Posted on July 14, 2017 by Steve's Club National Program
As I traveled west on the PA turnpike at 70 mph (because that's the speed limit out here) it was shocking to see how different this region of Pennsylvania is from Philly. Don't get me wrong I love the culture, the hustle and bustle, and the FOOD of Philly. However, the rolling hills out here that were full of greenery, certainly live up to the term God's Country. Upon arrival it was inspiring to see all the service men and women in their uniforms, hard at work, protecting us from threats both at home and abroad. It made me think about how brave soldiers like that sacrifice daily, so that we may gather to participate in events like Steve's Club Leadership Camp.
When I arrived, the group of 28 campers and a handful of staff had just completed a WOD. I could tell by the flustered facial expressions, sweaty foreheads and their disheveled appearance that it was a Tough WOD (the kind I usually skip). I then witnessed the campers fumble through roll call which resulted in 5 burpees. A task that they would do a lot more over the course of the day. The campers were full of energy and were all welcoming as I took a head shot after head shot for each and every one of them. They spoke of being from places I had never been like Cashville (Nashville), Denver, and Alaska. There were also campers from places that I visit frequently like Camden, Philly, and Pennsauken. Although they had ventured from different regions and across time zones they all had one thing in common. They were glad and thankful to be here in Fort Indiantown Gap.
The campers were provided with a healthy snack and reminded to hydrate hydrate hydrate! The campers then made the quarter mile trek to the basketball courts to put in some work. It was there that they were lead by Coach Jack and Coach Matt in a progression that addressed the components needed to successfully complete a one legged squat, also know as a pistol. As the campers worked together in partners I was able to capture their excitement through the art of photography. The campers were nearing the half way point of a spicy WOD when ZAP!! lighting struck in the distance and Coach Steve made the executive decision to head back indoors. He emphasized that while fitness is the goal, safety is first! Once back indoors the campers worked as a unit to transform the mess hall into a House of Gainz! The campers completed a work out that caused chaos on the core. The workout culminated with a plank challenge. During the challenge one camper pulled of an accomplishment that I had never seen the likes of in all my years of CrossFit. He planked for 6 minutes and 30 seconds! If that doesn't impress you, I challenge you to give it a shot and see how close you can get. It was a sight to see, as his fellow campers rallied around him and cheered for his success and commended him on his epic feat. After rearranging the mess hall the group earned some down time, during this less structured time many of the campers showered, hung out , relaxed, enjoyed each other's company.
When it was time for roll call, the campers once again had to bang out some burpees. After getting back on track they were treated to a healthy yet tasty meal that was prepared by some of the campers under the direction of master chef Coach Elise. Smiles filled the room as stomachs filled with the delectable dining. When everyone finished eating, Coach Duncan provided the campers with a brief history on who he is and how he became passionate about the science of counseling. His knowledge and love for helping others was evident by the way he spoke and explained what it meant to be resilient. The campers paid close attention and participated in the activities that Coach Duncan led. The 28 campers were engaged and participated actively. I am sure that they all became more aware of what it means to be resilient.
After the lesson from Coach Duncan it was time for circle sharing. It was during this time when the mess hall transformed into a complete open and judgement free zone. Two coaches and two veteran campers shared their stories and the life events that brought them to the point where they are today. This was a moving experience that words cannot describe. The four individuals shared their lowest and most shameful moments with people whom they didn't know 48 hours ago. The room was silent as pain, fear, and heartbreak was shared. Each person who shared was faced with adversity and with the help of others they made it through. They each expressed thankfulness for growth that occurred and accepted that the past helped to create the better person they were today. There were tears that were shed thought out the room but that is to be expected when people with good hearts are emphatic toward others. But with each one of the speakers, after the struggle came progress. Today was truly a great day, one that I will never forget.
Coach JD and Coach Matt
Posted on June 20, 2017 by Steve's Club National Program
No handouts. That is one of Denise Thomas’ favorite parts about Steve’s Club. It is a simulation of real life. Yes, it is a non-profit, but it is by no means a charity. At Steve’s Club, you get what you earn.
"These kids are not just given things. Steve and Local Club leaders across the country teach that from day one. Also take Leadership Camp for example. You have to earn your spot. There is an application process. You need coach recommendations. There are no handouts,” said Thomas, an L4 certified coach, a key member of CrossFit HQ Seminar Staff, and a long-time coach at Reebok CrossFit One.
Denise is no stranger to hard work and competing for what she wants. As a former international soccer player, Thomas understood the implications of hard work and never shied away from it. It is for that reason in the summer of 2008, while working as a trainer in New York City, she approached a guy (Dave Lipson, who went on to become a close friend) doing all this “weird” stuff. “He would do pull ups till his hands were all ripped up. Then he’d continue to do more pull ups, and I just could not understand it,” Thomas laughed.
“He asked me if I wanted to do workout, so I said yes, confidently. I had done a few workouts before,” said Thomas. “It was a Fight Gone Bad style workout and it absolutely killed me. Naturally, I signed up for a CrossFit competition because I’m competitive and I wanted to prove that I could handle this type of workout.”
It was at this 2009 Mid-Atlantic Regional that Thomas met one of Steve’s Club’s major contributors, Lee Knight, who was also competing. Denise learned quickly just how strenuous CrossFit could be. Denise recalls, “I DNF’ed two workouts, and finished 2nd to last overall. I walked away wondering, what is this thing? Why does it make me feel so weak?"
"I quickly realized that you get what you earn, especially in CrossFit, and I had to put in some hard work to get where I wanted to go. My competitive nature took over in the gym and I would continue to show up and put in my best effort every day,” said Thomas.
She also knew that life wasn't going to give her any handouts so she went on to aggressively pursue her passion as her career. Immediately after the 2009 Regionals, she got her L1 certification and her L2 certification shortly thereafter. She has been a long-time coach at Reebok CrossFit One, was the head judge for the CrossFit Games in 2011 and 2012, and has worked extensively as a CF HQ Seminar Staff member.
Denise was also witness to the growth of the first Steve's Club in Camden, NJ where she got to workout alongside many of the youth in the early years of the program. She was part of several Beat the Streets Fundraisers and always admired the kids for their hard work. She remembered from those days that Steve would pick the kids up after school in a van, bring them to the gym, and stress that this was a hand "up" not a handout. Free CrossFit classes and people who care, but they had to do the workouts and continue to show up.
Today, Thomas is approaching six years at CrossFit HQ, with the last three and half years working as the flow master for CrossFit, while also helping on the L2 circuit. While CrossFit has changed Thomas physically (she DNFs far fewer workouts nowadays), the big changes she has experienced are far more than that.
“CrossFit has changed me as a human being. I am doing things physically in my mid-30's that I could never do before. I know I’ve changed outside of the gym too. I've become a kinder person, largely because CrossFit teaches you humility,” shared Thomas. “I’ve always had a little fire in me, but I’ve become much less abrasive, much more open-minded, and I don’t complain as much anymore. Ultimately, it’s made me a better friend, daughter, wife, mentor, and mentee.”
"CrossFit changes lives by breaking you down and building you up stronger than you’ve ever been before. I believe in what it can do for people in shaping their character."
That is one of the reasons that Thomas feels so strongly about supporting Steve’s Club. It gives at-risk kids an opportunity to experience this life-changing gift while also leveling the playing field. "When these kids are at the gym, they’re dealing with the same thing as the person next to them. No judgments and everyone is suffering together,” said Thomas.
Denise has also been a guest coach at the Steve's Club Leadership Camp in 2013 where she taught many kids how to do a handstand for the first time and helped them with a public speaking workshop. Denise's positivity and enthusiasm are second to none, and she was a visible reminder to the kids that people in the CrossFit community truly care enough to take time out of their lives to invest in their development.
"Leadership Camp was also a life changing experience for me. Especially when the kids are sharing their stories. For these troubled youth, this is the first time they allow themselves to be vulnerable. They feel safe and willing to share their struggles with each other. It's just amazing that CrossFit can bring them together like that."
Thomas, who has coached CrossFit in over 20 countries, believes in the community aspect of Steve’s Club and its power to generate positive change. “It’s helping them create a family through this national network of Clubs - teens from different cities come to Leadership Camp and forge a strong connection as they tackle workouts and challenges together. They put in the hard work and you see them begin to believe in themselves and accomplish the things they never thought possible before.”
And that begins with trust and knowing that if you put in the effort you will create opportunities. “Steve’s Club, CrossFit, and the real world, they will not just give you things. There is no entitlement. But if you show up, give your best, trust the coaches and support each other, you will have the tools to be successful at whatever you want in life,” said Thomas.
Denise wants the kids of Steve's Club to know that they can break the mold:
"No one says it'll be easy, but Steve's Club is an opportunity disguised as hard work. It'll give you the right mindset to face challenges that'll come up. And if you're feeling stuck, just let people know you need a little help. We won't give you a handout, but we'll be there to give you a hand up. You're part of the CrossFit community and have people looking out for you around the world."
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 October 24, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Physical Changes Are Easy To See: The Real Change Takes Place Below The Surface
Physical changes are easy to notice. Someone starts working out, or begins eating differently, and after a couple months, it’s very easy to see.
What most people don’t notice are the internal changes as one undergoes changes mentally and emotionally. That is what drew Aimee Lyons to CrossFit. In 2008, after a friend introduced her to CrossFit she experienced a huge change in her confidence levels that helped her approach life situations differently.
Since getting started in CrossFit, she’s dove in wholeheartedly. Aimee now holds her L4 certification, is a member of the CrossFit Seminar Staff, owner of CrossFit King of Prussia in PA, and runs a Local Steve’s Club (Steve’s Club King of Prussia).
“There is no doubt that CrossFit changes lives. From changes in body composition and blood work to the changes one experiences mentally after pushing themselves further than they ever imagined they could. All of these experiences, after happening again and again, begin to transfer to everyday life situations outside of the gym,” said Lyons.
For this reason, after seeing the impact CrossFit had on her personally, and those around her, Aimee knew she had to get involved with Steve’s Club after meeting Steve Liberati, founder of the original Steve’s Club in Camden, NJ, and seeing the impact he was having with the at-risk youth there.
“I was inspired right away. I visited a few times to see how they ran the program and volunteered some time to help, but it was evident that we could create our own program at CrossFit King of Prussia and that was a huge goal of mine,” Lyons, a 4-time CrossFit Games Regional competitor, shared.
And that goal became a reality in 2011 when Lyons and her team held their first Steve’s Club class. “To shape the lives of kids who are growing up less fortunate was an opportunity that I could not pass up. If we could provide role models for these underprivileged youth through the CrossFit community, and show them what values we hold, they will be able to take this confidence, positive attitude, and leadership out into the real world to attain opportunities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.”
This hard work, sweat, and determination paid off for Lyons and her team when she began to see her first group of kids improving their SAT and ACT scores through CrossFit King of Prussia’s SAT prep program before going on to college. “I think one of the moments that it paid off is when we began to see our kids move on to college. These were the same kids who were choosing to not even attend SAT classes only a short time earlier. This huge shift in personality, making right choices over wrong, is 100% due to CrossFit, Steve’s Club, and the positive mentors within our community.
Steve’s Club King of Prussia has been the catalyst for change through its support of teens like Tre, who has attended Leadership Camp several years in a row, and the young twins Jayden and Davin who were abandoned by their mother, and promptly adopted by members of CrossFit KoP, Lisa and Chris Agnew. Both have been integrated into the CrossFit KoP community, and thanks to Steve's Club they've flourished.
If you want to help youth through CrossFit, consider starting a Local Club in your community - we can get you set up quickly and easily so you can start training kids right away!
To help us add more Local Clubs like Steve's Club KoP to our national network, please donate here. Each new Club works with kids and teens in their local community to break the negative cycle and create leaders from within.
Posted on October 19, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Which Wolf Will You Feed?
Fear of failure stops most people before they even start. Everyone has big dreams and aspirations but so few are able to act on them because of this fear.
Unfortunately, many people don’t even realize it is a fear of failure that is stopping them dead in their tracks. They say it’s too hard, not worth the effort, or takes up too much time. We’ve all heard the various excuses.
What they don’t realize (or maybe they do) is that deep at the root of all these excuses is this fear. That is why you must call it out. Christy Adkins calls this the “Wolf of Fear”, a concept she first heard about when reading Mark Divine's "Unbeatable Mind”. The Wolf of Fear has a counterpart: the “Wolf of Courage”. And it is up to you to choose who you will feed.
Christy Phillips Adkins, a 7-time CrossFit Games Individual athlete, shared this story with the at-risk teens at Leadership Camp this past summer. To her, it is one of the most important lessons that anyone can learn in life. We all live with both of these wolves, but do we feed the Wolf of Fear or the Wolf of Courage?
“The Wolf of Fear will always be there. But so is the Wolf of Courage. We can choose to feed either one. So what do we do? We feed the Wolf of Courage and starve the Wolf of Fear,” shared Adkins.
Christy got involved with Steve’s Club because she understood the positive impact CrossFit can have on someone physically, and the type of impact the CrossFit community can have on that same individual emotionally. “I came across Steve’s Club and saw their generosity immediately. Their generosity with their time, their support, their advice, it is what makes the CrossFit community so incredible,” said Adkins.
“Steve’s Club doesn’t just help kids in Camden - it's now a national program that is affecting many kids across the country in a positive way. That is why I wanted to be involved with an organization like Steve’s Club."
"Steve’s Club is made up of a bunch of ‘doers’, not talkers. I believe in them and their ability to have a long-lasting impact on these kids."
Christy has been a long time supporter of Steve's Club. Along with volunteering as a guest coach during the 2016 Leadership Camp where she led several workshops and workouts, she's graciously donated gear from the CrossFit Games to the girls in our program.
Christy Adkins, known throughout the CrossFit community as one of the most humble elite CrossFitters, has a genuine heart for giving back especially to a population of kids that desperately needs that message of courage and perseverance. She is no stranger to hard work and bouncing back from adversity herself.
“Prior to the 2016 Games, I tore my bicep in the off-season and had surgery. I believed my goal to make it back to the CrossFit games was still possible so I put in a lot of hard work with the help of my coaches and physical therapist to prepare. The moment that I realized it all paid off was during the second to last event of Regionals where I was fighting to earn a spot to go to the Games,” Christy recalled.
“I was able to hold onto the barbell for all 10 reps of the 155-pound overhead squat, something I had never done before. The months of hard work I put into strengthening my back and shoulders during physical therapy paid off!” Adkins said, excitedly.
Christy, who works as a nurse when she's not training, wanted to pass on the lessons that she learned through many years of training and competing, to these kids who are going through, and have gone through, some very challenging experiences in their lives. In times of adersity it is very easy to feed the Wolf of Fear. This fear can lead one down a path of self-destruction.
“A lot of these kids live in unstable environments. They are unsure of what will happen day to day, and that uncertainty often leads to self-doubt and negative choices. That’s where CrossFit can help them change."
"You don’t know how far you can push yourself until you physically do, and CrossFit has that ability to show you how much more you are capable of than you may have realized.” Christy was inspired to be able to share that message with the kids of Steve's Club and is proud of the CrossFit community for supporting such a worthy cause!
Posted on October 14, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Rebecca Brown is no stranger to a troubled past.
Growing up in a family that was struggling with alcoholism and substance abuse, she would alternate between retreating from the world and acting out. Trying to balance the desire for affection with need for self-preservation, she entered into adulthood with serious self-confidence issues and her own battle with alcoholism.
When Rebecca found CrossFit in 2010 she quickly realized that this was how she could help at-risk teens like herself in her community.
In working with these kids, Rebecca saw a reflection of her younger self. She knew that they were not mean-spirited, unintelligent, or incapable, but rather had been traveling through life without a purpose up to that point.
She chose to use her personal experiences, and CrossFit, to make a difference in the lives of others.
“I was a troubled, misguided, and difficult teenager growing up,” Brown said. “I wanted to use that experience to give back and help these teens get on the right track to turn their lives around.”
The CrossFit Community Comes Together To Change Lives
Rebecca Brown, who started Steve’s Club Nashville in 2012, and opened CrossFit Gulch soon after that to create a space for the program, knew that the CrossFit community was the right place for these teens to be embraced, empowered, and encouraged to make the changes they needed.
“These kids inspire me everyday. It’s incredible to watch them grow and light up with confidence as their strength and skill continues to improve each day,” Brown beamed.
Coach Rebecca is described as generous, hardworking, and caring by those around her, and thinks nothing of dedicated countless hours to organizing fundraisers, coaching teens, and making sure they have someone to talk to.
One of Rebecca’s proudest success stories is Tommy. Tommy came to her after his mother overdosed and passed away. He was acting out and getting into trouble. That is when Tommy was brought to Brown, and introduced to CrossFit.
Fast-forward three and a half years, Tommy is described as a “kind, caring, and determined kid who supports the others in the program.” After graduation next summer, Tommy plans to join the Marines to continue leading. He has attended several of the Steve’s Club Leadership Camps and has become one of the most genuine, respectful, and supportive teens at Camp. The newer kids look up to him, and he's the first to volunteer for the toughest tasks. He leads by example at Camp and has also become an inspiring role model at his Local Club, Steve's Club Nashville.
Rebecca’s dedication to these kids is not an act or a show. Brown, along with SCNP co-founders, Steve Liberati and Lee Knight, is the only Guest Coach to attend every single Leadership Camp since its creation. She loves volunteering at Camp because she knows these kids are the ones that will become leaders at home and begin changing their families and communities from the inside.
Once again, Rebecca would not make it about her, but how incredible it is to have the opportunity to work with, and support, these teenagers. “I wish I could bottle up the tiniest bit of how amazing Leadership Camp is, and give it to everyone. These kids fill my heart to the brim. They are so kind, hardworking, vulnerable, and tough at the same time. All of the Steve’s Club supporters are truly helping to change lives.”
Rebecca decided she wanted to continue to build the sense of camaraderie and community among the teens at Leadership Camp, and hosted a Teen CrossFit Competition in Nashville, TN.
Through the direction and hard work of Brown and SCNP staff, 12 at-risk teens from other Local Clubs were able to fly to Nashville to compete, be pushed outside of their comfort zone, and to experience the broader CrossFit community. “We were able to raise money from 10 different CrossFit gyms to fly in kids from various Steve’s Clubs across the country for a young adult only CrossFit competition. The day after the competition, these kids also had the opportunity to workout side by side with Rich Froning and the rest of the CrossFit Mayhem Freedom team, who are like heroes to them,” Brown shared proudly. A lot of work went into the logistics to make it possible, and it was worth every ounce of effort.
This feat was nothing short of miraculous and certainly one the teens won’t soon forget.
If you've had a challenging background and know what these kids are going through, maybe consider starting your own Steve's Club.
Or support our mission with a donation, or by sharing Rebecca and Tommy’s story with your friends on Facebook or Instagram.
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