What Makes the Best CrossFit Athlete?
What really makes the best CrossFit athlete? Is it the fastest, strongest, or most disciplined? The person who has the most dialed in nutrition, or always has the best times? When asked this question, CrossFit Fargo coaches weren't looking to the whiteboard for answers.
Your coaches don't think you need to be the fittest to be the best.
When asked the question CrossFit Fargo athlete and coach for our Summer Strength and Conditioning Camp Nathan Kleppe responded, "All of the things that come to mind when thinking about the best athlete have nothing to do with being athletic. Qualities such as being coachable/teachable to learning something new, humble enough to realize and admit that you need to work on something, and then being willing to work hard to accomplish your goals are all great qualities in a good athlete (and person!). Attitude is everything. Optimism and joyfulness are contagious, so let it spread!"
Many of our coaches echo Kleppe's thinking. Owner and regional athlete Jessica Grondahl, and morning coach Brandon Schlenner both explicitly used the word: coachable.
Coach Derek Thorstenson implies that same thinking, but takes another angle. "In my mind I would have to say the best athlete to coach is one who is willing to leave their ego at the door. The best athlete to coach is someone who is willing to listen to their body and scale when appropriate. It's easy to try to chase times or scores on the board but the best athlete knows when it is time to dial it back and work on technique or slow down to get the movement correct. [The best athlete will understand I am working to make them better when I suggest] to take it easy on the weight and focus on doing the movement properly." Thorstenson also indicates the importance of balance between being humble and showing boldness when he adds, "In addition to teaching those techniques it is our jobs as coaches to push athletes. For some who do not trust their own abilities they are reluctant to push as hard as a coach is asking from them. Athletes who sell themselves short need to trust that the coach has their best interests at heart when they tell them they can lift more or go faster. I know new movements or advancing techniques can seem scary to some athletes but trusting that a coach isn't going to do anything that will put an athlete in danger is extremely important."
His last comment is on willingness to learn and try new things. "Some of the movements and exercises we do can seem a little different for new people and I just want them to try new things. Pushing past one's perceived boundaries is the only way to truly get better at anything and should be how people do everything in their lives."
CrossFit Fargo coach and manager Katie Larson agrees with this thinking. "The best athletes are the ones who are trying," says Larson. "I recognize trying can be vulnerable. It can be scary to try something you might not be able to do. I remember being afraid while learning to snatch with a trainer bar. I know the embarrassing feeling of not wanting to do something wrong when you are brand new. It is not until an athlete is willing to try, that I am able to see where they are and then how I can help them. Others here are looking to help and not harm you. When you are telling yourself in your mind you can't do something, choose to listen to your coach instead. Especially when they ask, "Will you show me?"
Another skill of the best CrossFit athlete highlighted by Boot Camp and CrossFit Kids coach Lindsay Vettleson is encouraging others. Weightlifting Coach Thuy Le says, "I love having athletes who are encouraging of their fellow athletes. Especially in the middle of the suck. Or in the end, [rallying around others] for that final rep."
Grondahl gives us a specific list that describes the best athlete (or that gives the rest of us ideas of where we can be working on our technique):
1. Coachable. They follow my directions and trust my judgement.
2. They communicate their needs with me.
3. They work through discomfort but not pain.
4. They show up early to stretch or do skill work.
5. They are friendly and encouraging to other athletes.
6. They track their results and know their benchmarks.
7. They get proper rest and nutrition outside the gym.
8. They leave the gym better than they found it.
9. They give music suggestions :)
Bonus points for: smiling!
In conclusion, you don't need to be able to walk on your hands, do a muscle up, or back squat 500# to be the best athlete here. Working toward those things may help, but it is in the working we see you as the best.