Years ago I had the pleasure to meet a very influential combat leader named Colonel Brian McCoy. Regardless of your political leanings, Colonel McCoy, who served as the Commanding Officer of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, was an inspiring leader with a pretty straight forward approach to winning wars: “Brilliance in the Basics”.
This simple concept, master the basics, was all it was going to take to defeat the enemy in Iraq.
However, just understanding the basics is not enough. Colonel McCoy believed the basics need to be practiced each and every day until they become part of who you are. The basics need to be drilled under the watchful eye of a competent leader who has also internalized this concept and to be successful, this leader needs to ruthlessly enforce the standard.
Habit hardens the body for great exertions, strengthens the heart in great peril. Habit breeds that priceless quality, calm, which, passing from rifleman to commander will lighten the task. – Clausewitz
Mastering the basics can help defeat the enemy no matter where the battle ground is. For example, look at 4-time CrossFit Games Champ Rich Froning. In the past two years, with almost monk like composure, he has been able to march into first place dominating any and all events thrown at him on Sunday, the final day of competition. Where does he get this composure? How can he remain calm during the most stressful times in the competition?
Rich Froning is brilliant in the basics. He is calm because he has mastered the fundamentals of his battlefield.
For those of you that have been around the CrossFit community for more than a year or two now will see how well this idea, mastering the basics, ties into Greg Glassman’s vision of being an exceptional athlete (and coach). Coach Glassman calls this concept Virtuosity, or: “Performing the common, uncommonly well”. This concept is why at the CrossFit Level 1 course you only learn 9 foundational movements. Movements that have broader application to everything else we do in CrossFit, but serve as the foundation for sound human movement patterns.
What will inevitably doom a physical training program and dilute a coach’s efficacy is a lack of commitment to fundamentals. – Greg Glassman
Mastering the basics in our world of CrossFit is simple and incredibly difficult at the same time.
Movement mastery requires only two things: discipline & a PVC pipe.
With the lure of events like the CrossFit Games it is easy to forget about the basics. Getting caught up in going heavier, faster, and chasing the leaderboard becomes the priority in many gyms across the world, which is a detriment of the entire system. Mastering the basics is easy because it requires almost zero equipment and only a small amount of time, but unfortunately, it is difficult because it also requires a good coach and a great amount of discipline.
If you can’t perform the basic motor pattern required with a PVC pipe (or just your bodyweight) then you have no business adding weight. It really is that simple.
Have you mastered the 4 Primary Points of Performance in the basic air squat?
Here is your checklist:
- Neutral lumbar curve maintained
- Weight on heels
- Depth below parallel
- Knees tracking over feet
Are you constantly working towards mastering these 4 simple points of performance?
Your coaches should be constantly drilling you on the basics of each movement and making sure you are able to safely perform each movement before load or intensity is added.
If your coach hasn’t insisted on drilling the basics then he or she has failed you.
Once you have the basics conquered, we can add weight & intensity and start to push that training threshold. Which is where the magic starts to happen by the way…
With a constant onslaught of CrossFit hate swirling around the internet these days we, as coaches and champions for the CrossFit brand and methodology, have a responsibility to uphold the standard.
Your ability to uphold that standard that we were all taught during our Level 1 course will define the culture in your gym.
You have the opportunity to set the expectations and maintain the standard with each and every rep that is performed within the walls of your gym.
Don’t let your athletes miscount reps, short their range of motion, or argue with the coaches. Don’t let them skip the warm up or mess around during the PVC skills & drills work before the WOD. Letting this stuff happen is a disservice to your athletes and disrespectful to the athletes &coaches who are doing the right thing.
Do your members care about become better, more useful, injury free human beings? Or are they only worried about going faster or adding another 10#s to the bar?
Brilliance in the basics
Much like mastering the Olympic lifts, this is a simple concept to learn but takes years of practice and discipline to hone.
There is nothing easy about being a good leader.
You will not always be well liked.
You will have to make hard decisions.
You will have to have the tough conversations required to get the best out of your athletes.
But you will eventually win them over and following your example and theirs the rest of your gym will get on board.