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 November 23, 2016 by Steve's Club National Program
"As You Gather at the Table, Remember This" – a guest post by Lisbeth Darsh
Hunger is a real thing in America. We forget that.
It's one more thing we overlook, as we move through our daily lives, grabbing a bite here or making a meal there. We joke about being "hangry" and we press on, because we are busy people and there's much work to do. Yet, many people really are going without enough food in America.
Let's stop for a moment and consider this reality: it's estimated that 42 million Americans are "food insecure." 42 million, and that includes almost 7 million teenagers.
"Wait. Food insecurity? What does that even mean?"
That was my response when I first heard the term. It sounded like something said to teenage girls in therapy sessions. But it's not.
Basically, hunger has one definition by the United Nations, but food insecurity in the U.S. means that you don't have enough to eat throughout the day. It means you don't have enough access to "reliable, affordable food." For teens, that can mean they might get a free lunch at school, but there's not enough food to eat at home, so they are scrounging for it where they can get it (like at a friend's house) or that they're going to bed hungry.
Think about that: 7 million teenagers, trying to go to school and study, play sports, maybe work a part-time job, but meanwhile their stomachs are rumbling. Who could concentrate like that? I know how hard it is for me to concentrate when I'm hungry (yes, I'm one of those people who gets hangry) so I can imagine how hard it must be for teenagers. I look at my own teens and I'm grateful that I can provide good, nutritious food for their growing bodies. I would never want them to be insecure about their next meal or snack.
So, why am I telling you this? Because that high number (7 million teenagers) was kind of a surprise to me, and I think it might be a surprise to you, too. You can read more about teenage food insecurity here:
And what can you do about it?
Support programs like Steve's Club where at-risk and underserved youth in America are given support and opportunities to learn life lessons about nutrition, health, and fitness.
Shop at Steve's PaleoGoods, where 15% of your purchase goes to support the Steve's Club National Program.
Donate to your local food bank, or to organizations like Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. (The Feeding America website also has a handy "find your local food bank" tool.)
The first step to solving any problem is awareness that the problem exists. So, now you know. As you celebrate the holidays with your family, be grateful for everything you have – and, maybe, remember those who have less, particularly the kids. They could use your help. Thanks!
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.
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