Co-Founder-Mobility Wod/The Ready State
As coaches, we occasionally encounter situations in
which our athletes face higher stakes than they’ve ever known
before. The prospect of vying for a gold medal can cause a lot
of anxiety for someone who’s never ventured beyond a
national competition (which might seem downright cozy in
comparison). When these moments present themselves, we
focus on keeping things small and personal. Here’s an
Two hours before the Women’s Olympic Rowing Final
in the 2008 Beijing Games, one of our athletes (we’ll call her
E.) was having a moment. Early in her rowing career, and
already a two-time National Champion, she’d worked her way
onto the Olympic boat by grit and tenacity, outworking and
outracing more seasoned athletes. She was the least
experienced woman in the group. In that moment, E. couldn’t
contextualize her freakish talent and work ethic (she would go
on to become one of the USA’s best rowers ever). So we made
the moment as granular and as mundane as possible.
We started by giving her competition a face. We had E.
identify the athlete who was rowing in the same position as she
was in the boat most likely to challenge them. That gave her a
personal anchor. She didn’t have to win a gold medal anymore;
she just had to out-row one other person. We took it a step
further. We asked E. to imagine a world in which that other
athlete had defeated her by investing more effort into the race.
We asked E. if she thought her competition had done a better
job of recovering, sleeping, and even eating than she had.
Earlier in training, we had developed a competition
strategy for E. when she had time trial testing on the erg.
Because she had such a freakish capacity to suffer when it
mattered, E. would set up her erg right next to her biggest
threat. There would always be a moment when the athlete next
to E. would break, and in that moment, E. would plan to
increase her pace, thereby proving that she hadn’t even
reached her max effort. It was a brutal tactic, but it had landed
her in the Olympic boat.
Now the moment had come, and E. needed a tactic to
calm her nerves. Once she’d identified the girl she was rowing
against, she “set up her erg” nearby. When confronted with the
actual person, her clothes, hair, and all the other details, E.
intense. The Olympics was now just about a competition
between two people, and E. wouldn’t be outworked by anyone.
They won by nearly open water.
How do you mentally prepare for your biggest moments
in competition. What have you found to be your most effective
What do your athletes require most in a coach when the
stakes of competition get super high? How can you meet those