Posted on November 08, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Life Is About Second Chances
How we handle setbacks is everything. And setbacks generally come with two options: let it beat you, or figure out a way to beat it.
For Spencer Hendel, a 6 times Games athlete and the head coach and owner of Reebok CrossFit Medfield, it's about having the resiliency to pick yourself up and create second chances.
Early in his CrossFit career, Spencer Hendel failed to qualify for the CrossFit Games in 2009 at the CrossFit Regional in Columbus, Ohio. In the midst of dealing with that disappointment, Hendel got word that there was to be a Last Chance Qualifier and Hendel leapt at the opportunity. Spencer Hendel did not plan on wasting his second chance, qualified, and went on to finish 12th at the Games that year.
But, it wasn’t all smooth sailing after Spencer picked up the sport so quickly. After making trips to the Games 2009-2012, Hendel missed the cut the next two years, before finally making it back in 2015 thanks to the perseverance, determination, and work ethic Spencer has learned largely through CrossFit.
Understanding the importance of grit, Hendel sees Steve’s Club as the opportunity for at-risk teens to learn this trait through CrossFit workouts and the CrossFit community. “It does wonders for the confidence levels of teenagers. They usually come in, hunched over, with bad posture. They won’t look you in the eye. Fast forward a couple months and they’re doing three minute Fran’s, walking around with their heads held high.”
And it doesn’t stop there. “The lessons from CrossFit, and this newfound confidence, doesn’t just start and end in the gym. It leads them to try things they’d never normally try, to strive for things they thought were never possible. Whatever they choose to apply it to, they can, and they are, and it’s changing their lives,” Spencer said.
That’s what led Hendel to Steve’s Club, Leadership Camp, and helping underprivileged youth. “Steve’s Club is so important for these underprivileged youth. They don’t have a ton of positive role models. They don’t have a network of people there for them, teaching them how to navigate disappointment and failure.”
“Ultimately, that’s what life is all about - responding to failures and setback,” Hendel said. Having a community of support within CrossFit was important in helping him make it back to the Games in 2015 and 2016.
Spencer knows that it's the people around you who help lift you up, which is especially important for teenagers. “When you surround these at-risk kids with coaches, fellow CrossFitters, and volunteers who care about them, there’s no doubt they’re going to learn to deal with difficult situations inside and outside of the gym with a more optimistic outlook.”
“Steve’s Club is important because these kids come into the gym, having dealt with some pretty awful situations, and the workout allows them to forget about all of those troubles,” Hendel noted. “And not just that, but soon, they realize that they aren’t alone in their struggles. These teens begin to realize that they no longer have to be limited by their circumstances. They create new perspectives and habits, slowly developing a whole new set of characteristics. Through meaningful interactions with people at the gym and new role models that show they consistently care about them, these kids are given the opportunity at a second chance.”
And while the feeling of accomplishment from a workout is certainly a highlight of CrossFit, Hendel acknowledges the community aspect as the major differentiator from so many other hobbies. Hendel noted, “No matter where you go, or where you are, everything is the same inside a Box. The community is consistent: friendly, welcoming, people shaking hands, high-fiving, and smiling. If we can give that experience to these kids and teens, it can create new pathways for them to succeed and define their future."
“These kids are changing the course of their lives, one positive interaction at a time,” said Hendel. “I support Steve’s Club because it helps kids deal with the difficult things happening in their lives. It gives them somewhere positive to go with a community of people who care, so they don’t feel alone.”
If you also believe in the power of the CrossFit community, join Spencer in helping us Strengthen the Nation, One Kid at a Time.
You can make a donation anytime to help us reach more kids across the country, or volunteer to guest coach at one of our upcoming events or at a Local Club near you.
Posted on November 07, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
The Greatest Adaptation Is Between The Ears
In 2001, right in the middle of a fight for his life, Greg Amundson came to a terrifying realization. He was extremely unprepared for this battle, and he may not walk away from it.
Fortunately for Greg Amundson, who was working with the Deputy Sheriff’s Department in Santa Cruz, he able to walk away from this dangerous altercation with a criminal without any serious harm, but found himself shaken and realized he needed to step things up in his training.
“I realized in the middle of this fight, that I was really fighting two people, the suspect and myself. It felt that with every movement, my body was fighting me each step of the way. I thought that I had been training properly, but it was clear that a major change was needed,” said Amundson.
That led Amundson down the road in Santa Cruz to the original CrossFit gym, CrossFit Santa Cruz, known simply at the time as “CrossFit” because it was the only one of its kind. “Back then, no one was doing CrossFit. It was a place for those who wanted to train more effectively for their sport, their vocation, or their life,” said Amundson who is well-known as one of the founding CrossFitters.
“During a seminar with Coach Glassman in Seattle in 2003, I witnessed a profound moment where we saw how the self-talk of two different athletes separated one from the other in terms of result and performance. That’s when Greg turned to me and said, ‘The greatest adaptation to CrossFit takes place between the ears.'”
This adaptation is hugely important to the kids of Steve’s Clubs across the country. “This change is one that allows the kids to learn the character traits and values that we long to instill in our youth: accountability, perseverance, determination, truthfulness, honesty, and integrity. All the intangible life skills one needs to be successful, these kids are learning through the context of CrossFit,” said Amundson. “These are all things you can learn through Fran.”
Greg, described by his peers as the “Original CrossFit Firebreather”, believes that there is no better time than now for these teenagers to be crafting the tools for a fulfilling life, and there is no better way to do it than through the repetition of CrossFit.
“Repetition is the first law of learning. We have to make sure that we are practicing the right skills, the right way, daily. The more often you are amongst a group of people, or are around a leader or mentor, who are coaching us and reminding us to think and speak positively, the more positive impact we will have in our own lives. We need to be practicing those skills daily. That’s repetition.”
Greg Amundson, is the author of four books (Your Wife is NOT Your Sister – God In Me – US Army Officer Candidate School – Tools for Success and his newest book Firebreather Fitness), and is the embodiment of all the tangible benefits and intangible values that CrossFit represents.
He believes that our mind is our greatest asset and that we need to realize that our thoughts create our reality. “Anything we focus on can actualize in our lives. The goal should be to begin with the mind and teach, at the youngest age possible, the power of positive self-talk.” said Amundson, who credits his father's influence and commitment to ministry for his own motivation to work with, and inspire, young teens.
“Kids long for meaning and are very impressionable. In their teenage years they can be compelled towards a certain direction in life. CrossFit offers a robust physical fitness routine as well as a pathway for that adaptation to happen between the ears. The stronger and more resilient the body, the stronger and more resilient the mind and spirit.”
“I was inspired by my dad, and the work he was doing with kids before he passed away to teach them the importance of being healthy in mind, body, and soul,” shared Amundson. “One of the reasons that I got involved with Steve’s Club early on is because I loved Steve’s heart for what he was doing with these at-risk kids and wanted to help him reach his goals.” Giving back and investing in each other is an important extension of the values of the CrossFit community.
That is why Greg was so willing to act as a Guest Coach at the 2014 Steve’s Club Leadership Camp. For one week every year, 25 teens attend an overnight camp hosted by SCNP where they continue to learn, be tested, and connect with other at-risk teenagers just like them. They're chosen from Local Clubs across the country, and are selected based on their application and commitment to the program.
By connecting these motivated, yet underserved, teenagers with committed coaches who consistently reinforce positive qualities, these kids begin to transform and see the bigger picture of who they can become.
Greg drove his point home by saying, “I believe in the future of America’s youth and am adamant that the principles of Steve’s Club and CrossFit can ensure the success of the next generation of leaders.”
If you'd like to join us in sharing CrossFit with at-risk kids, you can start a Local Steve's Club in your area or make a donation to help us continue to Strengthen the Nation, One Kid at a Time.
Posted on November 04, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
CrossFit is Community
“The first workout I did was Fran. I immediately laid down and spent the next half hour with my head in a trash can. And I was forever hooked.”
Austin Malleolo first came across CrossFit in 2009 and hasn’t looked back since. After that first workout, he signed up for his L1 Certification, and just a year later, he competed in the CrossFit Games.
A five-time CrossFit Games participant with finishes ranging from 6th to 38th, Malleolo is well-know in the CrossFit world both as an athlete, L3 coach, HQ seminar staff member, gym owner, and most importantly - as someone who embodies the CrossFit community.
For Austin, CrossFit is life. He lives and breathes CrossFit, and he's just as enthusiastic about it as when he first started. That's largely a result of the people that are involved in creating such an amazing culture.
“The community and the community mindset of those involved with CrossFit is incredible. It’s very rare that you ever come into contact with people in a CrossFit gym that you don’t want to be around. That’s extremely unique,” said Malleolo, who first started his journey at CrossFit Dewitt and then CrossFit Albany.
Today, Malleolo owns two of his own CrossFit gyms CrossFit One Nation in Needham and Waltham, MA and is the head coach at Reebok CrossFit One. Suffice to say, CrossFit has had more than a slight impact on Austin Malleolo’s life. “It’s so difficult to explain how much CrossFit has influenced by life.” Malleolo said, as he laughed. “These are my best friends, my family, it’s my job - although it’s really a hobby that I'm lucky enough to get to do as a job. CrossFit is incredible.”
In this day and age, especially as we get older, it's hard to find community. You’re no longer in school, or on a team, and CrossFit replaces that with the largest global health-focused community in existence.
“Walk into any CrossFit gym and you see people who have made dramatic life changes. You’ll see eclectic groups of people, from all different types of backgrounds, chest bumping and high-fiving. Someone can go on a business trip around the world and walk into a CrossFit gym and they're immediately welcomed. They already have something in common with the people in the gym regardless of beliefs, language, or anything else. Instead of going to the bar, people are hanging out at the gym and working on themselves at the same time."
CrossFit is such a positive force that it becomes a defining part of their lives. As people realize the impact it can have on others, they want to reach out to invite others into this community.
“As Coach Glassman says, 'fit people in strong communities have the opportunity to change the world' and I firmly believe that. We can make a difference in the world by starting with what we can change in our immediate surroundings."
“I was the epitome of a troubled teen. Broke all the rules. Got in trouble all the time. I spent the night in a jail cell. I did stupid things in college and got kicked out. I was sent to an outdoor program in the woods for several months to help put me on the right path."
"I understand the importance of being in an environment where someone, mom, dad, a coach, a teacher, believes in you. Without that, it’s hard to believe in yourself,” said Malleolo whose father was a beacon of support for him during his troubled youth.
“Without someone who cares about you, you’ll never care about yourself enough to make a difficult decision. When you see what they've sacrificed for you, you take things more seriously and become better at making tough choices for your own future."
Austin takes Coach Glassman's quote to heart and knows that through Steve's Club, he can give back to at-risk youth and help them become part of the CrossFit community.
“Unfortunately there’s a barrier to entry for these at-risk teens because of access and high membership fees. Some of these kids’ families can’t afford 3 meals a day or to keep the electricity on, let alone a $200 a month gym membership to create a healthy way of life. The kids struggle to find safety and support in their everyday lives, and don't know how to escape their current situation.” said Malleolo. “Through CrossFit, we can provide them with hope. The hope that comes with accomplishing something they’ve never done in their life and having the positive support of positive coaches and role models.”
Austin has been a long-time supporter of Steve's Club. Malleolo, who considers himself a nutrition nerd, first came across Steve’s Club online when he saw a video of Chris Spealler, an OG in CrossFit, with a bag of beef jerky, nuts, and berries - the original PaleoKit. After learning a little bit more about Steve’s PaleoGoods and Steve’s Club, Malleolo couldn’t help but get involved.
He and James Hobart came down to the original Steve’s Club location in Camden during their road trip in 2011. Since then, he's participated in several Beat the Street fundraisers and been a guest coach at Leadership Camp in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
“I’m especially thankful for the opportunity to attend Leadership Camp. The gratitude those kids show to the coaches and those who run the camp is amazing. I think it speaks to their ability to be vulnerable due to the safe environment created by Steve’s Club and those who are behind it,” Malleolo said.
“I love going because it reminds me of all of the things that I might be taking for granted in my own life. That’s why I support Steve’s Club. It actually affects human behavior on a day-to-day basis. It’s not just a dollar sign. It changes people. It helps troubled kids and teens. It gives them the opportunity to take control of their life,” Malleolo noted emphatically.
Austin joined the Board of Directors for Steve's Club National Program in April 2016 and is working to further integrate the kids from the program into the broader CrossFit community. With more opportunities for these underserved youth to see that CrossFitters care about them, and they know they have that support behind them when they need it.
In sharing CrossFit with underserved youth, we're able to help them forge new paths in life. They become part of a virtuous cycle and the positivity continues to expand to influence other people in their lives.
Steve's Club is a pathway for improving the lives of at-risk kids and developing future leaders through CrossFit. By providing fitness, nutrition, and mentorship to at-risk youth, this community of fit people can truly change the world.
If you also believe in the power of the CrossFit community, join Austin in helping us Strengthen the Nation, One Kid at a Time.
You can make a donation anytime to help us reach more kids across the country, or volunteer to guest coach at one of our upcoming events or at a Local Club near you. Steve's Club is here to help you get involved!
Posted on October 26, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
There is one thing that Matt Chan wants to make perfectly clear: He could not be more impressed with Steve’s Club.
He is one of the many supporters within the CrossFit community that has contributed to bringing fitness, nutrition, and mentorship to at-risk kids and considers himself privileged to have seen Steve's Club grow over the years from a small program in Camden, NJ to be a nationwide program teaming up with CrossFit Affiliates across the country to create change on the local level.
And it is not easy to impress someone of Chan’s caliber:
Retired Firefighter in the Denver area
Successful business owner and entrepreneur
Prominent member of CrossFit HQ Seminar Staff
6-time CrossFit Games individual competitor
Adventurer, explorer, and outdoor enthusiast
Matt Chan grew up on the south side of Chicago in a family that has fully encouraged his love of athletics. “I grew up in a very supportive household. My parents saw sports as an outlet for the energy I had as a kid and realized it would be a great way for me to channel this energy. They were willing to drive me all over to be mentored by some great coaches.”
This support paid off as Chan went on to play water polo at Western Illinois, where he helped the team to finish as the #9 ranked team his senior year. But it wasn’t until after graduation that Matt set down the path that would eventually lead him to the podium at the CrossFit Games in 2012.
After moving out to Winter Park, Colorado and living the life of a self-proclaimed “ski bum” for a couple years, Chan began volunteering as a firefighter in 2004 before taking the job on full-time in 2007. It was around this time that Chan was introduced to CrossFit as an alternative method to training that he found more beneficial to his life as a firefighter.
“The movements were much more exciting than bodybuilding. I really enjoy the variety. I can do any workout, but I think it’s the variety that kept me coming back. I just fell in love with the training methodology,” said Chan, a L4 certified coach who recently sold CrossFit Verve in Denver, CO which he started with his wife, Cherie, in 2008.
The support for Steve’s Club is a shared passion for the Chan’s. Cherie Chan was one of the guest coaches at the 2016 Summer Leadership Camp. At Camp, she led the athletes on a hike and workout in the hills of Pennsylvania while sharing life lessons and connecting with the kids. She shared how indebted she feels to CrossFit for many of the blessings in her life and reminded the teens that paths in life may not be straight or easy, but it's about staying true to yourself and appreciating the good people you meet along the way.
Like his wife, Matt attributes CrossFit with helping him find a balance and gratitude in everyday life. “In addition to the training methods, CrossFit really helped me find focus, purpose, and center myself. I think that was missing from my life. And I think that is what a lot of athletes that Steve's Club helps are missing. From CrossFit they can begin to rely on and appreciate the structure and consistency. They can lean on it,” Chan shared.
“For these kids, they know that the gym doors will always be open. The bar will always be a 45-pound bar. It is not going to judge them. It is not going to treat them differently. If they didn’t have this outlet of physical activity, or something to excel in, they may choose another activity that isn’t so ideal.”
Matt offered a key insight that explains why so many people, Steve’s Clubs’ athletes included, see so much success in other areas of their lives after beginning CrossFit. “I think it all starts with setting goals. Once you achieve those, and you have the confidence to set new and more challenging goals, you do. Then, when an individual has success in one area, it makes them hungry to be successful in others.”
This may be why so many youth involved with Steve’s Club show up for the first few months, see initial success in the gym and soon begin to see improvements in school, at home, and at work. Through CrossFit, they're creating thought patterns and habits that will determine their future success and help them in their most challenging moments.
Chan is no stranger to setting goals and overcoming challenges, no matter how big or small. A bicycle accident in July of 2014 partially severed Chan’s femoral artery while in the wilderness of Colorado, leaving him in a dire situation. While there was much uncertainty at first, Chan made it to the surgery table. From there, he made it home and began his journey back.
While the doctor only gave him a chance to return to 90% of his old form, at best, before 2014 ended, the same year as the accident, Chan matched a personal record with a 445-lb squat. The same leg that was closed shut with 26 staples only a few months prior.
Matt first met Steve Liberati in 2008, when Liberati was in the very early stages of Steve’s Club. As the program began teaming up with CrossFit Affiliates to set up similar Clubs in other parts of the country, Matt continues to be impressed with all that the Steve's Club National Program (SCNP) team are willing to do to change the lives of underprivileged youth.
“One of the things that I’m most impressed with is what Steve and his team have done. Not only is he doing incredible things with the kids in Camden and across the nation, but he’s helping support that amazing endeavor by dedicating a portion of the proceeds of Steve's PaleoGoods while changing the availability of healthy snacks. It’s really amazing and I’m so happy to be involved.”
An avid outdoorsman, Chan spends much of his free time in the winter skiing and was inspired to borrow a page from Steve’s book and combine his passion for skiing with giving back. Matt Chan is teaming up with Flylow Gear to donate 10% of all sales to Steve’s Club when someone uses the 15% off discount code: mattchan16.
It’s a win-win for all involved. “Everyone gets a deal on the best ski and snowboard threads on the market and I get to raise money for my favorite non-profit, all while supporting an independent, homegrown company from Denver, Colorado,” said Chan proudly.
Posted on October 24, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Everyone Needs A Happy Accident
Everything happens for a reason. Just ask Jenn Hunter-Marshall and her husband Dennis. A “happy accident” set them on a totally different life path that has led to CrossFit Garden City, a 12,000 square foot facility on Long Island, but it does not end there. Jenn and Dennis realize that they’ve had their fair share of serendipitous moments in their lives and want to provide the same “luck” to those who may have not been on the good end of fortune yet.
On a seemingly normal day in 2006, while Dennis was coaching at the gym he managed, a stranger walked in raving about a new type of workout called CrossFit. Dennis had never heard of it, but was curious, so he researched non-stop the rest of that day and came home raving about it to Jenn. “Dennis came home and said, look we have to do this. He showed me and said we have to give it a try, so we did. I still remember my first workout. It was Cindy,” shared Jenn.
“I was sold after a couple weeks, and we haven’t looked back. It’s funny. One stranger so profoundly changed our lives. 10 years later, CrossFit is our lives. We run a gym with over 400 members and teach L1 and L2 certification seminars all around the world and across the U.S. I competed in every Regional up until 2014 and ultimately went to the CrossFit Games as a Master's Athlete in 2014,” Jenn mentioned, who is L4 certified herself.
Jennifer Hunter-Marshall, who always had one foot in, and one foot out of the fitness world, started out as an educator before returning to school to receive her Master’s in Fine Arts. After receiving her degree, Jenn moved to New York City to pursue her stage career, but always used fitness as a fallback. “Training was always a huge draw in my life. Before finding CrossFit, I used to lack confidence in myself. I battled an autoimmune disorder and was constantly battling illness. But I wasn’t confident enough to ask the doctors the questions that needed to be asked. It wasn’t until I found CrossFit that I found the courage to ask the right questions, and push, until we found out what was really going on with my health. Like I said, CrossFit has been such a blessing in our lives.”
Hunter-Marshall, who paid for husband Dennis’ L1 Certification for his birthday, followed shortly thereafter with her own certification. And from there, it wasn’t long until they forged ahead to attain their L2 certifications. That is when they were asked to be a part of the internship process, earning the right to travel the world doing something they love while educating others.
“It’s been amazing. We have been able to see all these places we’ve wanted to see while helping others achieve their goals. Between that, and the people you meet, CrossFit has truly been a blessing. I met Lee Knight (Steve’s Club National Program Co-Founder) at a Regional event. She is an absolutely amazing person to have in your life, and we hit it off immediately. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a smile. But those are the type of people you meet in CrossFit. People say CrossFit is a cult, and I’m like, “yeah, in the best possible way!’” Jenn said laughingly.
“I truly believe people step into your life everyday for a reason. And I believe Lee and I were supposed to meet at that Regional. I was able to get her parents involved with CrossFit through classes at my gym, and I was able to get involved with Steve’s Club thanks to Lee,” said Hunter-Marshall.
“Lee is such an incredible person, when she asks me to do something, if it’s physically possible, I do it. Literally, the only thing that would stop me is if I physically couldn’t do it. So when she asked me if I would come to Leadership Camp, I said absolutely.”
Jenn, who is an African-American woman, believes she can be a role model for many of the at-risk teens of Steve’s Club and saw it first-hand at Steve’s Club Leadership Camp in 2015. Many of the athletes are minorities whom Jenn believes may view her as someone to look up to and lean on in times of need. “I’m not trying to replace anyone’s parents, but I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I’ve worked hard, yes, but I have been fortunate and want to give other people similar chances, and a lot of these kids don’t have any stepping stones in their lives to elevate them to the next level.”
“I hope that I can be that role model, that guide, that older sister, whatever, someone who they can look to when they aren’t sure what to do or where to go and I can provide guidance to help them get to where they want to go,” said Hunter-Marshall. “It’s been amazing seeing these kids grow up right in front of me. I see that same inner confidence growing within them that I felt.”
Jenn is so impressed with Steve’s Club and the change that she sees every time she runs into another Steve’s Club athlete somewhere down the road, but she still has one regret. “I only wish that I could be involved more. There is still a segment of our population being left behind because of where they live and what’s around them. I think that if we all put in, we can all get where we’re going together. And Steve’s Club has been at the forefront of that,” Jenn said proudly.
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