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.
Posted on November 28, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Tony is the son of Mexican immigrants and has grown up in the heart of Camden, NJ, where 40% of residents are below the national poverty line.
Camden, NJ had the highest crime rate in the United States in 2012, with 2,566 violent crimes for every 100,000 people, 6.6 times higher than the national average of 387 violent crimes per 100,000 citizens.
That is the reality Tony, a 17-year-old member of Steve's Club Heart of Camden, faces every single day when he steps outside of his house.
Tony's life is not easy. He understands that. There is a constant threat of violence and danger on his block everyday and it's not going away anytime soon. But through Tony's discovery of Steve's Club and the principles of CrossFit, he has been able to take what he learns when battling through a WOD and apply it to all facets of his life. Leadership, perseverance, and drive are no longer abstract concepts to him.
As a young boy, he struggled with his weight and his perspective on life. Thankfully since being introduced to Steve’s Club, both have changed.
“I used to whine a lot as a kid. I’d tell my parents, these aren’t the clothes that I want, or why can’t I have this, or do that. I spent a lot of time indoors, on the couch and playing video games because it wasn't safe to go outside in my neighborhood. I originally came to Steve’s Club because I was overweight and chubby. I kept hearing about this Steve’s Club place and how intense the workouts were, so I gave it a shot,” Tony said.
Tony credits Steve's Club with not just getting him into better shape physically, but changing who he is deep down inside. "There have been a ton of changes that I've noticed since I first came, especially externally. But the best change I've noticed is I feel like a better person internally. Whether I'm at Steve's Club or not, I can feel it inside of me. I can feel that I am a good person."
It was not until Steve’s Club and CrossFit that he truly began to believe in his future. "My dad is also a great role model for me. He stresses the importance of attending school, getting a career, and providing a good life for my children. That's just something that I don't think a lot of kids in Camden understand. And to be honest, that isn't really something I believed was possible until I joined Steve's Club."
Since joining Steve’s Club Heart of Camden, Tony has been fortunate enough to attend Leadership Camp, a Spartan Race, and represent Steve’s Club in a number of other events.
"At Leadership Camp, I really started thinking about who I want to be. Being a leader means a number of things, but first and foremost, it means maintaining your calm in any situation. If you realize that you can control, what you can control, and only that, it leaves you in a much better chance to succeed," Tony shared. "As a leader, it is also important to help those around you. That goes hand in hand with remaining calm. If those around me see me begin to lose my cool, how can they be expected to do anything different?"
Tony’s coaches at Heart of Camden have also noticed big changes. Once a very introverted kid, Tony is now much more sociable. “I have seen such growth in Tony since starting CrossFit. He used to be shy and secluded, preferring the comfort of his own home rather than any interaction with the outside world,” shared Coach Karim. “It was easy for him to sit at home. No judgments, no challenges, nothing pushing him to be better. Now, he is more open in conversations, well-mannered when speaking with adults, and very grateful for the opportunities given to him.”
Tony has fully embraced a new perspective - one that is full of gratitude. “Now all the times my parents advised me to be grateful resonates so much more,” said Tony, a leader and an inspiration to the younger athletes at his home gym in Camden.
“I now understand and see, it could be much worse. It always could be. You miss an attempt for a PR? At least I have a gym and friends at Steve's Club. You don't like your neighborhood? Someone could be without a home. You don’t like the way your food tastes? Someone could be totally without food. When you keep things like that in mind, it makes life much more enjoyable.”
“Heart of Camden has been an unbelievable experience for me. Working out while having fun has been awesome, but I really enjoy getting to know people, have good conversations, and share our stories with each other for support. This environment has been so helpful for my personal growth,” Tony shared with a smile.
To learn more about how you can help more kids like Tony beat the streets, check out the Suggested WOD Fundraiser here.
To help Steve's Club expand our reach into underprivileged communities make a donation anytime here. It costs $1,000 to start a new Local Club to reach more kids like Tony. Please help us Strengthen a Nation, One Kid at a Time!
Posted on October 18, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
A guest post by the Head Coach and Owner of CrossFit 1Force
I joined CrossFit Tribe in 2009, and Steve Liberati was the owner and head coach. We shared the box with his real passion, Steve’s Club Camden. He opened his doors everyday from 4-5pm to the young kids of Camden free of charge. We were happy to mentor the kids, and they were even happier to crush us in workouts. It was awesome watching them escape the harsh reality of their hometown at our box.
Those first years of CrossFit were some of my happiest. In 2010, I was on a Tribe team that competed at the Games, and of course the kids came too. It was the first time they had ever been on a plane. The experience would not have been the same without them.
The next year I opened CrossFit 1Force, an affiliate in West Deptford, NJ. Since Steve’s Club is closed on the weekends, I have an open door policy at 1Force. Steve’s Club athletes can train with our team whenever they want, and we love having them. During the CrossFIt OPEN, they’d hit the WOD once during the week at Steve’s Club and then again at 1Force on the weekend so they could run against our best athletes. The kids often win, but my members win too by drawing inspiration from these awesome athletes.
Ray Negron was a stand out Steve's Club athlete from the very beginning. A legit CrossFitter in his own right, Ray rose to the top of the pack as a strong leader and a wonderful example for the other kids. After he became L1 Certified, he started leading warm ups at Steve's Club Camden, teaching strength and eventually coaching classes on his own. Ray aspires to own a box someday. When Steve suggested I offer Ray an internship on my staff, I did not hesitate.
Our intern program at 1Force is pretty tough. Coaches have to shadow 2-3 times weekly and complete an additional hour of box maintenance until they are ready to lead class. This process is never shorter than one year. During Ray’s internship, I received countless compliments about what a great guy and knowledgeable coach he was. Ray never complained about the hours, or the lack of pay, but instead thanked us repeatedly for the chance to learn in such a large community. Once we had a spot open, my wife Erin and I were so excited to welcome Ray as an official member of our coaching staff.
Ray now runs Sunday mornings at 1Force, coaching CrossFit and Endurance back to back. The adult members there are used to having excellent coaching, and Ray fit right in.
Having Sundays free to be with my family is truly a gift, and knowing that my 1Force family is taken care of gives me great peace of mind. Ray has a young family of his own, and he looks at every opportunity to work as a way to provide for the future of his young son, Ray III, who can be seen toddling around Steve’s Club Camden and 1Force trying to get in on the action.
I’ve been a proud supporter of Steve’s Club since it’s inception. But in truth - Ray and his teammates are the ones providing the support. Much of what they have seen the rest of us only watch on the news, yet they offer no excuse. They simply show up to train each day, grateful for the opportunity given to them by Steve and the rest of the donors who make Steve’s Club Camden possible.
We will be looking to Ray for even more leadership as we open our own Local Steve’s Club in the upcoming months. It will be our mission to help West Deptford teenagers find the strongest, fastest, fittest version of themselves through CrossFit training and group mentoring at 1Force Steve’s Club. We are proud to join the long list of awesome affiliates who are building a stronger nation, One Kid at a Time.
Posted on September 20, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
Every once in awhile, a kid, seemingly wise beyond his or her years, will blow you away in a conversation.
It isn’t until somewhere in the conversation that you may be brought down to Earth when they mention Snapchat or Justin Bieber; but before that, it felt as if you were talking to someone with years of life experience.
This is what it is like being around Luiz from Steve’s Club Denver, a 17-year-old, who provides perspectives on life that one would expect only from someone much older.
“Integrity is huge. Personally, I view integrity as being truthful to yourself, not to seek out shortcuts, not to cheat. It’s knowing that it will never feel as good as if you do it yourself and give it your all to get there,” Luiz shared at Steve’s Club Leadership Camp this summer.
Moments like this make you take a step back and say, “Despite all that they've been through, these are some impressive kids involved with Steve’s Club.”
Personal Development is Crucial to Helping Others
Luiz is described by his coaches at Steve’s Club Denver as a very soft-spoken kid, who is never boastful, and always willing to step in to help others succeed. But it has not always been this way. Initially Luiz was uncomfortable leading, despite his ability to excel in the gym. He was great at the movements, rivaling some of the adult members in workouts, but he was very reluctant to connect, share, or lead others.
Coach Duncn Seawell, founder of Steve's Club Denver and a member of SCNP Board of Directors, painted Luiz’s picture well. “Luiz is no different than many teenagers. Meeting the demands of school, finances, and outside expectations can be too much at times. On occasion, he will turn inward and fail to return calls or show up when expected and that can really bother the adults around him.”
“However, without exception, every time Luiz has an episode where he may go off the radar for a bit, he understands and sees his behavior for what it is. At which point, he always comes back with a most sincere apology,” said Seawell.
Since joining Steve's Club, Luiz has been pushed by his coaches to step up and utilize his character and drive to motivate his peers. It took some time for Luiz to be comfortable in this role.
"Luiz has an uncanny ability to coach. He can work with the younger team members without making them defensive or resistant to his input. We enjoy having Luiz in class because he's capable, knowledgeable, and humble enough to motivate others without demanding their compliance. That's a hard skill to teach," said Duncan.
This skill is not something that Luiz truly understood he had. "I always knew I could help [others] from a technical standpoint, but the coaches helped me realize that mentally and emotionally, I had a lot to offer as well,” Luiz recalled. “At first, I was very reserved. But now, when I see something or someone needs a little push, I voice my opinion and it resonates with those around me.”
Luiz, who plans on going for his L1 certification in the near future, knows that as much as he has been able to help others through CrossFit in Denver, it is he who has learned the most from CrossFit. “The challenges of CrossFit are tough, but they have helped me learn so much about myself."
As a future coach, Luiz also realizes the importance of self-improvement and personal development. “As an older member of our gym, many younger or newer kids look to me to lead. If I'm not in a good place in my own mind, it is absolutely impossible to help someone else,” Luiz remarked, once again showing wisdom well beyond his 17 years.
To receive more inspiring stories like these about at-risk teens making huge changes in their lives, and learn how you can support more kids like Luiz, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
If you're a member or owner of a CrossFit gym, please consider hosting a Suggested Donation workout to benefit Steve's Club. Learn about our Beat the Streets fundraiser here.
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