Sunday
Nov102013

Starting Class With Introductions


A longstanding tradition at CFSBK is to start classes with introductions and a short Question of the Day (QOD) while we do our general movement preparation. We’ve been doing this since the days when were still meeting in a park and over time, it’s become a staple of our class template. Initially, I just thought it was a nice way to start classes and get people acquainted, but it has since proven to be a valuable tool for setting the tone of the class, learning people’s names, and showcasing the personality of our members and coaches. The QOD reflects the importance we place on both having an on-going, continual conversation with our members, and creating opportunities to foster a sense of community.

Tone
Especially for newbies, CrossFit group classes can be really intimidating. By adding some light introductions and silly banter at the beginning of class, you can simultaneously break the ice and get everyone to relax and laugh at themselves. Obviously, doing this tactfully is critical. If it feels forced, the exercise can fall flat on its face. My basic litmus test is that if people are laughing, it’s being done well.

Names
Intros are a great opportunity for folks in your classes to help learn each other’s names, especially for regulars who often share a bar with the same few people each class.  Additionally, as the affiliate grows, it can be hard for coaches to keep up with all the members’ names and intros act as a nice reminder at the beginning of each class. With larger classes, we often have one coach lead the intros/movement prep while the other jots down people’s names on a mini white board. This makes identifying and pairing people later in class much easier. Remembering names can be quite difficult and it can be a little embarrassing to forget someone’s name if they’ve been a member for several months.

Multitasking
A lot needs to be accomplished within a group class and there isn’t much time to spend trying to create the warm and fuzzys. We always couple intros with basic movement prep. Often a class starts with the coach having the class circle up as they start some dynamic range of motion movements. The class is instructed to follow along with the coach as they set the question and pick who to start first. Changes in movement are cued by the coach to keep everyone on track. Another popular method is to demonstrate a ground-based mobilization and then set a stopwatch to how long people will be in that position. As folks are hunting around looking for tight positions you can go through names and questions. The entire process takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes on average.

In larger classes (25+), completing the QOD can become a bit difficult since it will take longer to go around the circle and people might not talk loud enough for those across the circle to hear. It also might become harder to stay within the time you’ve budgeted for movement prep. With larger classes, you might consider skipping the QOD or perhaps choose one person to ask a series of questions. If the tone is playful, it can often be quite funny and a little embarrassing for your “victim.” You might ask, “Where did you go to school?” and “What was your favorite subject?” and “How often did you skip class?” At the end of it, you and everyone else in the class will learn a lot about one person.

Questions
It’s important to be tactful in your execution—with large classes or an uninspired question, your attempts at this exercise might backfire or fall flat. We’ve found that a successful question is one that is easy to answer, elicits a brief response, and doesn’t need to be overly thought-out. It should go without saying, but anything related to politics, religion, or sexuality is off-limits. Much easier to be PC and silly than create a potentially awkward or embarrassing situation for you and your members.

Testimonials

We recently asked for our members’ thoughts on the Question of the Day and I’ve included some of their responses below. You can see the rest of their responses here. 

Two people said the QOD was incredibly helpful when they came out of our Foundations program, in terms of getting to know the coaches and other members, and another wrote that it “makes us closer in a weird way.” Peter, one of our members, said that “knowing the names of the people you're working out with and a little something about their personalities is a part of what makes CrossFit special to me.” Lauren, another member, wrote that she’s a “big fan of introductions and hearing bizarre bits about people. When you're new it makes you feel part of what's going on instantly. Over time it builds community. Discovering your own strange habits and opinions is a nice bonus.” Richard G. wrote, “Of all the reasons I keep coming back to CFSBK (health, fitness, varied workouts), one of the main reasons has been the community. And learning names facilitates those encouraging hoots and cheers during the workouts.”

Don’t underestimate the power of creating a novel and interesting experience in someone’s day. These are the kinds of little things that keep people coming back to your affiliate. For members, it’s an opportunity to put some names to new faces and have a laugh, and for coaches, it’s an opportunity to learn names and have informal face time with everyone who takes classes at the gym.

In future articles, I’ll talk about some other tricks we use to try and learn peoples’ names and other things we do if the QOD is impractical for whatever reason.



Here are some more examples of the types of questions we ask:

Do you make the bed every day?
How long has it been since you’ve peed outdoors?
How often do you floss?
Favorite childhood cartoon?
Own up to any embarrassing musical taste.
What movement are you least looking forward to today?
Double Unders, are you “So good” or “No good”?
Your personal CrossFit Hell: 10,000 wall ball shots or row a million meters?
_________________________ 
What are other ways to engage your members within a group class session?

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Reader Comments (4)

I liked this article David

We have been doing "circle questions" since 2007

"Go around the circle, state your name and tell us how old you were the first time you had sex"

is a good one :)

Patty

November 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatty in Vancouver

We were doing this sometimes, but certainly not on a regular basis. We have now officially started a QOD section to our classes, and it's already received a very warm welcome. While it can be hard to think of a different question all the time, one of the templates we like to use is "Would you rather...". Something like "Would you rather live one 1000-year life, or ten 100-year lives?"

Thanks for this blog David, we're already finding it to be an invaluable resource!

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCoach Dan

Dan! Thanks so much! Like anything else, you and your staff get better at thinking of these kinds of questions. Some we used recently are:

- How many unread messages are in your inbox?
- Name one OCD thing you have to do in your life.
- Name one thing you like about your job
- What's your favorite sandwich?

November 27, 2013 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

This is a great article as are the others. I am always curious how to make small talk and this was very helpful.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJimmie

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