Reflections: 2014 Mid Atlantic Regionals by max el-hag

I spent the third weekend of regionals at the Mid-Atlantic regional.

I was there to coach Kyle Ruth and John Zjvenieks. Kyle, as most people know, is my head coach at TTT. I respect him very much as an athlete, coach, and friend. This weekend’s theme for Kyle was execution. We had some critical errors and poor performances relative to his training trial runs (and some judging issues) on day 1 that caused us to be out of the hunt for a trip for California early in the weekend. It's amazing how dramatically a scoreboard can be changed by a couple execution errors in pacing, missing reps, a bad training day, etc. Still, he climbed back through the leaderboard with each workout and ended up in twelfth place overall. Character is not measured in placing, but I’m hoping a brief note can help to express how inspired I was by his ability to continue to fight. Many people, when their training year’s dreams come to an end, fold under the pressure. I saw many people give up, stop warming up, not pushing through pain, walking around with poor posture etc. Kyle didn’t do that. He continued to drive forward, kept a smile on his face, and worked intelligently and methodically through the weekend to leave it all out there. A champion's mind state is built over the course of a training life. It is very easy to practice giving up in the face of adversity, but Kyle never faltered under pressure or let the difficulty of the weekend effect him, which I was extremely proud to see happen. The nature of both of our characters is forward thinking. So, tomorrow, Kyle and I will sit down and game plan our next year. We will discuss whether or not our peaking structure left him less than optimal on game day. We will address new training priorities, experiment with new protocols, find out where/when he will compete next year and we will come back with a vengeance. The process of coaching is always an experiment and as a coach with all the effort I put in to ensure I am "better" than other coaches, there is no guarantee that I can provide better results than someone else. 'Failures’ can be dwelled upon or they can be a short-lived period of disappointment from which you can learn and forge a more resilient and powerful athlete. In this case, I believe Kyle will have a chip on his shoulder and prove he belongs with the best at regionals next year. This weekend did nothing but reaffirm that I made the right decision to have Kyle as one of my go-to coaches and strengthen my belief that he has what it takes to reach a very high level in this sport. I look forward to the next year and longer-term future with Kyle on board.

John continually flies under the radar. When the workouts were released, I knew that John would come back with a vengeance from a difficult regional weekend last year to turn some heads. At the conclusion of day one, John was in third place and went on to end the weekend in 9th place. It’s comical to me, though, that barely anyone (except the old timers of the mid-atlantic) knows who he is and he wasn’t interviewed all weekend. John has been doing this for a long time. He is very unlike most competitors I meet and interact. Even though he similarly seeks to continually improve his capacity, he is truly seeking to be the best version of himself. Many people say they are in it for the journey, but very few people actually live in accordance with and have actions that represent those words. He is an extremely genuine, introspective, and intelligent human being. He doesn't seem to be seeking media attention, fame, domination, self-approval, etc in the same way many athletes I know may be. It was a pleasure for me to spend some time with him and his inner circle to see him as a person more wholly. I’m sure, even this small note, will make him uncomfortable, but it feels necessary for me to express my gratitude for having the chance to spend some time with him. He is a great athlete and he performed very well throughout the weekend. I get the feeling many coaches would be disappointed to have watched one of their athlete’s games bid slip away after being in contention through much of the weekend. For me, it was not the slightest of disappointments. We have made so much physical progress and worked together on finding a balance in his life so that he can do what he loves and still be a competitor at a high level. This weekend was a tremendous success and I am glad to have been there to watch it.

- Max

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Max El-Hag
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