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Meet the Coach with the Most Latin American Athletes Qualified to The CrossFit Games

Juan ‘Maka’ Coronel is the coach with the most Latin American athletes qualified to the upcoming CrossFit Games, which will take place in Madison, Wisconsin, from July 29 to August 2, 2020.

Box Latino Magazine had the pleasure to talk with the Argentinian behind the preparation of the various Latin American athletes that became National Champions at the latest edition of the Open – a direct qualifying route to the 2020 Games.

In the interview, he shares unpublished details about his personal life, motivations and professional expectations for the year, in addition to particulars on his online and physical presence with each of his athletes locally, nationally and internationally.

‘Maka’ is accompanying a fair few athletes this season. The following athletes all train under his wing and will represent the Latin American community after being crowned National Champions:

  • Simona Quintana – Chile
  • Piero Gorichon – Chile
  • Guillermo Torres – Ecuador
  • Andrea Rodríguez – Ecuador
  • Maximiliano ‘negro’ Arigossi – Argentina
  • Juan Manuel Seitun – Uruguay
  • Lukas Osaki – Peru
  • Laura Sánchez – Venezuela

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Who is Juan ‘Maka’ Coronel?

“I was born in Miramar, a coastal city en the Buenos Aires province in Argentina. I am a strength and conditioning coach for high performance athletes. Either as a coach or as a trainer, I’ve been in the sport and fitness scope for over 15 years in Argentina and other Latin American countries.”

What is the key to good programming for each individual athlete?

“There’s a quote by Pablo Picasso that goes: ‘Learn the rules like a professional, so you can break them like an artist.’ I think this defines perfectly what I see as the key in programming for competitive CrossFit – it’s almost like an art.

“I’m always asked how I plan or what I ask my athletes to do, but in reality there is no good or bad programming. You can have good and bad coaches, concepts, or ignored or badly applied principles, etc. There are hundreds of books on training, physiology, biomechanics, endurance, force, etc. – that’s what I consider ‘learn the rules like a professional.’

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“When you have that theoretical and practical background you can ‘break the rules like an artist.’ You can give me the best paint brushes, the best colours, I could have the best technique with a brush and use the best canvas, you can tell me how many strokes I ought to do with each colour and in which direction and that won’t mean I can paint a Guernica.

“It’s essential to posses that internal process of utilising all the tools at your disposal and to be consistent in your training so as to know when to break away from the rules and when to lean on them.

“I consider it key to evaluate the process and rethink your own practice, as well as the results you constantly get; you change whatever doesn’t work and reaffirm what does.

“Competitive athletes have the same needs, they differ in degree but not type.

“An athlete with an ‘X’ weakness is a less competitive athlete. No matter their strengths, it’s the weaknesses that will get them out of the game; be it the CrossFit Games or a local tournament.

“They can all work on similar things or train in similar periods, but each of them to their own degree based on their weaknesses.

“Strengths are also worked on, but these are the things that help you climb up the leaderboard. Depending on the competition, your strengths might be incredibly good or simply acceptable – the important, and urgent thing, is to revert weaknesses.

“Each athlete has its own learning periods, as well as periods of physical and mental adaptations to the loads, it’s at this stage that training and work can be individualised to an even higher degree.”

What’s the process behind your online and physical presence with your athletes like?

“My presence is more evident with some athletes as I currently reside in Buenos Aires and many either live here or travel over regularly.

“I aim to arrange days where I meet up with them, to watch them train, make amendments, talk to them. I also really like it when they meet up amongst themselves.

“Yet each of them has two to three training sessions a day, so I can’t physically be at all of them.

“The same thing happens with the athletes that live abroad; we talk regularly and go through their training, doubts, go over videos… That’s why I like to create an open and trustworthy environment, so they know they can reach out to me constantly if they have any doubts or necessities.

“They know I’m there no matter the time if they need my counsel or want to send me memes!

“Equally, even if I’m at their disposition and totally committed to them, I look to always instil independence from me when it comes to their daily performance. From the responsibility to be strict with their diets, to keeping to their levels of intensity and rest. That way they’re not dependant of my constant presence to give their 100% or do what they have to do on a daily basis.

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“I hope to induce awareness that it isn’t me they ought to answer to, but themselves. An athlete learns so much about him or herself that way. It’s a way to ensure that, when they’re alone at an event, they know they have themselves and that’s an incredible resource if it has been trained. It’s good to be prepared for that, I consider it a necessity.”

What does it mean to you to have so many athletes qualify to the 2020 CrossFit Games?

“For me it’s an honour and a huge pleasure. It’s a validation and a reward for many years of work and big efforts with these athletes.

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“I believe that, year by year, I have convinced more people on how to train, what is necessary and what isn’t. It’s been hard but this is the result: eight qualified athletes to the Elite competition at my third CrossFit Games as a coach.”

What expectations do you have for the 2020 CrossFit Games?

“Expectations are high, but I don’t want to put a roof over my or anyone else’s head by setting a specific aim – we’ll aim for as high as we can.

“The minimum we hope to accomplish is that, within the athletes I work with, they become the fittest within Latin America again, which we achieved last year. I also hope we go through the first cut.

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“I believe that I have positively capitalised on my past experiences and that trodden path is an added value, important coming into the upcoming Games.”

What has been the development like in Latin America like these past few years?

“The progress in terms of coaches in certain regions of Latin America is really good and completely void in others.

“It’s not something I like at all; on the contrary, I want to see Latin America better represented each year in CrossFit in general.

“I see a lot of training and little sense. I don’t see many coaches here really revealing their methods or coaches that can back up what they’re asking from their athletes or students through grounded criterion.

“There’s a lot of ‘I do it because I’ve seen it being done’ without a strong theoretical basis to sustain the training or what one hopes to get out of what’s being done. I believe that dies within itself; to copy someone else’s successful methods does not provide success.

“I’ve got no doubts that in every Latin American country there are many great coaches with incredible practical and theoretical capacities, but one does not hear of them or they’re not being consulted.

“There’s a certain mentality within the competitive athletes of Latin America that if your coach doesn’t speak English or lives in the US or in Europe, he/she’s not good. Or that if they’re not specifically CrossFit coaches o haven’t competed themselves they can’t contribute to anything – this is such a big lie.

“I believe that once we get over those types of beliefs, more research is done, and each country resorts to its professional and educational capital – and all of this is shared – then the competitive and professional level of the region will inevitably rise, both in quality and in quantity.

“Maybe this is a bit Utopian, but I like to see that horizon as my direction in my work.

“On the athlete’s level, things are evolving strongly and I love it. They’re travelling abroad a lot more and the possibility to access Sanctionals and rub shoulders with other Elite athletes is insurmountable.

“It’s a huge motivational boost for the athletes, which then carries over and reflects on their compromise and discipline in their daily work.

“On a competitive level, I see that national competitions follow an orderly criterion for what it is they want to test and what kind of fitness should be awarded. Whereas on a local level, I can tell there’s a lack of criterion of what’s being sought after.

“Now, I’m talking about CrossFit as a sport; if it were CrossFit as training this would be a completely different conversation.”

How do you balance you professional and your personal life?

“It’s a constant battle trying not to mix them up! But seriously, I understood a long while ago that, in order to be able to be efficient in my profession and be able to lead an optimal personal life, I would need to keep them apart and dedicate time to each one.

“They both feed and grow of each other incredible amounts, but separately, I try to take care of both equally.

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“I constantly work on keeping focused on the task at hand, mainly as a form of respect to myself and the people around me. If I realise I’m zoning out, or I’m not delivering mentally or need some time alone, I spend some time with my guitar and a pair of Coronas; clear the mind and be 100% there again.”

To finish off, Juan talked about his personal and professional sources of motivation.

“Surrounding myself with people who push me to surpass my current level really drives me. The people that I admire on a personal and/or professional level, they give me a hunger to learn and work more. This is key for me and that’s why I look to engage and build relationships with people like that – and hope to be that person to others.

“To continually study and learn, it keeps me active for most of the day. It’s very common for me to be reading four or five books at a time or training myself to acquire the information I need, or look for ways to be the best version of myself for the people that look for me, so I can help them achieve their goals. Having them achieve their goals is priceless and the biggest source of motivation for me.”

This article was originally published in Spanish by Box Latino Magazine, a publication covering athletes, coaches and events in the Latin American region. The original article was written by Nicolás Garzón, the BOXROX version translated by Caro Kyllmann. You can find the original version here.

BOXROX has partnered with Box Latino Magazine to grow the coverage of the Latino CrossFit community. If you’re a Spanish speaking reader or interested in knowing more about the scene in Latin America consider giving them a follow @boxlatinomagazine.

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