It’s hard to describe to Noah. Spending two weeks in training camp with him leading into the Games was interesting. I usually try to observe, evaluate, and understand people, but during the entire year, trying to get to know him, to prep him for his moment, I still don’t think I got a ‘feel’ for his personality. But, I do know that he dramatically changed my perspective of life. I have a lot of love, respect, and admiration for him and I’m excited about his future as an athlete. Some of the lessons I’ve learned from him this year are as follows:
1 - New relationships always seem to teach more profoundly, whereas old relationships are stronger, more stable, and subtler. Where Travis challenges me to think about old problems in new ways, Noah has challenged me to think about new problems. He’s helped exposed me to a completely different type of human body, challenged me to reflect upon the definition of “alpha male,” challenged my concept of western masculinity, questioned my constant willingness to speak my mind, and in general reminded me of the optimistic possibilities of life. Noah is a person who constantly cultivates happiness, and tries to see the good in things and people. That is a stark contrast to my skeptical nature, and he made me realize how much of my own misery I create with my patterns of thinking. He has been a powerful inspiration for a much needed change in my way of existing.
2- High-level athletes do not have to be completely self-involved. I’ve heard many people say things like “athletes have to be selfish to be great” and I always took that as a matter of fact. As a coach, it made me think that I had to help my athletes cultivate a selfish mind-state. But, I think that might be a short-lived motivational source, because we must do things together in life if we hope to have longevity. In my own training, instead of thinking about my ‘suffering,’ I’ve learned to think about others to help push me further than I want to go. I came off the floor after the second to last workout having watched what must have been a horrible experience, and he was genuinely worried about my feelings. He was scared that I would have lost belief in him. He wonders how Joann feels about him, or what his fans and supporters feel. His outward focus is so very opposite of my inward nature. From observing him in competitions and workouts, I’ve began conditioning myself to focus on how other people will perceive my reaction to the pain, how I could inspire people to work hard in the face of adversity, and what my actions represent as a leader in the company. This has helped revitalize my own training and helped me stop focusing on my own pain or suffering. It is a pleasure to coach an athlete who is focused on more than just his feelings, his money, his career, and who has a self-concept that includes bettering the lives of the people he loves. I think if he accomplishes what I think he can accomplish many people will love to support his career and be loyal fans of his journey.
3 - Athletes and coaches can be very different and still find synergy. Noah and I come from very different pasts. We think very differently, we have very different bodies, we have very different attitudes, and somehow we have a very solid relationship. While we still haven’t even had a year to grow together, we have developed better communication, a strong bond, and have had a successful year of growth. I am looking forward to continuing to build our relationship and friendship as he quests to win the Games. While I don’t think it’s possible for me to ever end up as nice as him, I hope we can continue to build a bond despite our differences.
4 - He has the capacity to compete with Mat Fraser. People may call me crazy, even he might not believe that, but I do. I’ve been around sports enough to know that everyone has their time and anything can happen. “Confidence” is transient, people can get injured, people can stop progressing, people’s hormones can stop keeping up with their training, people lose their motivation, it can be tough to continue to suffer when you get fame, money, and wins. They say it’s easier to get to the top than it is to stay on top. So, I do intend on helping both Noah and Travis (and the rest of my elite males) try to put pressure on him. He is an awesome adversary and I have a ton of respect for him, but as Sun Tzu has said:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. “
I know right now that he has no holes that have been tested. I know that he has an extremely competitive mindset from start to finish. I know he has a long sporting background and a knowledgeable approach to peaking at the right time. I know his success has given him privilege to almost any coach he wants to talk to in the world. I know that he has a strong ability to psychologically intimidate his competition because he is an intelligent man. But, I also know that he is human and I know my athletes. I am confident with another year of structured and regimented training we can eliminate the weak areas, and I am excited to watch him strive to be the best he can on game day. Only the future will tell if I am right or I am a mad man. But all journeys of greatness start with a self-belief that is unshakeable, and it’s my goal to help him build that, just like it is my goal with Travis and every other athlete I coach.
5 - “Play” is a valuable aspect of longevity. So much of what Noah does on a day to day basis is fun so it likely won’t burn him out as much as others who are constantly in “work mode.” I have read a fair number of books on the value of play, and about play psychology and how that translates into faster motor learning, better emotional states, and stronger communities. I think Noah was the first person who actually gave me a model for learning how to play in an environment of work, and I hope to spend a lot more time using him to help influence the TTT training environment.
6 - Privilege must be earned. Noah has earned a huge social media following. That came from a lot of work and success. He has won Wodapalooza multiple times, won regionals multiple times, won the Dubai Fitness Championships, won the Open, but having a following in person at the Games is going to require more work, and must be earned. Having people willing to scream for you at the Games requires you to be in contention for an event or overall. While the CF fans definitely do cheer on people when they are finishing up in the back, the ROAR for people in the front and the winners shakes the coliseum. If he wants that to help fuel his performance he needs to step out on that floor and earn that right, and I’m excited to help him earn that.
7- For the arm chair quarterbacks/commentators who point out Noah’s ‘mistakes’ for ‘losing his chance at the podium,’ because of ‘bad pacing’ or ‘inability to control his emotions’ here is how we look at it and him ‘EARNING fifth place’ and having his best year at the CrossFit Games.
Statistically here is what we accomplished from last year with a great year of training that worked around changing an entire training structure, a minor elbow injury at Wodapalooza, overcoming a previous years hamstring issue, a couple little low back tweaks, and a very untimely pec tear.
2016 overall placing – 15
2017 overall placing – 5
2016 top 5’s – 2
2017 top 5’s – 5
2016 top 10’s – 4
2017 top 10’s – 8
2016 scores in the 30’s – 4
2017 scores in the 30’s – 1
2016 longer continuous run score– 32nd + Swim score – 8th (average 20th place)
2017 run/swim/run score – 8th
2016 heavy clean capacity workout – 33rd place (failed the 325 bar to finish)
2017 heavy clean capacity workout – 14th (cleaned the 350 bar twice to finish)
2016 – Noah’s ‘every day’ snatch weight was 255# and had inconsistent misses at 265 in training when starting in September of 2016
2017 – in the open – 265# x3 with no misses to finish 19th overall in the world in 17.3. In the games made both crisp lifts ending at 273 under pressure. In hindsight too conservative of weight selection and had more in the tank with potentially ability to get into the top 10 cut.
2016 – 10th fittest US athlete at the Games
2017 – 2nd fittest US athlete at the Games
So, Noah had his best year at the CrossFit Games and made statistical progress on everything he worked on (running, clean capacity work, snatch consistency, strongman/odd implement work, short high power tests, etc). Any athlete in the Games who has been there multiple times, or reputable coaches who have actually worked with multiple athletes over multiple years at that level would say that this is a phenomenal year of growth.
No one knows what the future will hold, but I can tell you my aim will be to make progress statistically against the field, and have him make his fans proud to have supported him.
Part 3- Noah at the games (you're here now)