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Group Management

The ability to organize and manage, both at a micro level (within each class) and at the macro level (the gym as a whole). This includes managing time well; organizing the space, equipment, and participants for optimal flow and experience; planning ahead; etc.

Group management is not just about organizing logistical considerations for a class so clients have enough space, time, and equipment to complete the workout. It is about optimally managing these variables to support the best possible instruction (see “Components of an Effective Class”). Poor planning of any aspect of a class—for example, the amount of time spent on certain parts, how the equipment is set up, and how much time is allotted to each participant—can detract from the quality of the experience.

Adhere to the schedule

At its most basic level, effective group management means adhering to posted schedules. Clients plan their schedules around these announced times, and it should not be assumed that they have more time or flexibility. Adhering to posted times means both starting and ending on time: Running over is as unacceptable as starting late. Ending late usually occurs when a trainer does not plan ahead and think through the entire class schedule. Adhering to the schedule also includes the schedule within each class.

Following a simple template (such as introduction, warm-up, workout, and post-workout) every class helps ensure necessary time is devoted to each piece (see “Components of an Effective Class”). The trainer may also consider the experience level of the class to determine which pieces need more time or less time during instruction.

Space and equipment layout

Group management also includes variables such as space layout and equipment availability. The layout needs to account for buffer zones around any equipment in use and should also take into account when athletes have to move to different areas of the gym during the workout. The class size often dictates which workouts are realistic given the equipment and space. Even in cases in which neither is limited, an effective trainer should have pre-determined alternatives for any class workout should a larger number of participants show up unexpectedly.

Group management speaks to the trainer’s ability to reduce the logistical setup and preparation time during a class to maximize the amount of teaching and movement time. This means the trainer plans ahead and perhaps prearranges a complicated workout with multiple pieces of equipment and/or weights. Spending several or more minutes sorting equipment takes away from a trainer’s time to instruct, improve, and refine movement.

Plan how and what to teach

Time spent on instruction can also reduce the client’s practice time. A trainer needs to plan how and what to teach to maximize the client’s time moving. Allowing for enough practice time every class is necessary for both the trainer and client. Less practice time gives the trainer less time to observe and cue movement mechanics, as well as less time for a client to work on movement with improved form. Change in mechanics comes from continual cueing across many repetitions.

During every class, the trainer also needs to manage the attention given to each participant. Every student should feel that he or she received enough attention. While some clients need more time than others, even good movers with subtle inefficiencies need to be coached, pushed for higher speed and/or loads, or praised for sound performance. Attention still benefits them. To assist with each client getting enough individual attention, a helpful tool is to keep the group on the trainer’s cadence for all repetitions during the warm-up or skill work. Controlling when the group moves ensures the same number of repetitions are completed by everyone. It also allows the trainer to systematically and selectively observe individuals and specific aspects of their movement.

The size of the class affects how much time a trainer can spend with each person, but the class size should not be beyond the trainer’s capacity. The demands of large classes often turn trainers into crowd herders, timekeepers and cheerleaders who have little time to spend on cueing individual movement faults. Newer trainers (those with less than two years of experience) can rarely find success when stepping into classes of 10-plus participants. In his article “Scaling Professional Training,” CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman explained that after years of one-on-one personal training produced groups of two, eventually groups of three, and so on, his classes continued to grow until growth resulted in “perceived reduction in attention” to each paying member.

Regardless of experience, trainers should make an honest assessment of the time and attention given to each client after each training session.

  1. Did he or she make an assessment of each athlete’s weaknesses?

  2. Did he or she make real movement change that session?

If the answer to either question is no, the session was likely too large for the trainer. The goal is to maximize a trainer’s effectiveness and reach.

*Taken from the CrossFit Level 2 Manual (pg. 19-20).

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