Around the CrossFit world, you hear some version of this phrase fairly often:
“…where the loudest cheers are for the last to finish.”
I think this is a great sentiment, but sometimes I wonder if this mindset can be a little off the mark when it comes to encouraging new and struggling athletes.
Here’s an example…
Athlete A finishes “Murph” in 35:13, takes a few moments to catch his breath, and then proceeds to start encouraging other athletes. One by one they finish the workout…40:15, “Nice work!”…41:11, “Awesome!”…42:38, “Way to go!”
Athlete A then notices Athlete B. She’s fallen way behind…She has 5 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air-squats to finish before heading out on her 1 mile run. Her form is looking solid, but she just needs some rest between reps to knock out her remaining rounds.
Although Athlete A doesn’t know Athlete B very well, he begins to “encourage” her…
“C’mon Athlete B!!!…You’ve got this! …One more…nice!…Keep it up!…Knock ’em out…That’s right!…All the way up…There you go!…Push!…Yessss…Awesome!…3 more!…Keep it up…You can do it!…Knock these last 3 out….Push Push Push!…Yessss…c’mon, 2 more…Press through the floor…” etc…
Athlete A then proceeds to rally gym-mates to run WITH Athlete B to finish up the WOD, all the while “encouraging” her: “Nice job!…Doing good!…Breathe!…C’mon…You can make it!…Stop throwing up!…No walking!…You’ve got this!…Keep moving!…”
You get the picture. If you don’t like being cheered for, this scenario is a total nightmare, and FAR from encouraging.
At best, over-cheering is super-annoying to some people. At its worst, over-cheering puts people in a dangerous place by urging them to do reps with poor form.
On the other hand…
We also hear from people who claim that they “wouldn’t have made it” without the encouragement of others. They thrive on people urging them on. They want people to root for them loudly and often.
So where does this leave us?
I don’t have all the answers, but after a few years of dealing with many different personality types in our local box, I’d like to think that I’ve identified a few best practices to follow around struggling athletes.
1. Know your audience.
If you don’t know the person who is struggling , you don’t know how they’ll take all of the extra attention. Keep encouragement short and genuine.
After the workout is over, get to know them. If they say things like, “Oh my gosh, that was so embarrassing,” they’re probably the type of person who doesn’t enjoy an audience at the end of a hard WOD. If they say things like, “Thanks for the encouragement, that really kept me going…,” they’re probably the type of person you can cheer for!
2. Take your cheering cues from the coach.
Your coach probably has a better feel for personality types than you do. If you don’t know how someone will react to cheering, it’s a good idea to let the coach lead the encouragement, and then follow suit.
Sometimes a coach would rather see lower intensity with better form, so screaming at someone to pick up their barbell isn’t always the most helpful thing to do.
3. Keep your distance.
If you’ve decided not to cheer someone on, you should also give that person some room. The only thing worse than being dead last is being dead last right next to all the other athletes who have finished the WOD and are now laughing, stretching and drinking FitAid.
4. Hold off on packing up.
If at all possible, wait to pack up your barbell until everyone is done. It’s not a fun sight to see another athlete finish, recover, pack up, and say their goodbyes while you’re still choking back vomit. Don’t be late to work over it or anything, just be as courteous as you can by NOT driving home the point that everyone else has been done for quite some time.
5. Resist the urge to fix people.
Unless you’ve received proper training, and been asked to help coach, try to keep from putting in your two cents while someone is struggling to finish. If you have advice, it’s best to wait ’til after the workout, and say something like…”Ask coach about…”
Get to know people before becoming their biggest, loudest, most annoyingly encouraging fan. We all want to encourage people, but too much too soon can feel patronizing, and discouraging to someone who is struggling.
Also, If you’re on the other side of this equation, and you’ve been cheered for more loudly and more often than you’re comfortable with, please give your overly exuberant fans a bit of grace. 🙂 We really do just want to encourage you!