I Make Mistakes So You Don’t Have To: 2014 Edition

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Last year I wrote a three part series titled A System For Developing Competitive CrossFitters The final installment was written post 2013 Regionals, and was a reflection on the things I thought I could have done better in preparing my athletes for competition, and how I planned to improve upon them going forward, in hopes of helping others avoid my mistakes.

This year is no different. Like last season, I believe my athletes were better prepared for competition than they were previously. Like last season, I implemented changes and had positive results.

And like season, there are things I could have done better. In the pursuit of better CrossFit athletes being produced everywhere, here they are.

Play Your Game

Going in on game day, all of my athletes had a strategy. They knew how to approach each event, the individual components of each event, and how to adjust when, inevitably, things didn’t go according to plan.

Their role in this process was played well. Mine was not.

In the future, I need to do a better job of instilling in my athletes the importance of playing their own game and not someone else’s. This means looking at the clock and not the athlete in the lane next to you. It means keeping composure when things don’t go as intended, and also sticking to the plan even when the plan feels easy.

Moving forward, I’ll ensure that my athletes not only have a game plan, but understand the importance of sticking to it.

Consistency Over Victory 

I bet you love “Candy Crush,” don’t you? I bet you’ve sent me three hundred damn invites on Facebook already.

You love it because it’s a low cost way to experience the thrill of victory. Which I understand, because winning is awesome. Even winning small things. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get so caught up in winning small things that it distracts us from winning big things.

Taking first in a single event is cool, but even taking first in multiple events simply isn’t enough to make up for glaring weaknesses.

In application, this is about mindset more than it is about training. I feel that I prepared my athletes well physically even for their worst events. But I failed to encourage them to focus on the overarching plan and the importance of consistency in determining the final standings. Because of this, their performances in their strong perhaps carried their emotions a little too high, and their performances in their weaker events, a little too low.

In the coming season, I will strive to cultivate an outlook which values consistency above all else – after all, that’s what this sport is all about.

Lift Light Shit 

I like heavy weights. You like heavy weights. We all like heavy weights because heavy weights are cool and lifting like weights for sets of 3000000000 is not cool.

But you know what? Athletes at the 2014 Regionals are having to do 100 deadlifts with 180#/120#, and the best way to prepare to lift those kinds of weights is to lift those kinds of weights. No matter how much some people want you to believe that strength endurance is a direct corollary of maximal strength, it absolutely is not – it is it’s own quality and should be trained specifically.

In the 2014 season, I improved on the organization with which I approached monomodal aerobic training – running, rowing, biking, and the like. Moving into 2015, I intend to apply similar principles to my programming for multimodal aerobic pieces, to ensure that my athletes are exposed to the wide variety not only of movements, but loads and rep ranges that they are likely to encounter in competition.

Seek Specialists

If there’s one thing preparing athletes for the handstand walk taught me, it is this: I am not a gymnastics coach.

Sure, I can get an athlete a little better at handstand walking – mostly by making them do it every day. But somewhere amid the scrambling for cues and ideas, between the YouTube videos and articles, I realized that I would just be better off calling in an expert.

I’m very lucky to know some people who know far more about gymnastics, and other independent aspects of training for competitive CrossFit, than I do. This year, they’ll be helping me write the TZ Strength program, as well as consulting for individual athletes with weaknesses in their areas of expertise. 

Plan For The Worst

I am an eternal optimist. In the grand scheme of things, I think this is a good thing. I’m able to keep a cool head and a positive outlook under adverse circumstances, and this seems to help my athletes do the same.

However, this optimism can be a problem when it comes to setting game day expectations for my athletes. For some reason, I tend to believe they’re going to match or beat their best gym performances. While that does happen, it’s foolish to plan for it, and had I thought more deeply and clearly about it, I would have realized that. Thinking this way can set an athlete up for failure by creating a negative mindset if they are unable to meet those numbers.

From now on, I will treat my CrossFit athlete’s performances in competition events the same way I treat my weightlifters best snatch and clean & jerk: going into competition, we’ll improve upon those performances if possible, but we’ll expect to be slightly under them.

Until the 2015 edition – onward to victory.



Jacob Tsypkin is the head coach and owner of CrossFit Monterey. Has assisted in the development of numerous Regional level CrossFit Games athletes, including sending a team and three individuals to the very tough NorCal Regional Qualifier in 2013. Jacob has also coached multiple national level weightlifters and powerlifters. This year he hopes to have athletes claim spots at the CrossFit Games and on the podium at USAW National Championships. Jacob posts programming for competitive CrossFit athletes on his website, TZ He also offers remote coaching and programming services, program and weightlifting technique consultations, and seminars through the site.

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