With the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games behind us and having taken some time off to relax, reflect and recharge I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on the athletes I coached. I will only go over the CrossFit Games since it is so fresh, but it is important to understand that prior to the Games there were many fantastic situations which I will try to highlight as soon as I can.
First and foremost, I cannot begin to express how proud I am of Laura, Pat, Carol-Ann, Willy Mike and Michael. They all gave their best effort and stayed mentally focused throughout the competition. Their results were amazing but what I am most impressed with is that they all stayed level headed regardless of their circumstances. They all had ups and downs, especially Carol-Ann and Pat, but they kept fighting and always looked ahead. Talk about the athlete’s mindset in our sport these days is all the rage and, in my opinion, this small group of ours were shining examples of what mental fortitude really is. They demonstrated mental fortitude not by talking about opportunities in failure or by pretending that they were ok with a poor performance but by acknowledging that things weren’t ok when they truly weren’t and yet kept moving forward with the same intent as the beginning of the competition.
Here are some specific examples of what I am talking about:
- When Pat crashed and his chain broke off in the Crit event, he immediately reacted by running with his bike toward a help station. He got a new bike and kept his gaze forward, looking for athletes to catch up to. He even teamed up with the competitor he crashed with in order to push forward. Following this event, Pat was probably more upset then he lead on and told me he will have to make up for it for the rest of the day. He was extremely annoyed by the situation and could have stayed that way the entire day but he chose to look at what was ahead. Although there are many other situations that happened to Pat throughout the week this one was particularly frustrating for him because he has a bad habit of starting off slow usually with a swim event. This event was one he felt that he could place top ten in and instead he ended up with another bottom finish for a third year in a row. This alone could be enough to discourage many athletes but Pat’s resiliency and focus kept him in the game and then some.
- Willy was exceeding his expectations the entire week and on the last day he was faced with an obstacle course HS walk that he knew would be very bad for him. Not only did he face a poor placing in the event but he also faced elimination. This situation is particularly difficult because athletes can easily think of the final results instead of the event itself. What I was proud of him for was that he simply said to me that he just needed to get over the 2 first obstacles and he could live to fight for another event. That was the right thing to think about; forgetting the results and focusing on the task. For a rookie to think this way makes me happy.
- Carol-Ann came into the games with a painful injury in her elbow and was having difficulty gripping simple objects. Every event she went in testing things out and always felt ok to compete. Her biggest upset from the weekend though (from my perspective) was the two couplets on the Saturday evening. She ripped on her very first set of bar muscle ups. She kept moving and after the event she did not hide her disappointment but with her humor and experience she made a quick joke and push hard for all the following events.
- Laura wore the Leader’s jersey for the first two days of competition. Although she had a very smooth Games, she had a disappointing finish in the Clean and Jerk speed ladder. We knew she wasn’t the fasted mover but even I was surprised when she wasn’t int he top 20 (21st….). After this event Laura told me that she thought she was good at lifting weights. My response was simply, you are but you’re just not fast enough yet. After reminding her that it was one event of many, that was that. She thought about it, was upset about it and was clearly over it as soon as the next event was announced. A true competitor’s mind. I know this sounds kind of funny but it is important that she had some hardship in her first Games. Without a low somewhere there isn’t a sense of achievement not to say she wouldn’t have felt achievement but it is most important for her career in the long-term.
- Mike Eberts, Masters 40-44 had a really tough prep for the Games. He came into the competition with the simple goal of « hanging » with the boys even though I know that anyone who competes has the goal of being at the top, it is only natural. He had a really poor start ranked second to last on the first day and could have thrown in the towel. He kept focus on every event though and wanted to do his best. He climbed his way back into the top 10 by the last day. Patience is a virtue they say and hopefully anyone following Mike sees that for what it is. Mike had a rough start and was patient enough to fight through to the last event.
- Michael Lariviere had the same kind of competition beginning as Mike. Although his ranking didn’t pull up as high as he would have liked, he gave every event his best effort even after a devastating swim event. He loved every workout and his optimism was what kept him in the game. Optimism in his situation takes a lot of guts because if I had been in his shoes, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there. When I was talking to him he just kept telling me, very confidently that it is simply learning experiences for next year. What an experience!
All of these situations show an athlete’s mental adaptability. This is what these Games have been about: Adaptability. Mental toughness comes from this. It is less intense than you might think. The best athletes are those that keep their intense feelings outside of the competition floor. Those who look at the Competition as a puzzle and not a series of individual tests. When you go through an event that doesn’t go your way and you see it as a piece of a puzzle, you use it to adapt and adjust and move on to the next piece. If you go through an event that doesn’t go your way and see it as an individual test, then you may perceive your performance as failure rather than a simple setback. The athletes who come out on top and are satisfied with their results are those who have identified that each individual event is a piece of the puzzle that they need to set up as best they can to create their bigger picture.
— Michele Letendre