"hey! quick question: thinking about getting crossfit level 1 certified bc ultimately would love to work on the side as a coach would you recommend waiting until i get a better hang of my skills, or is the earlier the better?"
This is SUCH a good question and one I've actually been asked multiple times before so I felt it was time for a more formalized answer.
Of course, the answer to most questions is always going to be some version of "it depends". So what does it depend on in this case?
First: What's your end goal in becoming a Coach from a timeline perspective?
This is probably a question worth asking upon having to make any decision - but what do you see the progression being in this particular genre of life choices? In 1 year, do you see yourself occasionally subbing at your local CrossFit gym for a class here and there? Or, in 1 year, do you see yourself entertaining the option of integrating your life as a Coach into a full-fledged career involving Coaching of any kind? In 3 years, do you see yourself being interested in the full autonomy of any coaching position you are placed in? Or, in 3 years do you see yourself placing coaching on the back-burner, and using your time as a Coach to inform whatever profession you are headed towards?
The CrossFit Level 1 is an investment for sure. But the act of becoming a Coach, of forging the trust that it takes to be able to bear that title, is heavy, and in my humble opinion, should never be taken lightly.
Last night I attended a volunteer meeting at a at-risk youth non-profit organization where I used to be an intern over a decade ago. One of the first volunteers that got up to speak made a very simple point: don't start something you aren't at least sure you want to commit more than the time that is necessary. Committing to a relationship with at-risk youth is no small matter - and in a lot of ways, people who are eager for coaching aren't that different. They are where they are because they have sensed a great need. The stronger the bond between Coach and Athlete, the greater the capacity for good. But that works both ways, that bond of trust, if broken - can never be repaired quite back to what it was at the outset. It's like trying to put toothpaste back in a tube - some things just don't work the other way around.
From what I have seen in teaching interns, in coaching all kinds of people in all kinds of places, over the last 9 years, is that the time that is necessary for someone to be committed is at least a year of CrossFit. You need to be doing CrossFit for at least a year, no matter HOW good you begin, before you can consider yourself really read to commit to making it more than just a hobby.
Is this number purely conjecture? Yes. But it seems to work. If someone is obsessed for at least a year - I know it's realer than a "phase".
Second: What are you thinking you are going to receive from Coaching? What are you thinking you are going to be able to give? Have you seriously considered whether there are other outlets for you to receive and give these things?
Are you becoming a Coach because you love sharing information about movement or because you love being a source of information about movement? Are you becoming a Coach because it seems like a fun thing to do one night of the week or because you'd like to make a living making people feel better? Are you becoming a Coach because you want to spend more time in the gym, win the CrossFit Games (oh boy!), or get a back like a map?
I am all for this profession in its many, many forms - and I think more doctors, lawyers, congressmen and business gurus could do with a little bit of exposure to coaching. You learn so much about how the psychology of habit change can play out in real life. You learn so much about the difference eating an omelette versus a bagel in the morning can make on a person's whole attitude toward life. You learn how to speak to people, how people learn, and how to work with others.
But at the end of the day, there SHOULD be something about JUST coaching (in your case) CrossFit that REALLY and SUPREMELY appeals to you. If you're way more into aesthetics, CrossFit will never be what you're looking for though it may get you halfway. If you're way more into athletics and the study of physiology, CrossFit will never be what you're looking for though it may get you halfway. If you're way more into the psychological effects of aggressive exercise, CrossFit will never be what you're looking for though it may get you halfway. AND, my favorite, if you're into CrossFit to make some extra cash, well… just don't.
Some excellent advice that I have been on the receiving end of and have tried to implement in my life: always be aware of when you are using someTHING or someONE as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Coaching for the sake of love of anything other than coaching will ALWAYS yield disappointment - maybe not immediately, but it WILL happen.
Third: How are YOU going to give your gift in a way that is a unique expression of who you are?
I actually don't have any judgments to give on any of the reasons above. I think defining your end goal will actually shed some light for YOU on what your move should be. That is, if the goal is to use Coaching to inform a later less Coaching-dominant profession, then yes, you can dabble, you can start the Level 1 ASAP. If the goal is to use Coaching as an end in and of itself, understand that the Level 1, though it can be done at any time, is absolutely only the beginning; the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
So, how are you going to whittle down the wide world of "ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU DON'T KNOW" after you get done with your Level 1? In no way do I even believe that those who instruct the Level 1 believe that it is wholly sufficient for the production of good coaches. The Level 1 is just that: LEVEL ONE.
It provides its attendees with a baseline for movement patterns, perspicacity, and CrossFit's framework for what a Coach should aspire to be learning about all the time (nutrition and health, movement quality, scaling, instruction and cuing, program design, and triage) - but it is not the end of a Coach's education. It is simply a stop along the way.
If you are definitely interested in Coaching as a life-long profession - that is a VERY different blog post, but I'm happy to chat about that too.
I hope all of the above gives you some good questions to ask yourself as you pursue your progression as an Athlete and a Coach!