Conversations You Need to be Having with Your Veteran Athletes

Conversations with Athletes.When a new athlete joins your Box, regardless if you have a foundations program or they are placed right into a class, most likely they get lots of initial attention. This is a good thing, as we know that technique supersedes everything else. Keeping an athlete safe in a movement pattern before adding intensity or weight is the recipe for providing the results they are looking for, as well as building a long term athlete that will stay at your Box.

During the initial few weeks, you as a Coach learn a lot about the athlete. You learn about what their goals are, what they do for a living, what their hobbies are and how they want to look. And of course, it is always to look better naked — 99 percent of the time at least.

But once they learn all the movements, learn the cool lingo and make friends that will last a lifetime, they get what seems to be less attention. A new athlete joins the Box, this new athlete gets all the initial attention to keep them safe and the “more experienced” athlete gets shuffled into the class.

It isn’t for a lack of passion that they get less of the attention and coaching from you; it is from the wave of newer athletes that in your mind need more attention. This is where as a Coach you have to learn to “reinvest” in the athlete that has been with you for a while. The best way to do this is to have a one-on-one revaluation meeting with them.

What topics need to be covered in this conversation?

  1. Goals: When an athlete first comes to your gym they may be only thinking about losing weight or just getting off some medication they are currently taking. Both are understandable goals when someone first starts, but as they accomplish those goals, they set their sights on new ones such as getting stronger or training for an event. It is important for them to establish these goals and for the coach to be aware of them to hold the athlete accountable.
  2. Nutrition: As goals change with health and fitness levels, so does the nutritional intake of the athlete. Dialing into the recovery process of an athlete needs to be in the forefront of the mind as the athlete becomes more experienced. Making necessary changes to their recovery will assist them in reaching their new goals. Getting lean should have been the first priority, then comes building muscle. An athlete’s nutrition plan should be reflective of the goals they are trying to accomplish.

Why are we having this conversation?

  1. The athlete has been coming a while and they are getting burned out on the daily grind. Training four to five days a week can become a daunting task if you don’t have something you are specifically training for. Discussing with the athlete that goals change over time will refocus their attention on something new and refreshing. We all have been at a point in our training when we ask ourselves why we are doing this. It’s time to re-evaluate and re-engage the athlete with a new purpose.
  2. We are in the relationship business. We create these Boxes for athletes to be healthy and fit, but in the end it is all about relationships. Having a connection between you and the athlete will create a level of trust that is undeniably the strongest of bonds. When the athlete knows you care enough to reach out to them on an individual level, even after they have been coming for years, they know your truly care.

We all started a Box or started coaching with the desire to make a difference in people’s lives and in our community as a whole. This doesn’t change over time, but it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. That is why it needs to be reinforced daily as our Boxes grow to make sure we don’t lose sight of the reasons we started in the first place.

Steve Owens is the co-founder and vice president of Crossfit Knoxville which opened its doors in 2008 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Prior to Crossfit Knoxville, Steve worked in law enforcement/security for 18 years, the last 10 as a special response team supervisor at the Department of Energy Y-12 National Security Complex. Steve can be reached at