“Our Schools vision is to empower our students, to fulfill a lifelong career in health and fitness”
We will achieve this by pursuing excellence in your development in 3 key steps:
Learn by doing
We facilitate our school apprentices on their journey to becoming fitter than they have ever been before, and to evolve their idea of fitness through the experience of their own body, to learn by doing.
Learn by Teaching
“Those who can, teach.” Once students are competent in mastering their own body, and their awareness of true fitness, we then facilitate coaches to reach the level of excellence in their profession.
Develop business acumen
Once the coach has mastered the steps above, the final stage is to empower the coach, to become a competent business person. In other words to make a sustainable income from doing what you love. In turn this will facilitate your ability to contribute to people’s health and wellness in the long term. Reducing coach burnout and ultimately delivering more to your clients.
Read our 1st Apprentice story
Ian Madden: CrossFit Dublin’s Apprentice Coaching Program
Ian Madden is a coach at CrossFit Dublin in Ireland, a box that pays its coaches based on performance as opposed to paying them an hourly wage.
Madden is compensated for coaching based on what he sells. He receives a percentage of the revenue he generates through personal training sales as well as his client’s monthly fees. It’s pretty simple: the more clients he has, the more he makes.
But before he was accepted as a full-time coach in Dublin, he went through an apprenticeship program under the close tutelage of Michael Price, the owner of CrossFit Dublin.
Becoming a coach and getting to a point where Madden made a decent living financially was a slow process, and the experience was not dissimilar to the way a rookie is treated on a college football team. But three years since he started his apprenticeship, Madden now looks back at his journey with appreciation.
It began for Madden in 2009. Addicted to his newfound passion, being at the gym was all he could think about. It was only natural that he become a coach. After completing his Level 1 certification, Madden began his apprenticeship. At first, this simply meant shadowing Price around the gym.
“At the start, I was paid 15 quid (about US25) an hour. With early mornings and late evenings, it was tough going. I was basically doing Michael’s admin, replying to emails, and generally cleaning up around the gym. I earned about €14,000 (about US18,000) that year, I reckon,” said Madden.
Before CrossFit Dublin’s apprentice coaches generate their own stable of clients, Price pays them a nominal salary per class they cover. Not able to live off an annual salary of €14,000 Euros, Madden kept his day job delivering cakes.
“I’d come to the gym in the mornings and work with Michael (Price) at 6 a.m. Then I’d drive around in a van delivering shit cakes for a while, and then I’d come back in the evening to coach again,” Madden said. “So my day would start at half five in the morning and go until half five at night.”
Although he put in long days and was humbly compensated for his efforts, something told Madden to keep going, to stick with it. He was learning so much about fitness and coaching every day, and the more he learned as a coach, the more he realized he still had to learn about coaching.
“I was just really in to CrossFit, to be honest. Those first few months, it was all I wanted to do. At the time, it was a bullshit way to live, but I still really looked forward to going to the gym. It was probably the best part of my day, in a lot of ways, so it was never torture to me,” he added.
While it wasn’t torture, the challenge of figuring out how to coach, how to bring people in and sell them on CrossFit, how to handle long days, and how to live frugally tested his character over and over.
“I had to move home with my parents at one point. I was 29 years old, and my parents were like, ‘Fuck off.’ They probably thought I was this degenerate. They were like, ‘What are you doing? You’re not working so you can lift weights?’” said Madden, laughing at the memory.
And he admits there were times where he thought he should throw in the towel.
“One winter was particularly shit and the temperature was going into the minus degrees, and the gym is a big shed. I was doing the morning class at the time, getting paid €15 to be there. I thought I might crack, yes. But I couldn’t go back to my old life,” he said.
One of the reasons Madden kept going was that he knew things would only get better.
“I remember telling myself, ‘If I’m doing these kind of hours and not hating it, imagine if I could eventually do this for five hours a day?’” he said.
Three years later, that’s exactly what Madden is doing.
Today, Madden looks back and understands the method to the madness of being put through the ringer as an apprentice.
“Michael is very critical, and there was a reason he didn’t let me coach on my own sooner,” Madden said. “For six months or so, I was incredibly broke, but at no point did Michael stray from his standards and let me coach just because I needed money.”
Madden continued: “He needed to know that he could trust me, that when he left the gym floor there was no difference between he and I. He needed to know people took me seriously as a coach.”
The other component of the apprentice program was the mental challenge that helped make Madden stronger.
“It’s the making of you. That’s part of it: it’s good to put people through the ringer to see if they’ll make it. If someone is weak enough to crack and they can’t find their way through that level of adversity, then Michael needs to know that. Michael’s a big believer in mental strength in his coaches,” Madden said.
This mental strength Madden developed as an apprentice helps his coaching today. “Working five hours a day feels like I’m not even working,” he said. “I have so much more energy for my clients, and my classes are so much better now.”
He added: “I come in in the mornings, I turn the key, and I coach. It’s not stressful.”
The Financial Details: Why the System Works for Madden
A huge reason why the apprentice program worked for Madden is because Madden believed in the concepts behind the system.
“Michael always told me that I’d have to put in a lot of hours at the start and get jack shit for it but that the long-term rewards could be great,” Madden said. “The other option was to pay me €20 an hour, but that’s all I’d get for the rest of the time I was there.”
Once it was explained to him that way, Madden did the math.
Hypothetically, if he had 40 clients paying €175 a month for classes, and Madden made 50 per cent of that revenue, he’d made €3,500 a month before he even brought in any new personal-training clients. For that €3,500, Madden would be responsible to coach eight classes per week and maintain his clients by keeping them happy and fit. And, if he brought in new clients each month for fundamentals or personal training at €75 an hour, he’d make a percentage of that revenue, as well.
This would lead to a system where Madden could easily make €5,000 a month working a reasonable 25 hours per week.
In Madden’s mind, this seemed like a better option than working 40-plus coaching hours each week at €25 or €30 an hour.
Fast-forward to the present day: Madden has 36 clients who attend group classes, as well as a mother’s class he coaches each week. On top of this, he has new personal-training clients each month. He makes anywhere from €4,000 to €5,000 (US$5,000-$6,000) each month working a very manageable 25 hours per week.
Madden loves what he does; he isn’t burnt out, and he feels connected to the other coaches he works with as well as his place of work.
“Our system means that everyone is more responsible because they actually care about the business, and I think this is invaluable,” Madden said. Proof of this is the fact that Price took off for two or three months this past summer, and even though the owner was gone, the gym looked the same when Price returned.
“I’m not saying we didn’t miss him. But when things broke, they got fixed. And if I were making €20 an hour, I wouldn’t care if things were broken,” Madden said.
He added: “If I were making €20 an hour, I wouldn’t still be here.”