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.
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 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 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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