Competitive Coaching With Doug Chapman

March 23, 2012

Josh Bunch

CrossFit trainer Doug Chapman discusses coaching for athletes remotely and how to prioritize responsibilities.

Photo by: Kim Potterf

Photo by: Kim Potterf

Throughout his many years coaching CrossFit athletes, Doug Chapman has defined his coaching role splendidly. Well before the CrossFit Games was born, Chapman was creating systems at HyperFit USA/CrossFit Ann Arbor. Systems that today have lead many performers to the Games.


“Living in a college town sucks,” Chapman says after discussing CrossFit Games competitor Julie Focuher’s relocation.

Foucher, a CrossFit Ann Arbor athlete, moved from Michigan to Cleveland prior to the 2011 CrossFit Games to pursue medical school. While academic are Foucher’s priority, she is still dedicated to being a competitive athlete. Chapman and Foucher have found a way to balance her busy schedule with training – long distance.

For the better part of a year, Chapman has been training Foucher remotely. While the 2012 CrossFit Games rulebook puts no regulation on such coaching tactics it does make an interesting Open situation for the number one team in the 2011 Central East Regional. Simply put, Foucher is off the team.

While Chapman continues to remotely train Foucher, along with a host of other competing athletes and CrossFit affiliates, none of them may compete for CrossFit Ann Arbor. Chapman shrugs saying, ”Rules are rules. I’m just happy to watch CrossFit as a sport continue their quality control and make every year better than the last. That’s pretty impressive when you think about it.”

Chapman admits training remotely is a challenge. “Video is always after the fact. It’s not like I can give an immediate cue to a previously recorded clip,” Chapman says.

Even so, he says he feels confident that his refined coaching are well worth the extra time and effort. His athletes agree.


While Chapman busies himself coaching at his home and via the worldwide Web, he makes it a point to bring the talent to him as often as possible.

“Periodically, we host camps where we fly teams and athletes in from all over the world,” he says.

Regularly scheduled training camps are part of Chapman’s core coaching tactics. While he values his ability abroad, he admits, “There is nothing like eyes on coaching. Some athletes are missing that.”

Sometimes the camp lasts a weekend and sometimes they last a week. It really depends on the focus. Athletes generally perform a morning session consisting of conditioning or strength training, followed by time dedicated to technique. As a group, athletes watch video of the morning session before returning for an evening workout, dinner and more video.

“Imagine a total CrossFit immersion,” he says. “You eat, drink, sleep and train with athletes from all over. They make you better, and you make them better.”

Well-delivered CrossFit is all about well implemented coaching, Chapman explains. That’s the entire point of the camp – to create an atmosphere primed for intensity letting good coaches do what good coaches do – improve athletes.  

“A good camp is full of great athletes, and good coaches who don’t talk about how good they are, they prove it.”


As you would imagine, Chapman’s preparation for the Games season is intense on and off the workout floor.

Off-site athletes who cannot be on the CrossFit Ann Arbor team, receive weekly programming they are required to follow, no matter their responsibilities or obligations.

“Julie is super busy at med school, but somehow she manages to get her work done. That’s what fighters do,” he says. “I told her long ago, ‘If you can’t get it all in, do what you need the most.’ She has never disappointed.”

Each Wednesday, when the Open workouts are released, Chapman and the rest of CrossFit Ann Arbor are found eagerly awaiting their instructions together. Not only does Chapman make no attempt at “gaming” the Open, he also is adamant about a “one and done” approach. As he calls it, get the workout right the first time and there shouldn’t be a need for a second attempt.

Chapman makes no claim to Games fame. In fact, he is quite humble and says trial and error has been his best method for coaching. Through this, he says she does not define good coaching by the ability to show off naturally talented athletes. He shows the average CrossFitter instead. “If you take out the natural studs, and you’re still left with great athletes, that’s good coaching,” he says. “That is where you want to be.”

During the competitive season, Champan says he tells his athletes not to troll Facebook or read comments. “It’s just too much of a head game, reading that someone got one more rep than you did, or lifted five more pounds,” he says. “Let me handle that, you do the work.”

CrossFit is full of talent near and far. It’s no secret the best get better by looking toward others for education and motivation. Chapman uses the peer group he respects the most for his own quality control. “Define what good coaching is by experiencing it, then ask yourself, ‘Am I doing that?’”