Steve’s Club Athlete Profile: Tony
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!