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Motivating Athletes by Dave Tate - CrossFit Journal

Motivating Athletes

By Dave Tate

In Coaching, Powerlifting, Videos

August 14, 2009

Video Article

Dave Tate of EliteFTS tells Tony Budding that all mental training for athletes comes down to one thing: creating self-confidence.

In part 1, Dave says: “You need to find out what is the driving force” for individual athletes and proceed accordingly. Motivation can range from love to money to aggression to personal growth to certainty to uncertainty. Some athletes need a structured program laid out in advance; others thrive on the uncertainty of not knowing what to expect when they walk into the gym. For CrossFit-style group workouts, Dave suggests trainers have the same personality types work next to each other. But “if that doesn’t work, try slapping them in the face.”

Good communication between trainer and athlete is essential. Sometimes shifting the conversation from athletic training to clients’ work life can help make them more receptive to change. Just motivating “regular” clients to keep coming back is a large part of a trainer’s job. Dave said he created networking opportunities at the gym for executives. Elite athletes are already highly motivated. Many got into body-building for self-esteem reasons. They thought getting bigger would make them happier. But it isn’t as simple as that. Sometimes self-esteem issues persist. Injuries can provide a real gut check for athletes’ self-esteem.

In part 2, Dave says that people with high self-esteem know their purpose in life. They know why they are here and what they are supposed to do. They are not thrown off by criticism or setbacks. They have a “bring it on” attitude and understand that adversity can create greatnesss.

The footage is taken from a private seminar on January 24, 2009 at CrossFit San Diego. Dave Tate was a successful competitive powerlifter for over two decades. He trained with Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell Club. His best back squat was 930lbs, bench 610lbs, and deadlift 740lbs. Tate is a powerlifting specialist, and he doesn’t claim to be anything else.

Part 1 - 11min 44sec
Part 2 - 11min 26sec

Free Download

Part 1:
Part 2:


21 Comments on “Motivating Athletes”


wrote …

I love dave. Deafinitly very smart and intellegent man.

When he talks you just cant quiet disagree, BUT I kinda didn't like that whole "flipping the card" thing. I belive real athletes performe with love to the sport and aren't gonna flip there cards.

Especially in CrossFit. There is no genetic barrier in CrossFit which makes it so that every one who really wants to make the games actually get there. Its about how commited you are. And ONLY that.


replied to comment from omar omar

I disagree. I would definitely argue that their is a genetic barrier. Crossfit game participants are ELITE athletes and that is simply something that not everyone can attain by working hard.

That said, working hard and being committed will get you pretty d--m far. Hard work and being committed are nothing to be scoffed at.

I also absolutely love these Dave Tate videos. I had thought we had gotten the last of them but more keep coming! They definitely cause intereseting thoughts. Q&A sessions definitely give a ton of great info.


replied to comment from Philip Bjorge

Well. Of course when you need to make the games you have to be healthy. Some things that you cant control in life may stop you.

But assuming your really weak at all domains of fitness. And your healthy and can start training. If you give it all you got, Regardless of how long it takes you to run or how much you deadlift at first you can still get to the games.

There is no genitic barrier because you really dont need one. For some athletes they can train for sprinting all thier lifes but not be able to break 10 seconds flat. Why? because there genitics will not allow them to.
Similarly, Some can run 3 minutes per 1 k but can never go 2:57 just because they dont have the long distance runners genitics, body type so on so forth.

Meanwhile. CrossFit challenges all domains of fitness so having genetics that make you an amazing sprinter wont help you much at crossfit because crossfit challenges people with diffrent WODS that arent necesserly helpfull. This makes it more fair because no ones genes or bodytype will put them at much of an advantag over other athletes.


wrote …

Great stuff. Dave's awesome. I hope we can expect more from him soon.


wrote …

The anecdote regarding the kindergarten class and the fire was amazingly. I never get tired of listening to smart, thoughtful people talking about whatever the hell they find compelling. What a treat these videos have been.


wrote …

If Dave has a mic on him, then why is Budding holding a mic to his face?


wrote …

There are genetic barriers. So no matter how hard some train or how committed they are they are not going to make it to the games. To say genetics do not matter is akin to saying that anyone can make it to the Olympics if they work hard and are dedicated.


wrote …

The people who make it to the Olympics do work hard and are dedicated. This genetic stuff is BS. Plenty of people have wonderful genetics who never use them. People gawk at the 5-year old whiz kids...every child CAN be a whiz kid when the environmental stimuli around them promotes that growth. The exact same thing applies to fitness. You can't tell me watching some of these grow from CrossFit Kids aren't already at an advantage no matter what their genetics were before, because they've programmed their genes to be more athletic.

You all don't seem to realize that you can and do program your genes for success or failure every day. Plus all those who have a mental block thinking they can't do something because of someone else's genes have failed already - which this video is clearly about in the first part.

There are no barriers except the one's people put in their own minds and the minds of others. Yoda said it best -
"Do, or do not, there is no try." Would have loved to see Luke say, "But Yoda, I have a genetic barrier thanks to my father."

Hogwash on genetic barriers. Mental barriers like the ones being spouted here are the more important to be broken.


wrote …

2.Un-Certainty / Variation

Tony Robins Six Human Needs


Cody Limbaugh wrote …

This would be a cool MP3 series!


Brian White wrote …

The story of the kindergartner was a great story. And you are spot on with your analysis. I enjoy hearing your insight to training and life. You are a dynamic speaker.


replied to comment from George Mounce

Dave, thank you. This is great stuff.

Bobby and Philip, I agree. George, I disagree.

I'm pretty sure we actually cannot "program" our genes for success or failure every day. I think we can vary the stimuli to our body, but we each have a given set of genes that will inherently limit us.

As I understand it, one point of the CrossFit games is to find those statistical outliers that can be considered exceptional; those who are on the edge (and by that I mean better than most of the rest of us) of the most effective training programing, dietary regimens, sleep patterns, genetic capacities, pain thresholds, mental capacity/willpower/drive, etc. Elite CrossFit competitors are at an elite level in ALL of these areas.

I'm certainly not saying that each of us is simply unable to become more fit, I am merely saying that we cannot change our genetic makeup and that genetic makeup is one of many factors--all of which must be elite--to make an elite CrossFitter.

And just to be super clear: I don't think anyone who competed in the Games (or any qualifiers, or Olympics for that matter) didn't work extremely hard to get there. I know they did and do.

Instead of citing an exceptional film of science fiction to support my claim (that despite daily actions and desires or "mindset", we cannot change or "program" our genetic makeup), I cite the Europeans difficulties in colonizing areas of the Andes in South America.

It turns out that despite European womens' greatest efforts and desires to have healthy babies at very high altitudes, their genetic composition played a more significant role than their emotions.


Chris Cavallerano wrote …

Tony mentioned the nugget of "intrinsic motivation" early on in the video. What Tony and Dave are really talking about is the power of self-determination theory within motivation theory pioneered by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan (

What you'll find is that it doesn't matter whether you are an athlete, professional, parent, amateur, or all-star... so long as you keep the "how/what" of motivation internal to yourself, rather than being driven by external forces like money, rewards, etc., you will be happier and more successful in the long term. Amazing how Dave and all of us can learn from the resilience and "can do" spirit demonstrated by kids and others around us. (

I'm sure that has a lot to do with what makes the experience people have at their local 'box', CrossFit New England for me, or the CrossFit Games so special... a gathering of truly determined, truly inspired individuals yet sharing a common goal... being the very best CrossFitter they can be. Don't be surprise if that drive doesn't stop there... being the best Mom, best trainer, friend... Great stuff.


wrote …

Ok. Guys your missing the point.

When your doing a SINGLE movment sport like sprinting. Unless you have serious sprinters genes you wont be able to sprinta 9.64 on the 100 meter. Similarly, unless you have long distance genetics you wont be able to run a mile in 3:56.4

Meanwhile. When it comes to CrossFit there are so many movments. There is no one specific race that will dominate or say represent the sport. Thats because the nature of the sport makes it perfectly "Fair" since no one who posted here has genetics that give him an advantage over me. Meanwhile some of you may have genetics that make you better oly lifters.

In that case you would be a better oly lifter than I am but not really much better at "general fitness" or "fitness across ..... domains" if you will. Or "CrossFit"


wrote …

"There is no one specific race that will dominate or say represent the sport"

Race: A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution:


replied to comment from George Mounce


I agree that the mental barriers are so much more powerful than the genetic ones. I think that much gets lost in these comments because the people following these blogs, websites, journal posts etc, are pretty motivated to begin with. I became "physical" about 4 years ago. Overcoming the inertia of 36 years of sedentary life has been a much more mental challenge than a physical one. I like Dave's point in the video that consistency is of paramount importance. It is the "just showing up part" that brings one the satisfaction of accomplishment.


Darren Shaw wrote …

Dave is an impressive man and teacher, with obvious years of experience where he has been able understand the drivers of human performance to better prepare his students. Isn't that what we all want from CrossFit - better performance from our students.

I think that this subject is of prime importance, and not just for the better athletes but just as much (if not more so) for the newbies and the de-conditioned.

At our recent regional qualifiers in Oz I saw several capable athletes place down the ranks because they didn't have their 'minds' dialed in.

Thanks to HQ for bringing us the best of what is out there.


Jeff Barnett wrote …

Great video.

I'm a little flattened that some are claiming that no genetic barrier can keep you from elite levels of competition. That just isn't reality. Frodo Baggins isn't going to win the CrossFit Games. He may become the most fire-breathing hobbit in the shire, but a 3-foot tall, 60 pound person can't win the CrossFit Games. I'm sure that some people may be too quick to blame deficiencies on genetics, but we aren't all dealt the same cards.


wrote …

"Whether You Think You Can or Can't, You're Usually Right" --Henry Ford


wrote …

absolutely agree with the comment above. dave definitely needs to do a mp3 series. guy makes me want to kick down doors.


wrote …

Another inspiring video, thank you crossfit! It made me take a few minutes to myself...and have a think about short, medium, and long term goals.
I think we could all gain from the story of the kindergarden class, and aspire to become a role model, or a positive mentor for someone.
Crossfit has once again found a great coach who we can all learn from, not just in the gym, but as improving part of our self.

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