Coaching the Athlete Who is Nervous About a Workout

By February 13, 2019Box Development

First up in our six-part series, we’ll look at an athlete who is nervous about doing a workout or a specific movement.

As a starting point, it's important to understand where an athlete is coming from in any situation.

Athletes who get the nervous bug in a class can:
  • Tend to like following rules and fear situations where they might not be following the rules or structure of a given workout
  • Often be nervous about finishing last
  • Be hesitant to ask questions
  • Have been a member for five years and still display daily nervous episodes surrounding the workout!
  • Tend to underestimate their abilities

As a coach, I want to preempt nervous tendencies to help the athlete make the best decisions for them for the day and long term. There are a number of ways to do this including:

  • Asking the athlete how they’re feeling about a specific movement
  • Encouraging the athlete to try something new or challenging
  • Understanding the athlete’s hesitations
  • Using past workout scores and information to help reinforce to the athlete that they’re making a good choice

Below, we'll examine a scenario and breakdown the interaction. 

 

Scenario

The workout is a triplet that involves box jumps, running and kettlebell swings. The athlete has a known history of being nervous about box jumps. During the box jump portion of the class warm-up, the coach notices the athlete is hesitant to jump on a 12” box. Before making an attempt, the athlete looks around the room to make sure no one is looking at them before they jump. The coach notices the athlete’s hesitation but also notes that the athlete is more than able to jump on the 12” box.

In this instance, the coach can go and address the athlete’s fears head-on with a friendly question to begin the conversation with the athlete.

Coach: How are you feeling about the box jumps?

Athlete: I think I’m going to do a smaller height jump, maybe 8 inches.

At this moment it would be easy for the coach to say, “OK” and move on to the next athlete - but remember that the coach already noted that the athlete is more than able to jump on the 12” box. The job of the coach now becomes convincing the athlete they should stick with the 8” box. This is when remembering the typical fears of the nervous athlete can come in handy.

At this moment it would be easy for the coach to say, “OK” and move on to the next athlete - but remember that the coach already noted that the athlete is more than able to jump on the 12” box.

The job of the coach now becomes convincing the athlete they should stick with the 8” box. This is when remembering the typical fears of the nervous athlete can come in handy.

Coach: I know you’re more than capable of doing the 12” box jump, I just saw you do it and I know that is the right height for you.

Athlete: I don’t know, I think I would be so slow.

Translation: I’m nervous about finishing last.

Coach: I’m confident you won’t be last, and I’ll keep an eye on you in the workout. If things don’t go as planned, we can chat.

Athlete: Yea, but I just don’t think I can do it for 4 whole rounds.

Translation: Underestimating abilities.

Coach: Well, let’s see, 4 rounds at 15 reps each is 60 box jumps total. I know you’ve done workouts in the past with 60 box jumps and you did great. This workout is set-up a little different but the reps are the same. You go this.

Athlete: Ok, I’ll try it.

Once the workout is complete, the final step is for the coach to close the loop and let the athlete know that they did a good job. This helps to reinforce the decision that was made that yielded a good outcome. This can be done in person or on SugarWOD, or both.

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