Recently I read an article titled “10 Reasons You Should Take More Notice of What a Female Coach Has To Say”. I read this soon after four people sent me a different article titled “You should be dating a CrossFit Girl. Here’s why”. These articles might seem unrelated but it made me realize (or maybe remember) that being a woman can be tough, being a woman that CrossFits can be even harder, and being a female CrossFit coach is rewarding and intimidating at the same time.
For starters, I am NOT complaining. Being a female, especially one that CrossFits, is amazing. Up until three and a half years ago my hands had never touched a barbell, so is every tiny accomplishment exciting? You bet. Does it feel even better winning a competition when you hear people say “and they had GIRLS on their team!”? Absolutely. And ironically, these are the same things that make it intimidating.
Until reading the two articles, I didn’t put much thought into how people reacted towards me as a coach. Aside from the occasional “this guy doesn’t believe a word I’m saying because I don’t have a penis” conversation I’d had with my coach, I didn’t think my gender mattered in the gym. Oh but it does.
My first thought after reading the female coach article was “AWESOME”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve always felt like I deserved a little credit for having to struggle more to get certain lifts and movements. I wanted to send the article to everyone in the gym so the girls could relate to me a little better and the guys would listen more. A few days of reading this article every morning to psych myself up for class I started to realize – wait, I want men to read this article so they listen more? Do I really feel like every male takes what I say with a grain of salt?
The answer is, no, BUT, the moments that I’ve used a cue over and over only to hear “(male coaches name) showed me how to do double-unders/cleans/etc. He told me I just had to (insert the same cue I used 1000 times with them here)!” aren’t exactly few and far between. I, in no way, think that I am the best coach on the planet, but I’ve reached a point that I have busted my ass enough to live up to my mentors expectations yet still feel intimidated in a room full of men that, 99% of the time, haven’t been CrossFitting as long as me or spent as much time learning the subtle nuances of the movements. It can get frustrating to say the least.
I’ve also become more aware of how people react towards me now in regards to CrossFit; something that was my driving force to get out of bed at 5am during grad school when everyone else was nursing a hangover, that I am lucky enough to now call a career. This is obviously not something I take lightly–no one likes getting out of bed at 5am. CrossFit has become something that I am proud of yet hesitant to bring up and I don’t know if men have the same problem.
I’ve never seen an article convincing women why dating a man that CrossFits isn’t such a bad idea (yes, I looked). I’m newly single and back in the very scary world of bars and dating, I have had two men lose interest or ask if I was 1) gay or 2) trying to “get big” when my answer to “So what do you like to do?” wasn’t shop, sew, dance, cook or paint my girlfriends toes. I assume any man turned off by something I am not only passionate about but has gotten me in the best shape I’ve ever been in, is concerned less with what I can do and more with what he cannot.
Again, I am NOT complaining. But I do think it’s important to bring attention to the fact that the world wants me to be a picture perfect version of every woman on the cover of a magazine, yet using CrossFit as a tool makes me less feminine. I think it’s necessary to talk about the confidence I’ve gained BECAUSE I am a CrossFitter, that I have to tone down so I don’t make a male (notice I said a male, not a man) uncomfortable. (side note: boys don’t like when you tell them you could probably deadlift more than their body weight as you walk away to find a better suitor).
Most importantly, I have to acknowledge the fact that I am a woman and when it comes to coaching I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING. Attitude is everything. If I don’t recognize these issues and think about them, how am I ever going to move past them? If I have this thought in the back of my head all the time that they would listen better or trust me more if I was a man, can I really be the best coach I’m capable of being? If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you can only change the things you can control, and how other people feel about or react towards you is not one of them.