. They are my friends. I’ve watched them study, practice, stress, fail, succeed, try, try again, care, sweat, and bleed. . . as trainers. I’ve watched them over the years work to be the best they can be for not just Verve members but for anyone that walks through Verve’s doors. They come in at night for meetings where their knowledge is constantly put to the test. They get homework that they take seriously, even though, for most of them, this is not their full time job. The goal behind CrossFit HQ’s Levels is to give these amazing people some credit for that hard work. They deserve to be called the correct title and they should not feel weird to correct those that use the title improperly. Because yes, this matters. 





  1. Danni :

    This is great clarification, Courtney! These are titles that are certainly earned. I’m proud to say that I work for an affiliate that takes pride in educating their trainers and athletes 🙂

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