How To Become a Grown-Up CrossFit Gym

I recently had a guy visit my gym who was part of a relatively new affiliate. He told me he was really impressed by all of CFSBK’s programs, staff members, and systems, and he kept comparing our gym to his relatively minimalist set-up. I was quick to tell him that things have not always been the way they are now. Our “Front Desk” used to be a pencil pouch with a note scribbled next to it that said, “Please leave $20!” and I used to be the only “Admin,” which meant people were lucky if I answered their email in under a week. Over the past seven years, our business has grown considerably and we’ve been able to expand our staff members, facility, and infrastructure. In today’s article, I want to share all the different professional roles we’ve created over the years at CFSBK. I hope this information gives you ideas and inspiration as you expand the size of your gym and the kinds of services you offer, or perhaps just reorganize who does what.

A caveat though: size doesn’t matter! It’s important to keep in mind that larger doesn’t always equal better, and a small affiliate should in no way be considered immature or under-realized. The point is to have enough people on-board so that you’re not burning the candle at both ends and can interact with your business the way you want to—not the way you have to. Defining roles and delegating responsibility allows more motivated and qualified people than yourself to take on what you’re incapable of or unmotivated to do, which inevitably benefits both you and everyone involved with your business.

I suggest you start by writing down every single thing that needs to be accomplished at your gym on a weekly and monthly basis. Write down everything from ordering toilet paper to answering emails to coaching the 6am class. Lump them together in practical categories and determine who is currently responsible for each task. Especially if you have partners, first defining and then dividing the work will keep everyone’s roles and responsibilities clear, as well as provide you with a template that you can use to negotiate transitions of work load later on. If you’re the only owner and coach as I was, your name will be next to everything on this sheet in the beginning. As you consider what to delegate, it will probably be obvious what kinds of tasks you love, will tolerate, and really despise. Your goal is to hold on the things about your business that excite you most, and gradually defer responsibility for everything that doesn’t.

Below, I’ve listed all of the roles we currently have at CFSBK, followed by a description of the responsibilities associated with each. I hope this helps you in creating your own organizational structure, and perhaps gives you some new ideas for roles you don’t currently have but could grow into.




Group Class Coaching Staff
Your coaching staff is, in my opinion, the most important asset of your business, as they have the greatest capacity to shape peoples’ experiences at your gym. While each coach will have their own personality that they bring to group classes, there should always be consistency in the quality and framework of how classes are run. In case you missed it before, here is a document that lists our Group Class Coaching Expectations, and details the specific standards everyone is accountable for upholding when they coach at our gym.

For the first year or so, I was the only coach at CFSBK and I gradually built up a small staff one coach at a time—a process that included diplomatically turning down many requests from people who wanted to coach. In the beginning, when you’re doing everything, ANY help seems better than none, but my advice is to take your time with building your coaching staff, and to curate with extreme patience and a thoughtful vision. I’ve seen several affiliates happily take on whoever initially offered, only to run into quality control and consistency issues down the line. Remember, more is not better, better is better.

Specialty Coaches
CrossFit borrows from so many disciplines, and as you grow, you’ll find people who want to specialize in the modalities into which we tap. For example, I’ll be the first to tell you I know next to nothing about endurance training, so until we found the people with the experience and personality we wanted to lead that program, we held off on it—and the same went for other specialty areas. Relationships with specialized coaches help diversify the offerings of your business, help support another coach, and bring fresh, new ideas into your gym. Below are the coaches we currently have on staff, some of which we brought on-board as recently as this year:

Strength Training Coach
Endurance Coach

Olympic Weightlifting Coach
CrossFit Kids Coaches
Gymnastics Coach
Yoga Instructor
Pilates Instructor

These coaches communicate the details of their programs to our Admin (more on that role below), provide program descriptions for the blog, and obviously run their respective classes. Over half of these coaches are also part-time group class coaches, and one is on staff in another capacity.

Competition Team Manager
Our competition team manager, who is one of our coaches, determines the performance standards for our competition class, writes the programming, and runs weekly team practices. She is the point person for all competitions that both team and non-team members participate in. She also targets a few specific competitions each year at which we try to get a larger showing, and she encourages people who are on-the-fence to sign up for their first competition. For each event, she helps organize transportation and logistics so the gym stays in-tune with what’s going on and plays a supportive role for people looking to compete in the sport of fitness.

Group Class Programmer 
One of our coaches writes the programming for group classes and communicates the programming to all of our coaches and our Managing Editor via a Google calendar and at our weekly staff meetings. His notes in the Google calendar often include detailed instructions about scaling options, time caps, and any logistical concerns the coaches would need to run an effective and efficient class. This allows the intention and execution of each class to remain consistent regardless of the coach. The lifting template for each of our eight-week cycles is written about a week before the cycle starts and each day is filled in on the Google calendar about a week ahead of time.

Continuing Education Manager
This person is responsible for the in-house education we provide for our coaches (it’s often me, or another coach). This person picks out particular readings or texts and writes a study syllabus, which outlines the material that will be covered. This person then provides an adequate timeframe for all the coaches to read the material and complete the test or write-up, which is then graded. After each education unit, we review the test as a group and discuss the practical ways the information applies to our coaching practice. We’ve written more about this process in “Giving Coaches Tests.”


Managing Editor
As referenced in “Building Community Through Your Blog,” an affiliate’s blog is enormously important for building community and having a successful affiliate. We’ve had several people tell us they joined CFSBK because they loved our blog and the kind of community and professionalism it reflects. Maintaining a popular blog has been a huge priority for me since the beginning, and we’ve been posting daily content since Day One. A daily blog is a huge time investment—but, in my opinion, it’s well worth it. I can say without hesitation that my business would not be anywhere near as successful if not for our daily online content.

I enjoyed doing the blog, but over time, the daily postings and necessary emails became too much to stay on top of and I felt like I needed help. My editor for ITA, Katharine Reece, was the perfect fit for this role and we still work together to ensure the blog has the right tone and is curated appropriately. On top of managing content on the blog, she maintains a consistent style guide for all our written materials, solicits and edits articles from our coaching staff, writes interviews with community members and staff, and continues to edit ITA. It’s important that she also stays plugged in to the community, and all events and programs, because the blog is the primary means by which people get information about our gym.

Social Media Coordinator
This person runs our Facebook and Twitter accounts, both for CFSBK and this blog. He schedules regular content posting, advertises our upcoming programs, and reposts information from the blog to social media to make sure it reaches as many eyes as possible. He also provides monthly analyses to see how our traffic is doing, where it’s coming from, and what kind of content is most popular. This helps us further refine our content. He also curates an email newsletter through MailChimp that goes out at the beginning of each programming cycle, which has proven to be another great way for us to keep our members aware of upcoming events and programs.

The only thing he doesn’t do is our Instagram, which I do because I love the “gramz” (yet personally despise and avoid all other forms of social media). Check us out, yo!

Events Coordinator
Affectionately dubbed the gym’s “Cruise Director,” our Events Coordinator manages our calendar to ensure we have a variety of events planned, from potlucks to movie nights and wilderness trips (we are in Brooklyn, after all). She helps create, set up, and execute each event, and ensures there are no conflicts with space usage for all the other programs we’ve got going on. With so many people on staff, it can be easy to double-book the gym or under-promote an event. She prevents those snafus, and communicates regularly with our Managing Editor and Social Media Coordinator. She also does a quarterly and annual budget review to discuss the cost and profit of different events so we can analyze how to better plan future events.

These members receive a partially comped membership to shoot an average of five photos a week during classes at our gym, which they load into albums on our Flickr account. I wrote about the importance of photographers for the blog and the CrossFit Journal recently had an article that discussed the importance of vibrant images for gyms. In the early days of CFSBK, I took all the pictures, but found it distracting having to play Ansel Adams and coach at the same time.


Our Admin is also one of our full-time coaches and she manages Zen Planner, our membership software. Her job is to create the memberships and programs, troubleshoot anything that comes up with the system, and address member issues that our Front Desk can’t resolve. Additionally, she takes meeting notes at the coaches meetings and distributes the personal training requests that come in. Unfortunately, despite what a great job she does, I still can’t manage to respond to emails very quickly.

Front Desk Manager
This person manages the schedule, training, and coverage for our Front Desk staff, and helps expand the efficacy and roles of the Front Desk. She orders our administrative supplies and stays on top of inventory and stock for things like paper towels, chalk, and white board markers. She also runs bi-monthly Front Desk staff meetings.

Project Manager
This person also happens to be our Front Desk Manager. She is a woman of many talents, and in this role, she takes the lead on issues that come up, such as setting up utilities for our new space, organizing the 401K plans for coaches, ordering equipment, and buying flowers every week for the gym. Basically, she takes on projects that I want to do but am too incompetent to actually execute, or that don’t fit into anyone else’s role.

Front Desk Staff 
Our Front Desk operation is fodder for a whole separate article that I plan to write, but in short, these critical staff members do all the things you’d expect people in a Front Desk position to do. They check members in, deal with membership issues, sell merchandise, educate members about events and policies, and accept payments. They need to understand how the gym works on all levels so they can be informed when dealing with leads and inquiries, both over the phone or in-person. On top of that, they do daily maintenance, and make sure bathrooms are clean and equipment is put away properly. If a piece of equipment is of out-of-service, they'll contact the company to get it fixed. They also write an end-of-day summary, which is an email that details class attendance, items we sold, any membership issues or questions that came up, anything relevant to equipment or maintenance (the heater isn't turning on, etc.). Most importantly, they do coffee and food runs for the coaches—a true luxury!

Facility Cleaning and Maintenance
In the beginning, you'll be cleaning everything yourself, and for many there's a certain pride and humility in cleaning the gym, which I totally get. But while I love cleaning (really, I do), I didn’t have the time to do it as well or often as needed, and no one on my staff at the time was interested in taking up the role. After going through a few cleaning people, we finally found a guy who not only was great at cleaning but very handy with electrical, plumbing, and carpentry work who has ended up being a huge asset to the gym. He comes four days a week.

Then there's me.
I do my best to oversee all of this and set the vision and direction for the gym. This includes attempting to curate the ethos and vibe of the gym, as well as establishing clear expectations for my staff. I regularly touch base with everyone and get to yay-or-nay ideas, encourage programs, and provide feedback and insights where I can. I do most of our Continuing Education for coaches, manage staff coverage, run weekly coaching meetings, and manage payroll and business expenses.

I do the things that I like to do. Did I mention I run our Instagram account?? I’m certainly not perfect or even the best at everything I do (my staff will politely agree with that statement), but by this point, I've realized what my main strengths and weaknesses are, and I've given away the things that I'm not great at to people who are more effective and talented than me. I love coaching group classes and doing personal training—which is why I got into this business in the first place. I'm not interested in just running a business; I want to work in my business as well as on it.

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Reader Comments (12)

As always, I can't say how much I appreciate you taking the time to breakdown the lay of the land with CFSBK. I've always looked at your folks as a well oiled machine but also as an affiliate with personality. This blog has been a terrific wealth of knowledge and I can say we've definitely taken some of your tips to help us facilitate our growth and put systems in place!

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEJ

My pleasure, EJ! Also thanks for the kind words about CFSBK.

Glad you've gotten some pointers from this blog, the only thing I ask is that you guys share it with fellow coaches and affiliate owners!

January 28, 2015 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Great post DO... passing this around the community.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commentergoose

Such valuable information here. Thank you so very much for taking the time to help other owners do things the right way. I'm grateful!

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

I think you must be one of the few exceptions to the rule who manage to work IN their business and still manage to work ON their business effectively. Hat's off to you David...I don't think I could ever do all you do.

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMush

Great post! That's alot of people! My question is, do you pay all the staff that are doing all these roles? Do you offer free membership? While I'd love to have that many people doing things for us there is a limit on what we can pay them or even pay them for that matter! Can you give me some insight on this please! Thanks!! You can email directly or comment here.

February 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

Thanks for all the great comments, guys!

Almost all of them are paid positions and many are also full time coaches. You can always start small and work off barters when building up. This didn't happen overnight, we started with the admin, then expanded to having maintenance and a few other key roles then have gradually building since there. The key is gradual and prioritizing what you NEED first, then what you want.

- our photographers, events coordinator and social media work or membership barters
- our admin, comp class manager, continuing education and programmer are all coaches and get extra $$ based on what we agreed on.
- everyone is part time at the gym and is paid directly

February 16, 2015 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Very cool. But guys and gals don't have a general manager?

May 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMateo

Not formally, but I guess that's me!

June 1, 2015 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

great article. thanks for sharing!

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Wheeler

Can you elaborate on how you manage your retail, What do you sell? What do you not sell? Mark up? Other advice?


June 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crowe

Performance coaching is all about unlocking future potential performance rather than evaluating and judging current performance. It’s based on the belief that individuals want to and can do a good job. If, deep down, you don’t believe this, coaching is probably not for you. Performance coaching is not so much about passing on individual performance objectives, but rather a technique to take away the barriers that prevent individuals from actually taking on and delivering against their personal goals. I would love to recommend Mr. Alan Gavornik name who maintains hands on expertise in the areas of corporate formation and start up, capital round financing, growth and expansion initiatives, sales and marketing, and exit strategies. This business prowess is further enhanced by AGC network of industry experts which are available to compliment an engagement as needed.

September 7, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterActon Ace

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