There are coaches. There are Coaches. And then there are COACHES.
What's the difference?
Time. Experience. Education. Passion. And a real understanding of programming, the how and why.
As unpopular as this opinion might be, generally a Level 1 certification does not provide enough knowledge to truly train somebody how to be an excellent coach. It can't. There simply isn't enough time.
One weekend cannot teach you the technical science of exercise physiology. That is at least a two year college degree. Twenty five hours of training with a hundred other students cannot possibly give you the detailed, technical information you need to properly teach the aspects of good lifting. There are so many details and you can't really teach a person to how to see. It certainly won't begin to cover kinesiology or nutrition. It can't even start to address how to craft truly great programming.
It isn't the fault of headquarters, or of the training program. The basic fact of the matter is that great Coaches have hours and hours of experience under their belt. They have studied--either at school or on their own--to learn about the energy systems of the body, how it works and why. They are not only athletes, they have dedicated themselves to learning how to be teachers.
Photo courtesy of CrossFit.com
There is a difference between an instructor and a teacher. An instructor can walk you through a WOD. A teacher will explain to you what the WOD is doing. A great coach will look at you and know what you are doing wrong. They will factor in everything they know about you, from how you cheat on your diet to your sleep habits, and be able to tell you why today your snatch sucks. They will remember that last week it didn't suck and deduce what is going on. And then they will have real, tangible answers. They will craft solutions.
A true coach is more than a WOD leader. They have made a commitment to the practice of fitness. They have integrated it into their lives and are dedicated to representing the science to the best of their ability and understanding. This means that you will constantly see them learning new things and bringing it to the box. You will hear them talking about seminars they are taking and books they are reading. You will see them sharing and applying. This is a COACH.
This cannot be taught in any certification course. Level 1 is made to be a mere introduction to the basics of coaching. It was never intended to be a stopping point; it was created to be a stepping stone. Those who take the Level 1 cert are starting a journey that should lead them deeper into the science. If they aren't, then you should head far, far away.
Sadly, there are very few credentialed designations beyond Level 1 certification. There are Coaches' Prep Courses, but Level 2 / 3 seem to have gone the way of the Dodo. This means that you can't rely on obvious certificates to determine a good coach. Boxes must go out of their way to apprentice and intern their Level 1 coaches. Students must really get to know the coaches at their box and respect the outside work put in by those more knowledgeable. Demand more. Frequent those who are working hard to further themselves and the science.
We, as athletes, cannot simply accept that Level 1 coaches have been trained appropriately. It is our duty to pay attention and give credit where credit is due. What we demand as clients will eventually be honored by affiliates and headquarters alike.