Mind of a Coach: Father, Coach, Scholar. Pt 1


The Press: Tell us about you, where are you from?

Josh Hunnicutt: From Louisiana, born and raised.

TP: What role did fitness play in your family or at school?

JH: None. Zero.

TP: So when did athletics become a thing for you?

JH: Never. Never played any sports. I played two years of pee-wee football in fifth grade. I was too late to be good. Everyone had been playing since they were 5, and I started when I was 10, so they had 5 years on me. I was the slowest and smallest kid on the team; I threw up almost every practice. They put me on Offensive line. They put me where they needed me least.

I grew up in total chaos; my family was a complete shitshow. Nothing got regular till about junior high. Then I started to get a little bit of structure in my family life. When I went to high school my mom told me I better get good grades because they weren’t going to be able to afford college if I didn’t. So I did. I was valedictorian, got a 31 on my ACT.

TP: What was the turning point?

JH: When I was in the fifth grade, at church, I had someone tell me that I “would be a general in athletics”. I thought that meant that I was going to be a baseball star in high school. That didn’t happen. But when I was 17 or 18, my senior year, I started working out with a “Muscle and Fitness” magazine, on my back porch. I tried to [work out] with a couple guys at first, but I was too embarrassed because the first time they put fives [on the bar] I couldn’t bench press it. 55 pounds. I was damn near a grown-ass man. Then they took it down to just the bar, 45 pounds, and I barely got it up. So I started working out, lifting, and I saw myself changing, getting better. And I noticed people noticing those changes. So from then on I never stopped.

So I worked out every year since my senior year of high school. For me it was just seeing how much I could change myself, and I wanted to give other people that power and help them feel that same way.

TP: OK, so you got really into working out. What point made the switch for you between just working out, and teaching others?

JH: It actually came really really quick. Once I started working out, I started reading every “Muscle and Fitness” I could get my hands on. I started studying for every personal training exam. I got my first personal training cert at 18, through ACE. And I was just training my friends. As far as developing myself as a coach, I tried to do it right. Instead of taking on clients immediately after getting my cert, I tried it out on all my friends and made all of my mistakes them. Not just programming mistakes, not just technique mistakes, but even emotional mistakes.

I remember one of my friends in college, Cory, was excited because he was kind of a shlub, but he started working out with me and his arms started getting bigger. I was nervous that he was getting too far ahead of himself, so I tried to reel him back in because I was worried he was under developing other areas, but that action ended up almost turning him away from the whole thing. It was kind of at that moment that I realized: people want to feel like a badass. And that’s as important to me as technique and everything else. You want people to realize their potential for greatness. Like immediately. That way they’ll actually work for it. It’s a reflection of what was around me. Louisiana had such a low ceiling for success. We had 50% poverty rate. Every time I would talk about an idea, especially after I started traveling and training for certs, people would say, “yeah that might work there, but I don’t think it’ll work here. Not here.”

That really fueled me to want to share this thing I found with everyone. I got my second cert, certified strength and conditioning, when I was 20. I actually wasn’t officially allowed to have the cert until I graduated. It was a degreed certification. But I wanted the best cert you could get. At the time, I didn’t even know personal training was a thing. But after getting all my certs I realized, “people get paid money to do this?” So I ditched my pre-dental major, and went over to kinesiology, with a minor in marketing. By the time I graduated, I was the fitness director at my local YMCA. At that point I taught anything they would let me. I taught cardio kickboxing, I taught cardio hip hop, I taught power bar, boot camps and people loved it just because of the energy I brought. I even got a spot on local TV where I would talk about what we had going on at the Y and give fitness tips.

Then I got certified with AFAA (American Fitness and Aerobics Association), and I was traveling all around the country teaching weekend certifications. Which was cool because I had never flown anywhere. That took me to almost every state in the US, maybe 40 or 42. In fact the first time I came to Detroit I said to myself, “I will never live in Detroit.” At this point I was looking to get out of Louisiana. I just knew the ceiling was too low. So on my second trip to Detroit I went to Oakland county and auburn hills and thought, “alright this could work.”

TP: So how did you get into crossfit?

JH: I think the site went live like 2005. When I first moved up here I spent a year at Bally’s. I met Tim, I met Amanda, and I met Graham. I started building connections with the most legit trainers in the area. I had always done really functional movement with my clients. Even back home in Louisiana, I’d run with them to the red river, pick up rocks, get them over our heads, and slam them back down. We’d run stadiums. Because we’re always known in the fitness community that truly high intensity works.

I had been at the YMCA for a little bit, and I had broken up my workouts into 3 categories: bodyweight, power lifting, and body building isolation. So I would rotate through each of these day by day. And my body changed really quickly.

I told Tim about my results and he started copying what I was doing and seeing the same results. In an effort to keep the variability up, I was searching online for any other resources or videos to add to my movement base, and that’s when I found Crossfit’s movements and demos page.

Right around then is when the movie 300 came out, and that’s when Glassman’s name really blew up. He was part of the team that helped do the programming for those guys. So men’s health did a spread on the 300 workout, and that was really the first “Crossfit-style” workout. It took us an hour then to do a wod we could do in 20 min now, but we fell in love with it. And then slowly started tricking our clients into doing it, and they loved it too.

Next Issue: we take a deeper look into what goes into crafting a wod, developing a gym wod plan, and running a box.