How ‘Losing Rank’ Builds Cohesiveness


When I was 19 years old, I attended an Army leadership school called Ranger School.  In it, you learn a little bit about small unit tactics and how to lead others, but you mostly learn how to persevere when you’re cold, tired, and hungry.  You learn a lot about working with people at their best as well as their worst, you learn a lot about yourself, and you mostly learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

One of the things that happens when you get to Ranger school is getting essentially stripped of your rank.  I don’t mean you permanently lose your rank for the rest of your military career, but while you’re a student you are not allowed to wear your rank and aren’t to be addressed by your rank by anyone—cadre or fellow students.  This is initially an interesting situation to find yourself in, being a 19 year old PFC and addressing a Major by his name devoid of rank.  It quickly becomes the norm, and is a very necessary step to take, as the graded leadership positions that inevitably dictate you passing or failing each phase of Ranger school rotate every day.  Some days, you’re in a leadership position, and other days you’re not.

Some students are going to be better leaders than others, which is the whole point of the school.  This rotating, graded leadership method eventually built up a pretty tight cohesive bond within your squad and platoon (or destroyed it altogether, depending on how well you all worked together!).  The good leaders also had to be good followers when they weren’t assigned a leadership position, and it was all about helping each other out regardless of whether or not you were being graded.  If you slacked off during someone else’s graded opportunity and caused the mission to fail, that person remembered you when it was your turn to be graded.  It’s all about cohesiveness and working together.  If you only cared about yourself, you found yourself in a position where you couldn’t count on anyone to have your back, and no mission is successful by yourself.

What I noticed after a few years of owning CrossFit Dubuque is that there is a very similar phenomenon here.  There are doctors, lawyers, students, teachers, laborers, etc. all training together as members of the same community.  Everyone is treated with respect fairly and nobody is above the constructive criticism that comes with being coached.  In fact, being coachable is absolutely imperative in order to succeed at CFD as well as in Ranger School, and not allowing yourself to be coached is literally the only limiting factor that will inhibit your development as an athlete.  There is no such thing as ‘hiding behind your rank’ within the walls of CFD, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  This concept absolutely applies to me as well—I think there is something to be learned from just about everyone, and it is this attitude that has built such a strong community here.

I always look forward to meeting new people come through the doors and try out what we have to offer here at CFD.  Thanks to all of you who have had a part in CFD growing to what it is and continuing to support our training together.  Here’s to many more years of being vulnerable both as a coach as well as an athlete, learning from our successes as well as our failures, and always being hungry!

RLTW <1>

—Coach Phil