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Ask those who have been around the CrossFit community, and they all know Seminar Staff Coach Chuck Carswell. He has been around since the “sport of fitness” was in its infancy, playing a critical role in training many of the individuals who have gone on to become and coach elite athletes.
However, when Carswell was introduced to CrossFit more than a decade ago, he was not so different from any other newcomer. He was less than impressed with his performance in his first WOD, Helen—three rounds for time of a 400-meter run, 21 kettlebell swings and 12 pull-ups.
Carswell's (less-than-impressive) Helen time was not for a lack of conditioning. Having played football at the collegiate and professional levels, he was ready to disqualify CrossFit as simply "not his thing."
After being convinced to give it another chance, he tried a few more WODs – this time with better instruction and a greater understanding of the brand’s motto, “constantly varied, functional movements at high intensity.”
...and that’s when it clicked!
“CrossFit has this way of being antithetical to traditional training,” says Carswell. “It became just blind curiosity: ‘Why does this feel so effective?’ ‘Why does it feel so drastically different than everything else I’ve done?’”
From Athlete to Coach
With a near lifetime of being coached himself, Carswell understands the needs of athletes while also understanding what it takes to be a good coach.
“Low and behold, I found CrossFit as a 30-something, and I’m really just now realizing this is the thing I want to do – turns out, it’s teaching and coaching.”
Instead of coaching athletes in the traditional sense, Carswell, one of the longest standing members of the CrossFit Seminar Staff, has emerged as the coach who coaches the coaches.
As a member of the CrossFit Seminar Staff, he travels around the world for weekly Level 1 and Level 2 seminars. The CrossFit Seminar Staff coaches are vital in providing the methodology and technique training necessary to educate and certify coaches in the more than 13,000 CrossFit boxes around the world.
From Coach to Mentor
Even if you have never taken a CrossFit seminar, you may already be familiar with some of the Seminar Staff members. Names like Austin Malleolo and Julie Foucher stand out as they are also elite athletes who take center stage each summer when competing in the CrossFit Games.
If Carswell’s name is still not ringing a bell, do not mistake that for a lack of significance. He simply chooses not to use social media, maintaining a lower profile than some of the others. In fact, many of the elites you are following and familiar with are quick to identify him as a mentor.
One such individual, for example, is fellow Seminar Staff Coach and three-time CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup Champion James Hobart.
When speaking about Carswell, Hobart had this to say: “First and foremost what needs to be understood about Chuck is his experience; he’s been coaching and willingly trying to relate to others for a while now."
"When you talk to Chuck, he listens. He doesn't look at his phone, he doesn't look around the room; he focuses on you. He nods and reacts to your story. He rarely talks about himself. It’s a special skill and it makes you feel like he cares.”
Always Room for Improvement
Many participants see the Level 1 course as simply a means to becoming a CrossFit coach – but not Carswell.
Choosing to sit through three rounds of the Level 1 course, Carswell was humbly excited to soak up as much knowledge as he could. This was back in the day when the best of the best was standing at the whiteboard: CrossFit CEO and Founder Greg Glassman.
With the stellar training provided by Glassman, Carswell was off to a strong coaching future that landed him an invite to the Level 2 course, and after, an internship offer with the CrossFit Seminar Staff at a course held at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in South Georgia.
“I completely bombed the first movement of the seminar,” says Carswell, who admits he still cringes thinking back to Coach Glassman looking on and pointing out a long list of everything Carswell was doing wrong. “I walked out and was like, ‘Holy crap, the guy who invented the program is telling me I’m doing a sh*t job.’”
Furthermore, he consciously used Glassman’s frankness as a learning opportunity, stating, “It’s made me more sensitive to trainers’ failures and how to transition and turn those into opportunities for improvement and growth."
Improvement is at the core of Carswell’s takeaways for the prospective coaches he leads at seminars each weekend.
“Recognize that you’re probably going to suck today but you don’t have to suck tomorrow,” he says. “Wherever you start, you don’t have to stay there. You get a chance to improve. And if you don’t take things too personally – and improve them – then you’re on the right track.”
Passion for the Job
More than a decade into his CrossFit coaching career, Carswell is still excited to hop on a plane and bunk up in hotels all across the world. With the same energy he continues to teach Level 1 and Level 2 courses to those eager and determined to learn and master.
He says, “It’s very similar to a school teacher who loves what they do, but every semester, every quarter there’s a different base of students in front of them to impact,”
“Every weekend, we get to share the CrossFit message with a brand new base of participants. Many of them have trained in gyms and have been exposed to coaches, but we get a chance to lay down the foundation as it was written by the founder Coach Glassman.
“It’s why I go wherever asked. I would do almost anything for this job because I love it so much.”
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