Interview with Scott Cooper

Scott Cooper is the consummate athlete who is constantly active playing sports and training year round.

He played football locally in Minneapolis for Augsburg College and since graduating has maintained his competitive edge.

While Scott is big into softball and horseback riding, his current focus is on becoming a CrossFit Games Athlete.

In our interview, we discuss his busy schedule, the best advice he has received and why he loves Linda.

MMG: Scott, thanks for taking the time to talk with me and answer some questions. You’ve got an impressive sports career to date and a wide array of athletic interests. I thought it would be fun to start by simply asking, what did you do today in terms of training?

COOPER: I played football, basketball, and baseball in high school, and football in college, so athletics and training are near and dear to me.

I still love sports and competition, so even after college now I try to find ways to keep competing; against myself and others.

My training now consists of mostly CrossFit, with a sprinkling of isolated muscle training and running.

I did a full marathon in 2013 along with several other races, so running doesn’t go far from my base training even though I mainly focus on CrossFit and Olympic lifts.

I need variety in my workouts so I don’t get bored, and it keeps my body guessing. I love sports, and I believe my fitness training needs to be a good base for that, so I’m happy when I can put my training into competitive softball nowadays, along with CrossFit Competitions.

MMG: And what does a normal week of training look like? How many days on? How many days off? And what type of workouts are you doing? Break it down for us.

COOPER: I’ll start with what I’d like my typical week to be: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday would be CrossFit, Thursday would be an active recovery day, Friday CrossFit, Saturday either CrossFit endurance type workout or run, and Sunday totally off. But, that doesn’t always happen.

A typical week of training for me is CrossFit Monday through Friday, with maybe one day off during the week to allow for life stuff getting in the way, and one of those days is a double where I also go and do large muscle group isolation at the gym.

I take at least one rest day on the weekend, and one weekend day either is light lifting or a running day.

So easily broken down – five days on, two days off (if you count active recovery as off). I know my weakness is that I need to give my body more rest time.

MMG: So you do CrossFit, you are on a softball team, you played collegiate football and ride horses. Among all your sports and activities, what is your current goal? What are you ultimately training for?

COOPER: My ultimate big goal is to make it to the CrossFit games. First, my goal is to make it to the Regionals for the CrossFit Games.

In the meantime, I will keep doing local CrossFit competitions to get experience and training.

I would like to do other things like another full marathon or a half marathon, and keep competing in softball.

I just have to make sure whatever little side goals I have, that they don’t derail me from the ultimate goal of going to the Games.

MMG: Recently, you posted a side-by-side photo of yourself from three years ago and today. In both pictures you weigh the same, but by your own accounts are stronger and leaner than ever before. What helped bring about this change?

COOPER: Training and nutrition played a huge part of it. Getting three years older and having three more years of growth doesn’t hurt either, but you have to feed your body the right things and push your body with training to see results.

My weight and build fluctuated a bit in those three years. That side by side photo I weighed 200 lbs in each.

But within those three years I got as high as 220 lbs and as low as 180 lbs. A year and a half ago I was at the 180 lbs mark because of marathon training, and heaving lifting and lots of good clean food (and not running 40 miles a week) helped me to a reach a lean 200 lbs today.

MMG: How does diet factor into all your training? Do you follow any plans or have any rules that you follow in terms of eating and drinking?

COOPER: It’s a huge factor. I can tell when my nutrition is off by the way I feel and by how I look. I was strictly paleo for a good nine months, and that made me insanely lean. However my training required more food intake.

I’m not completely paleo now, but keep a clean, lean diet. I avoid fast food like the plague, and keep processed wheat products away.

I follow the 90/10 rule about clean eating, which gives me some room for date nights out and a beer here and there. I really don’t drink much, and usually it’s a 2 drink max if I do.

MMG: What other factors are important to you in your overall physical and mental wellness?

COOPER: Sleep is a huge thing for me. I typically get 8 hours a night. My body desperately needs that time to recover and grow.

Being mentally healthy is huge. If I’m stressed about something I can lose focus in my workouts and get tempted to “eat my feelings.”

Working out does help me relax, but I also have to take some time somedays and clear my mind of stress so I can let go.

Having a balance in my training keeps me happy and motivated too. I like to shake things up and keep it fun to keep me energized and excited about training.

MMG: You just came back from Dallas where you competed in the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) Softball World Series. What was the highlight of that experience?

COOPER: I wish I could say our games were the highlight, but we just didn’t play that well and left Dallas frustrated with our performance.

But it was so fun to get to compete in that setting with many friends and peers. You know you get to play in front of people who really are excited to see you play.

The highlight of that trip I would say is watching the Twin Cities Frostbite (our sister team) play the Atlanta Show Stoppers in a hard fought elimination game Friday night under the lights.

The crowd was huge and rowdy, I was surrounded by friends from all over the country, and it was a really tight game that came down to the final play.

That embodied the spirit of what the World Series is to me.

MMG: In an article you wrote for Outsports, you discussed have post-tournament blues and be anxious for the next tournament. What attracts you so much to competition?

COOPER: I love those tournaments because it’s the perfect mix of tough competition, and social fun with friends.

Every tournament I go to, I get to see old friends I’ve made through softball and I also keep meeting fun new people.

I get to play against people who I’m familiar with their style of play and tendencies. And in every tournament I get to contend for the championship trophy.

The chase for the trophy keeps me coming back, and it’s so fun to get to do it with a group of athletes who I can totally be myself around.

MMG: Your team unfortunately lost before making it to the finals. How do you deal with winning and losing? Do you carry those victories and defeats with you? Or are you able to shrug them off?

COOPER: I definitely need time to get over bad at bats or a loss. I get frustrated when I or my team don’t do well because I set high expectations.

I may need an hour after a game to shake it off, but I take the things I learned from the bad moments and apply them to future games.

I don’t forget about the bad games, but the good ones are even more memorable. For the Series this year, I was mad about our loses, but within an hour or so I just took a step back and realized no matter what I was able to compete that week and also enjoy a great week with my softball family. I’m just more motivated to play harder next year.

MMG: Who do you currently look towards for guidance? Do you have any mentors or coaches or role models that are important to you in your life and in your training?

COOPER: My box owner and Coach, Logan Bautch, has definitely given me amazing guidance and advice in my training.

He pushes me harder than I’d push myself, and doesn’t give me a line of BS that I’m just going to jump into the run for the Games without much time spent working.

There are a few other people in my box that push me hard on a daily basis and give me hints along the way.

MMG: What’s the best piece of advice you have received in terms of your athletic career?

COOPER: FOCUS. I was talking to a friend recently who does Spartan Races and has many training clients, and we were talking about my goals and how maybe I want to do another marathon too and a couple other things.

And he reminded me that I can’t get great at one thing if I’m trying to be good at many things. If it doesn’t help get you to your goal, re-evaluate why you’re doing it.

MMG: You played football in college for Augsburg College? While softball and CrossFit are obviously different, how do you compare competing at the collegiate level to now competing as an adult?

COOPER: There are some similarities and some differences. Between college football and CrossFit, they’re very similar in that it takes a ton of training and time dedication to be really good at it.

And the competition is fierce. Many of the CrossFit athletes I compete against are former collegiate athletes themselves.

There’s a bit more friendliness however than on the football field. Softball is a bit more laid back, but I can’t say that it doesn’t take practice and effort to be good.

There’s tough competition, and I still have a lot to improve on.

Competing now is a bit more social, and definitely just as rewarding. There are just certain things that can never compare to being on a college football team, though.

But I’m very happy I found a way to keep competing after college. I needed to find that.

MMG: On the day of a competition, whatever the sport, do you have any pre-game rituals? How do you get in the mental space to be ready to charge the field?

COOPER: It starts the night before with the right nutrition. A typical night-before-competition meal is salmon, sweet potato, and veggies.

The day of, I love cranking some good music to get me going. That helps me get zoned in and ignore outside distractions.

I take the time to properly warm up, as it gets my mind ready, and also of course my body. I wish I could say I have some odd superstitious traditions, but I really don’t.

Although, I did go through a phase in high school where I ate a bowl of ice cream before every football game; I said it was my extra energy boost.

MMG: How do your experiences compare when competing as a member of a team compared to as an individual? Do you take a different approach with each?

COOPER: I’ve always played team sports, so it was new to me to transition into individual sports like CrossFit (which can be team too, but not always) and running. I put a lot of pressure on myself even on team sports, so competing as an individual didn’t change that.

I think I put an equal amount of pressure on my performance whether it’s solo or part of a team.

I know my bad plays on a team could hurt us, so I want to be 100% sound, and as an individual those things hurt your score or time.

I don’t think I could choose whether I like competing on a team or as an individual more.

MMG: What has been the highlight to date of your varied athletic career?

COOPER: Why do you have to make me choose? That’s a really tough one, and hard to choose just one. I’m going to go with walking onto the field for our final home football game last year, Senior Day, at Augsburg.

The moment was special, but what went into getting to that moment in time made it the best. It happened because I was able to get back into college football after I thought I was never going to play again.

I had put in the time and effort into the season and off-season, and was graduating as a part of the program and can always say now I’m an Auggie Football Alum.

My team was amazing and so supportive of me as a person and as an athlete, and nothing was greater than that day being surrounded by those guys, those feelings, and those memories.

MMG: And what has been the biggest lesson you have learned along the way?

COOPER: The biggest thing I’ve learned along the way is to stop comparing yourself to other people. It sounds cliche, but it’s true.

There will always be someone, bigger, stronger, faster, more agile. But you have to be confident in who you are as an athlete and person, and realize what you bring to the world around you.

You can push yourself to grow and see other people’s results to get you motivated, but being proud of your own unique accomplishments is important.

MMG: You are a self-professed lover of CrossFit. What is your favorite WOD?

COOPER: Hands down: “Linda.” Some people call it the “3 bars of death” and absolutely hate this WOD, but it’s my favorite.

It’s long enough to satisfy my cardio craving, and heavy lifting to satisfy my inner meat head. It’s 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 of Deadlifts (1.5 times your body weight), Cleans (3/4 of your body weight) and bench press (your body weight).

And my favorite lift by far: cleans. Gimme some of dat!

MMG: Finally, the question you’ve been waiting for, what is your goat?

COOPER: Snatches. But that shouldn’t be a surprise, right?

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