Posted on July 21, 2017 by Steve's Club National Program
What are you grateful for today?
Today was the last full day of camp and we kicked off the day with the option of working on Olympic lifting skills with Coaches Chad or yoga in the park with Carla. Carla is a joy to be around, and I was lucky enough to feel that energy while she led us. She asked us to think of three things we are grateful for and gave us journals as we finished our session.
We then had breakfast and continued learning more about gratitude and how to write thank you notes from Coach Duncan. Each of the athletes wrote to those who made camp possible including coaches and volunteers. They made sure that they included the following elements in their thank you notes- that it was genuine, specific, included how it made them feel and had a final sign off. They first wrote a note then recorded and sent a video to their person.
Next up was the final challenge of the Obstacle Course. Coach Ace of the Travis Manion foundation briefed all 6 of the obstacles on the course. He also added an additional challenge: if they did not beat their time on Thursday, the rest of the team would have to do 15 burpees. This created added stress on an already grueling hot summer day. The athletes rose to the challenge and with mental and physical strength each athlete beat their time. Even better, their camaraderie was displayed as each athlete cheered on the next, constantly making sure they made it through every obstacle. Likewise, those who needed space were able to communicate their needs and their teammates respected that. Afterwards, Autumn and Francisco received special recognition and a coin for displaying the highest levels of integrity and commitment, character traits that defined the legacy of Travis Manion.
The afternoon was filled with one last Olympic lifting coaching session with Coach Chad. He gave them tips on the important cues of the lifts: tension, transition, and extension. He explained that by simplifying cues and learning how to find your zone, you will be able to achieve even if you don't believe you can lift the weight.
The afternoon was scheduled to transition into pool time but with thunderstorms the pool trip was cancelled and this caused morale to slide. As we were setting up for yoga, tensions were high and the energy in the room was off. Coach Lee sent them on a self-guided run around the block. The athletes decided to do a 28-man Indian run. The athletes described that it was difficult, they were arguing with one another and not working together. They found their groove by the end of the run and when they entered "Steve's Club Yoga Studio" they entered with reverence, and filled the room with peace.
After yoga with Coach Carla, we packed up and went to the lake. This last dinner felt more like a family outing at the park. Athletes were playing volleyball, soccer, and even Olympic lifting with Chad. Some opted for the swing set, a nature walk, or catching fish and turtles in the lake. Chef Elise cooked up a delicious spread of burgers and hot dogs and athletes toasted marshmallows and made s'mores for dessert.
The last sharing circle was outside in the cool air with faces illuminated by the soft glow of a lamp. Our athletes talked about overcoming challenges that led them to camp and plans for the future. Afterwards, an athlete led a prayer circle and a large group continued to share their stories until lights out in the barracks.
What am I grateful for?
I'm grateful for each of the athletes and coaches and for the collective team that we have become over the past week. Thank you for having the courage to tell your stories, the perseverance to conquer challenges together, facing your individual fears and being vulnerable with each other. I know I'm leaving camp a better person because of you and I truly hope you feel the same way.
With love and gratitude,
Lifefit Ketchikan, Alaska
Posted on July 17, 2017 by Steve's Club National Program
It's day Day 4 of Steve's Club Leadership Camp. We woke up early at 6:30am for a 7:15am run with Coach Melody. I'm not much of a runner but some of the kids can fly! Terrell and Tray set the pace early and made for a fast first mile. They took off with Coach Melody on the last hill and were the first ones to finish. Tommy, Coach Matt, and I did a cool down lap around the barracks while the rest of the squad ran 100m sprints. It was a good start to the morning!
After an amazing breakfast from Coach Elise, we transitioned into our session with former Olympic weightlifter for Team USA, Chad Vaughn. Some serious knowledge was shared as Chad explained the foundations of being a good weightlifter.
Chad also shared some awesome messages encouraging the kids that they are all leaders and that other people are constantly looking up to them. Openness and effort are key traits he identified as important to being an effective leader.
Then it was outside for some movement prep drills which included a spicy air squat tabata where the "rest" was at the bottom of the squat.
It was then back inside where Chad nailed down some specific weightlifting concepts and best practices for "what it takes to be 'good' at weightlifting." Ultimately he described that effort and dedication are needed to reach one's full potential.
We all went back outside where Chad led us through several basic but surprisingly challenging hold positions with the barbell. This all served to re-emphasize his point about the importance of attention to detail if you want to perform your best.
After a quick lunch we all packed up and headed over to a local state park for some fun afternoon activities. While the campers played an intense game of kickball, us coaches planned out "Mission Impossible" a 4 station obstacle course that required attention to detail and teamwork while incorporating various gymnastic and CrossFit style movements. It was so awesome to watch as each team came together, dealt with the various challenges, and obstacles and overcame.
As if these kids hadn't had enough, we packed up into the vans again and headed up into the hills for a hike. This wasn't an average hike as the kids divided into two teams and had to carry two kettle bells and a heavy sandbag, working together without ever putting the objects down. Team leaders were identified and did an incredible job leading and guiding their team, making sure everyone was sticking together. There wasn't much of a break at the top either. We ran them through a relay WOD including goblet squats with the kettle bells and sandbag runs. Over all, it was at least an hour and half hike and the kids crushed it.
We wrapped up the evening with dinner and our sharing time, which has quickly become my favorite part of the night. Typically two coaches lead off the time by sharing their stories and then the kids can volunteer to share as well.
It's hard to best describe this time as individuals open up to one another and share their heart, their hurt, and their pain. The power of each and every story is evident and it almost goes without saying that these kids are my inspiration. Despite the pain and hardship that many of these kids are experiencing, I've seen an incredible amount of hope that comes from this community. From kids cheering each other on during workouts or comforting one another as they express painful feelings, I've come to realize in a new light how much hope we can provide one another. This is why I love Steve's Club and the platform CrossFit provides. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, we are stronger together, and together we can have hope. That's what these kids have taught me.
Posted on July 17, 2017 by Steve's Club National Program
Day 3 started early like every day at camp with clear skies, and groggy teens and coaches. After the previous day of rain the sun was here to stay. Despite the long days of multiple workouts, writing assignments, and intense and often emotional moments as the kids share their life stories with each other, the mess hall and breakfast time was filled with cheerful greetings.
After just three days, the atmosphere of hesitation and awkwardness that was present, had vanished. These teens from all over the country were just recently thrown together, but now they were a team. They were friends. They were family. On this day, they put it all to the test on the military obstacle course and leadership reaction course.
In preparation the coaches read out the day's schedule and discussed safety, hydration, bug spray, and sunscreen. Then, everyone loaded up in the vans and trucked across the military base. The obstacle course is meant to test their physical limits and with several complicated, very tall wooden structures, it does that and more. The athletes were all different sizes, different physical abilities, and ages ranging from 12 to 20. Their ability to conquer the obstacles ranged as well. Some of them couldn't climb a rope and some were scared of heights, some were bigger and had a hard time climbing and jumping from object to object. The littlest one, Aiden, sometimes couldn't even reach the next log or handhold but he just kept smiling. They all cheered each other on and no one gave up.
The Leadership Reaction Course was a different type of obstacle. This was a task testing their ability to communicate, lead, form plans, and follow instruction. Sometimes, the tasks are meant to test your ability to accept failure. In many ways it was more difficult than the physically grueling obstacle course. These are kids that have frequently come from turbulent homes where healthy communication is unheard of, and very rarely have they been in a true leadership role. Some of them shine, showing such confidence it is stunning, but some of them struggle. The frustrations of not being able to clearly express their ideas or understand and act out the ideas of their peers and hours under the brutal sun took their toll, but these teens aren't like many other teens. They are tough. They are resilient. They are grateful to be there. And when tempers flared, and emotions boil, they worked through it. They opened up to the coaches about their frustrations and moved on with a smile. As the day ended everyone headed back to the mess hall to relax, unwind, and hash out the day with each other.
Sharing circle that night was different. A couple of the coaches shared their personal stories and then we divided the kids into groups of 4 and asked them to express whatever they were feeling or thinking about in art, any kind of art, a drawing, a short story, a poem, or maybe even music. They jumped on it. One kid, Alvin, got out his drum sticks that he takes everywhere. Luiz, from Colorado, wrote a beautiful poem comparing his feelings to the ocean. Terrell, from Philly, created a paper fortune teller that had some of his life decisions written on the different flaps. Francisco, from Camden, drew a picture of his cousin that was killed. Teens that hadn't opened up before wrote and wrote and drew stories of some of the things they had seen. These are the greatest moments of camp!
Providing these exceptional teens a safe environment to express themselves about the past, present, and future, is one of the best experiences I've ever had. Their stories break your heart! Again and again, I am shocked by some of the horrifying things they've gone through when in front of me I see this sweet, funny, hard working kid. I say this every year, but if I could just bottle up a piece of camp for everyone to see and feel, the world would be a better place. I hope this blog gives you a glimmer. Day 3 is in the books! Every other day I know will be just as amazing!
Steve's Club Nashville
Posted on November 28, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Most of us don’t have a very vivid memory of our childhoods, especially the very early years. But what does it mean when you are 17 years old and can’t remember things that occurred only a few short years before?
It’s not amnesia. It’s not due to any physical injury. It’s another kind of trauma. The type of trauma that comes from dealing with your mother overdosing on drugs. “I don’t really remember where I grew up. Somewhere in the country. I kind of grew up all over. My mom wasn’t really in my life, but when she was, it really just wasn’t pleasant,” shared Tommy, an athlete at Steve's Club Nashville.
Tommy’s reaction to his mother’s passing, while not ideal, is understandable. After his mother passed, Tommy made a lot of bad decisions. He acted out as many teenagers would have, and do. “I fell into a lot of bad habits, a lot of which involved drugs.” Tommy, who had to be dragged to Steve’s Club Nashville by his dad, was described by Coach Rebecca as “sullen, quiet, and aloof” in his earliest days before he embarked on a transformation that brought him around 180 degrees.
“Tommy arrived and didn’t really speak. His dad was bringing him in because Tommy was acting up and he didn’t really know what else to do with him. That was about three and a half years ago. About a year into it, he really began to change. He went from that quiet, sullen kid to a happier, more open kid,” Rebecca beamed. “Now he helps the other kids, cheers them on, and even goes out of his way to help clean up equipment without being asked." I think we all know how hard it is to get teenagers to clean up anything.
Tommy, admittedly, was heading down the wrong path, but found CrossFit in time to redirect his negative energy into a positive influence in his life and turn things around. He plans to enlist in the Marines after graduation in the spring of 2017. “I just found a better way to express myself. I realized that I can be who I really am, and be more open in front of others. I also realized that maybe it’s not about fitting in, but maybe it’s all about standing out,” Tommy said thoughtfully.
“There have been quite a few times I’ve been put down in my life. People always want to put a label on you, and that’s fine, people are always going to talk about you because they want something to talk about. That drives me to keep going, to get better, to be the best, because then, that’ll give them something to talk about, being the best.”
But Tommy now realizes something that he did not before. After his mother passed, he went on a search. He was searching for happiness. And no matter where he looked, or which drug he tried, he couldn’t find what he was looking for, until Steve’s Club. “I began to realize after a few weeks of coming to Steve’s Club that the high you get from drugs, that “happiness”, can be found naturally. And that’s what I’ve found with CrossFit and Steve’s Club,” Tommy said.
“It’s helped me so much mentally, physically, and emotionally. The workouts are hard, but fun, then you start challenging yourself. Then you start doing things you couldn’t do before, overcoming challenges, and it keeps you coming back.”
Tommy understands the impact and change Steve’s Club and CrossFit has had on his life and has turned into a recruiter at school. “There’s really not much not to like. I tell everyone that they have to try it. It’s free, it’s fun, but the community is what is truly incredible. Everybody gets down at certain points, whether it’s in a workout or in life. But at Steve’s Club we are all pulling for each other, and that’s made a huge difference for me.”
If you'd like to start a Steve's Club in your community to provide a safe and nurturing environment for kids like Tommy, learn more here.
If you want to help us reach more kids like Tommy in other cities nationwide, we rely on donations to expand our program and start more Steve's Clubs. Join us in making a difference!
Posted on November 28, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Most 14-year-olds enjoy sleeping in, avoid doing hard work, and need to be told what to do. Elijah from Steve's Club Louisville in Kentucky is different. He was the very first athlete to join this new chapter of Steve's Club in March of 2016.
"Elijah saw the story the local news ran about our gym and called me immediately. We spoke for about 20 minutes that night. And he showed up on our doorstep before we were even open at 7:30 in the morning. He's a pretty cool kid," said Local Club founder Nicole Harp. "He just loved being involved from Day 1. He was showing up anywhere and everywhere. He even did our ribbon cutting at the Grand Opening."
"Before Steve's Club, I was a couch potato. I would just sit there, watch TV, and not do anything all day. Now if I had to give advice to that kid sitting there on that couch, I would tell him to get up, get going, and get to Steve's Club," Elijah shared. "The changes that I have seen within myself physically and mentally have been amazing. I'm way more strong physically, but mentally, I'm much, much stronger. I used to be thinking about the wrong things all the time, that's just not the case anymore."
Steve's Club Louisville, located in the lowest socioeconomic area of Louisville, Kentucky, is not in a neighborhood that makes it easy on a kid, or offers a lot of opportunity. Violent crimes there are 6.32 on average per 1,000 residents, compared to the national average of 3.8 which makes it one of the more dangerous places to live in the US. There are 53 crimes per square mile there, compared to 33 as a national average.
Regardless, Elijah makes the most of it. Using his bike to get around, Elijah puts in regular shifts at Wendy's, is in the JROTC, and is an everyday member at his Local Steve's Club.
"He's already seen some massive improvement. He looks way more fit. He's a completely different kid. Personal accountability has been a huge issue for him, but it's something we're working on and he has been willing to work on to get better," Harp said.
One major learning opportunity for Elijah was something many teens face throughout their time in school - a failed test. The teacher asked Elijah to come in early to school to remedy the situation and figure out a way to improve his grades. Unfortunately, he tried to sweep it under the rug and not tell his mother about it. Like many teens, he thought he could try to fix it on his own.
Elijah came to Coach Harp asking for a ride to school early one morning. Harp, a former member of the military, sensed something was up, and knew she had to receive permission from Elijah's mom to provide the transportation, so she made Elijah call his mother to come clean. Elijah took care of the situation and learned a valuable lesson. It is best to confront problems head on instead of trying to dance around them because they will eventually catch up to you, one way or another. That's what our Steve's Club coaches and volunteers are there for - to be another caring influence and keep them on the right path.
"I learned a ton from that situation, and I think that is a great example of just one of the many lessons that I've learned since joining Steve's Club," Elijah said. "There are going to be difficult times throughout your life, but putting them off, avoiding them, or hiding from them is only going to make them worse in the long run."
Elijah, a self-described goofball, has used these lessons to turn into one of the leaders at his Local Club. "He works so well with all the new kids that come in," Harp described. "Over the last month or so, we've probably had 10-15 kids join and he has been a huge help for them. He's great with teaching them and making them feel welcomed and involved."
"I just love the environment at Steve's Club. From Day 1, it has felt like family. That's what I try to tell all the kids I try to recruit to come to Steve's Club. It will 100% make you a more improved version of yourself, and it provides a sense of belonging. A sense of family," Elijah said proudly.
Steve's Club is a network of chapters across the country that provides fitness, nutrition, and mentorship to at-risk youth. To learn more about Steve's Club Louisville and other Local Clubs across the nation, click here.
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