Tonight’s the night. With the announcement of 14.1 just hours away, CrossFitters young and old, novice and veteran are getting the pre-performance nervous bladder. Blogs are filled with predictions, tips, wishes for a good season, and general community boosting. While the athletes are busy taking shallow breaths into brown paper bags, I’d like to circle up the affiliate owners, coaches, assistants, and apprentices for a huddle – real quick – so we don’t lose sight of where we started as we begin to pull together our Games-winning dream roster.

One thing no one tells you when you sign up for your Level 1 is this: when you’ve got that certificate in hand, it comes with a complex, delicate register system. At any given point in your day, you’ll have a dozen or so pairs of eyes on you, a dozen or so pairs of ears tuned in.  Every gesture you make, every quirk in your speech, every throw-away line is recorded somewhere in the brain of at least one of your athletes. It’s entirely possible that someone in your gym hangs on every word you say. That’s powerful. And, as the old, overused, comically mocked adage goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Case in point: a few weeks back, one of our athletes reposted a message found in a community forum. I’ve copied it here, verbatim.

“Asked our coach about the logistics of recording our Open WODs. He actually laughed, only certain people even need to be concerned, I’m not one. I understand my chances…I know where I’m good and where I suck. But the Open is the ONLY CrossFit Games experience for many of us. I was one of 5 in our box that even completed the whole Open last year. I care about it. A lot.”

Firstly, to whomever this coach is, SHAME on you. I don’t really see how this is any different than the media-attended cases of bullying that go on with children. And if you’ve wormed your way into a position of relative power so you can make people who look up to you feel insignificant, well, you deserve whatever’s coming to you.

To the rest of us who aren’t monsters and just need a little reminder from time to time: your people are giving you their time and their money, both very rare and valuable commodities.  But more importantly, they are giving you their bodies and their trust. That body they’re giving you is the only one they’ll ever have, and if you break it, there’s no magical spare parts warehouse. And that trust they’re giving you? No one makes it out of this life without feeling betrayed, put down, stepped on, or taken advantage of at least once. Ergo, it’s reasonable to assume that everyone has experienced “trust issues”. Every time one of your athletes walks through your door, they are telling you that they trust you. They rely on you to keep them safe. They rely on you to make it okay for them to try and probably even fail in front of a group of twenty people. They rely on you to help them recognize their accomplishments, to work on a team, to be part of something greater than themselves, and that’s the community for which you’ve laid the foundation and erected the scaffolding.

You are the leader of that class, of that day, of that box. Like it or not, your presence there day in and day out demands the attention of your athletes. Whether you also command their respect is entirely up to you.