‘Honored’ Cole Sager Prepares for New Role at CompTrain

July 6, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Cole Sager
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Cole Sager is about to take on a new challenge. He will replace Ben Bergeron as the head coach at CompTrain, and he will embrace the opportunity to positively affect the community. 

One big thing: The proverbial transfer of power will take place shortly after Sager competes in his 10th(!) consecutive NOBULL CrossFit Games. Bergeron will hand over the reins to CompTrain on Monday, August 7, and Sager will focus on helping his fellow athletes prepare to take on one of the most grueling schedules in sports. 

A smooth transition is key for Sager and CompTrain. He already has Bergeron’s blessing, but ensuring that there are no hiccups is key considering how quickly athletes go from the offseason to preparing for the Rogue Invitational, Wodapalooza, and the CrossFit Open. 

  • “I have been doing this a long time, so I understand how quickly the season starts back up again,” Sager said. “By the time people get partway through August, they start to get an itch. By the time August ends, people are ready to hop back in the gym.” 
  • “Athletes who maybe didn’t qualify, that thought they should qualify, they think they can qualify, if you keep them waiting ‘til September 1, they’re just chomping at the bit.” 
  • “So we understand that in the month of August, you don’t really have that much downtime. So we really need to be on top of it, on top of things, and be prepared for when August rolls around, specifically when September 1 rolls around. Because when September 1 rolls around, it’s kind of like the turning of a page into a new season.”

This prep work has been ongoing for Sager and Bergeron. They have had numerous discussions in-person and over the phone. Interestingly enough, it has provided some “freshness” to Sager’s morning routine that focused on training and family. He compared it to a fresh bowl of fruit and a hot cup of coffee in the morning. 

  • “I have had to be careful in not letting too much of the thinking for the next season sneak into my mind, but in that, it has allowed for a level of mental escape from training.” 
  • “I do training, I analyze training, I look at training from a coaching perspective. Now I get to have those conversations, and it’s kind of pulled me away from the trenches of obsessing over Games training.”

A smart approach: While Sager trains in his garage, he has extensive experience in a team environment. He played running back and linebacker for Burlington-Edison High School, and he rushed for 1,084 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. He then played for the University of Washington before turning his attention to the world of CrossFit. 

Since becoming one of the most consistent athletes in the sport, Sager has worked in a different team environment. He has become a key part of CompTrain while working alongside other perennial Games athletes. This will only benefit him as he transitions into his role as a coach, as will his knowledge about mentally preparing for a long season. 

  • “It’s not so much that I can do the best X’s and O’s on the board,” Sager said. “Honestly, programming is kind of a dime a dozen. Anybody can come up with some hard workouts and be in a metabolic condition, but the structure as a whole season and weathering everything that comes through, there’s a lot a lot of mental preparedness that you have to have.”
  • “And I think that’s one of the biggest assets that I have as a coach is being able to speak to that from firsthand experience. And that’s something that I’m very excited to share all of the things that I’ve learned over the years in a deep manner, from firsthand experience. I think will be will be really fun to pass along.”

The next steps: Moving from a CrossFit Games athlete to a head coach of a standout training camp is no small feat. Fortunately for Sager, he has experience with the athletes in CompTrain, and they have given him grace while watching him prepare for this transition. 

That familiarity is key, but there is another factor that will come into play. Sager, Bergeron, and the other CompTrain coaches will have to continue finding the best approach for coaching athletes around the world. It’s one thing to provide cues in person; it’s another to do so over a video call. Finding the next method is still a work in progress, but the goal is to get athletes in person at certain points to help them continue to grow. 

  • “Ideally, you’re working with coaches in person. That’s always going to be the best scenario. I don’t think there’s ever been a football team that would ever tell you, ‘I would love to do remote coaching for practices.’ That would not make sense at all because you want to be able to see how the person moves.”
  • “If you can get an athlete in person, it will push them leaps and bounds forward, more than if you just did remote the whole time. It’s part of the reason why – I’ve been a remote athlete my whole career – but people were like, ‘Gosh, you’re out in Boston a lot.’” 
  • “Well, I had to go out there three, four times a year because even if I just went out there for a two-week stint, or even a seven-day stint, what it did is it gave Ben an understanding of like, ‘Oh, this is exactly where you are.’” 

Measuring success: Sager has a monumental task ahead of him. He will transition into a new role at CompTrain, one that Bergeron has described as a full-time job. He will also do so as his fellow athletes begin looking toward the 2024 CrossFit Games season. So how will he measure success? 

For writers and fans, achieving success in this role may be sending more athletes to the CrossFit Games than another training camp. That’s a natural way to look at things for a certain group of people but not for Sager. 

  • “I think everybody innately wants to measure success off of podium finishes, Games appearances, and things of that nature,” Sager said. “I just don’t see success in that manner. People oftentimes will define success in such a results-driven manner, and it’s fleeting. It’s kind of fickle.”
  • “We’re going to know that we’re successful based on the feeling that we have throughout the year and really what we’re putting into the athletes. Are we content?” 
  • “Do we feel like we’re putting in and making the right adjustments, putting in the right energy, and giving enough of ourselves to make the right adjustments to support the community, to support athletes, and help elevate athletes and take them to the next level?”

Don’t misunderstand – Sager has the goal of getting athletes to the Games and onto the podium. That is an aim at CompTrain. However, lifting up the entire CrossFit community is far more meaningful than counting the number of wins. 

  • “Are we making a positive difference in the community? If we’re doing that, if we’re building athletes that are great competitors but even better people who have a phenomenal character that are pouring into the community and making the community better, that’s a good coaching staff.” 
  • “Those are the sports programs that resonate with everybody throughout history – those coaching staffs that built awesome programs and built beautiful boys and girls that went on to be leaders in their community and make differences.”

The bottom line: Sager is about to embark on a new chapter in his career, one that will bring challenges and rewards alike. He does not yet know how he will ultimately perform as a head coach years down the road, but he can move forward with the knowledge that CompTrain’s athletes and coaches are ready to take the journey with him.

  • “I felt honored and respected [to be chosen],” Sager said. “I think really mainly because I know that it’s not something that he takes lightly. It’s his baby, and it’s something that he’s poured 15 years of his life into and definitely not something that I know that he’s not taking lightly and wants to pass to the right person. 

“I know a lot of thought went into it, so I felt really honored. I felt really respected and quite honestly, I felt loved in a deep way. Just that you would consider me for this position and want me to take this position.”

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