Reflections: 2014 Southeast Regionals by max el-hag

I have so much to say about the CrossFit Games Southeast regional this past weekend. These weekends really confirm to me that I made the right decision to focus my time on others and it is always rewarding in the end of the day no matter what the outcome. I want to say a lot and I tend to be verbose when I write, but I’ll do my best to keep it as short as possible.

I would like to thank a bunch of people that didn’t really have direct involvement with the regional, but have helped to create a platform for me to be able to travel to coach some of my higher level athletes in person. My business manager John Maloney, who has allowed me to spend all of my time coaching and keeps my life organized enough to survive. My ex-athlete and new business partner Colin Jenkins for being the brains behind AthleteWOD. He has created a great website and visible platform that has forced me to step out of my meat-head/nerd reclusive ways. I am grateful for this as it has added a lot to the network of people who I now know. As well I would like to recognize all of my clients who did not compete this weekend. It’s often assumed by those clients that I spend more time focusing on the elite athletes I coach. The less athletically gifted whom I coach are just as, if not more, valuable to me and provide me with so many laughs, struggles, frustrations, challenges, etc and offered me a tremendous amount of text/email/verbal support during the stressful regionals. As well, many of the training protocols that I successfully use on the elite, were actually created in my struggles to improve people that have less genetic potentially and required more creativity to move forward. I would also like to thank the entire rest of the TTT coaching/athlete family as well. Wendy Shafranski, Tyler Hopta and Mathew Macdonald for giving Kyle Ruth, my head coach, an opportunity to put to use his incredible training IQ to work with high level athletes and representing the TTT family with class. Adam Rogers and Nick Fowler for coming on board and being patient as we begin to build our reputation together as a cohesive coaching unit. And all the other coaches that have requested to take part in my mentorship network or whom I have contacted. As things continue to develop I will never forget/give back to all the people who have helped my dreams come into reality. Thank you all very much.

I would like to also congratulate all the athletes who I have no involvement with as a coach but who qualified and also those whose years did not conclude the way they had envisioned them playing out. Specifically Talayna Fortunato, Emily Bridgers, Lauren Brooks, Jeff Evans, and Noah Ohlsen for their places on the podium. Prepare well and represent yourself with class in California. A couple other athletes specifically in the Southeast that I wanted to give a shout out. Perhaps they didn’t perform to their own abilities/desires but I still was honored to watch their character shine through in a time of frustration. Julian Serna, thanks for making me laugh every time I see you. If it weren’t for a non-compliant lower back, the leaderboard may have looked a bit different at the end of the weekend. He still finished strong and displayed class and an understanding that life’s journey is much more than the place on the podium. Dominic Maurici for showing character and continuing to grind out in the weekend in spite of a tough second workout. Daniel Petro, who I just met for the first time this weekend, for getting a subset of workouts that didn’t really display his talent, but still performing well and putting a huge explanation point on the last workout of the weekend. Elijah Mohammad, who I don’t know at all personally, but who displayed a great amount of athleticism/character/will and I’m sure will be a contender for years to come. Hudson Fricke for performing well all weekend and letting me know that he watches the athleteWOD content and allowing me to pick his brain about his training protocols. I probably could list out 50 more names of people who I watched to try to figure out how to improve warm up protocols, fueling, movement, etc and thank them for the opportunity to observe them in their element. But, I need to address the people who specifically hire me to help them fulfill their goals.

My personal athletes…

First, Kyle Spears. Kyle qualified as an individual for the North Central regional but decided to be a part of a team this year due to the stressful nature of his school/work schedule and for the opportunity to make it to Carson. Kyle is young, talented, extremely hard working, and has an enormous amount of long term potential. I am looking forward to getting to see him as part of the team get after it in California and represent TTT. I wish I could duplicate myself and had been present to support him in his quest, but unfortunately the way the cards played out, Southeast was a better region for me to attend so I am sorry that I wasn’t able to witness it in person.

Second, Jason O'Bannon. I took Jason on in the latter part of last year. After going through testing and seeing where his numbers sat relative to the field and where he finished last year, we set a plan in place for the regionals in 2015. We primarily worked on fixing some structural issues, improving his strength, putting some body weight on, and ensuring that he was healthy. As the beginning of the year approached, I began adding in more open specific preparation because I didn't want him doing the open this year without any specific prep work. My plan for the open as a coach was to learn how he competes, whether or not he should be an athlete who repeats workouts, how he performs under pressure, what limitations were exposed in the tests, etc. To my surprise, week in and week out his second attempt of each workout CRUSHED his first attempt. I am very rarely surprised by an athlete’s performance on competition day. But, I have to say that he humbled me and I was so proud to watch him perform to his absolute potential on every workout. Jason qualified in the second to last spot (prior to the second wave of invites) and performed very well. There were definitely things for us to work on as coach/athlete in the next training year, but that is exactly what we were looking for and now we will have a blueprint for his development next year. His warm ups were great, mind state, execution was excellent on most workouts, fueling was great, and the community of people at CrossFit Kings Point was amazing. Thank you all for supporting him and making me remember that I don't really do this for winning. I am reminded every big competition day how important the people in your life who care about you as a human being, which extends far longer and deeper than the material wins/losses.

Third, Guido Trinidad. I really can't say enough good things about Guido. I actually competed against Guido in the 2010 sectionals and 2011 regionals years back. I had known exactly who he was and exactly what I thought his limitations were as an athlete when he first approached me last year. During the course of our relationship together, I have learned so much that your perception of a person without knowing them can never illustrate the complexity or goodness of their true character. Guido wears many hats in his life; father, event coordinator, business owner, husband, athlete, role model, mentor (happens to also have been southeast champ Noah Ohlsen’s first coach, friend, training partner, etc). Despite a million different variables that could have influence Guido falling just short of qualifying (injury, age, cramping, couple seconds on certain workouts), he performed like a champion. He is always supportive of other athletes, always cognizant of what it is he needs to accomplish, and always honest with himself and what it is he needed to get done. Watching Guido was bitter sweet for me. I know that we made some tremendous progress in the off season, improved some major holes in his training, but as a coach, I'm always wondering if I could have done more. I believe fully that if I'm willing to display things that I consider successes, I must also be vulnerable enough to accept the things I perceive I have failed at or could have potentially done better. Guido inspires me as a human being to be better and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to helping this 'old man' get another shot to represent himself as an individual at the games. While my mind carries some disappointment that he didn't get a qualifying bid, my heart knows that we did everything together as coach/athlete to make it work, and this year, unfortunately, that was not enough.

And last, but not least, Travis Mayer. It is hard for me to put into words what Travis means to me. He has turned into someone I consider a little brother to me. I feel it is my responsibility to give credit to him just as much as he has given to me. The reality of any coaching industry is that public perception is dictated very much by which coach a specific athlete ties their name. A significant portion of my coaching base is not comprised of high-level athletes. Many are regional athletes or hopefuls that most people don't know, as well as athlete in different sports, general health clients, or people who love CrossFit that compete but will NEVER make a regional competition. When I first took Travis on, he had never qualified for a regional and his numbers were average for the most part. I knew there were some scores he put up in testing that indicated to me that he physically could be really special in this sport. I told him in our first consult that he would make the games, which I think he thought was more ego stroking than reality. I think to some extent he still relies on my belief in him and questions how impressive he really is an athlete. Through the two years we have been together he has been the most diligent, hard working, coachable athlete I have ever encountered. He has done some things physically that make me shake my head and know that there is even more to come. He has given me exposure on a grander scale in the sport that I always want to ensure he knows that I am grateful for. As much as he thanks me for helping him live out his dreams, I am thankful for his talent/work ethic/willingness to thank ME which allow me to coach others and use my knowledge-base for good other than my own physical development. Watching his interactions with his family, his gym members, and his competitors, it's pretty clear that he is a special person. While he may not be a huge figure in the media, he is the epitome of a role model as an athlete I would select to represent things I believe are important. He is humble, grateful, extremely talented, receptive, kind, community focused, and pretty much any other positive adjective you could use to describe a human being apply to him. I am so confident in his talent and know that he is going to continue to set himself apart from the pack as he develops into his full potential as an athlete. While the workouts weren’t really suited for him and there were some mishaps during the 7 workouts, he remained strong till the end and ultimately secured his return trip to the CrossFit Games. I was so grateful to be able to make fun of him all weekend, joke, smile, laugh and remember that we were both there for reasons much more than just the pressure of competition. I am looking forward for another couple months of preparation before Cali and hopefully being a part of his athletic lifespan in the sport if he continues to grant me that honor. Thank you so much for being you Travis. The world will be a better place as your success continues to bring you in contact with more people.

Looking forward to the continuation of the season and what the future holds.

Max

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Max El-Hag
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