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 July 16, 2017 by Steve's Club National Program
"Welcome to Leadership Camp... We are not your camp counselors, We are your coaches". That's how my morning started when asked by an athlete why everything was on a schedule. I often catch myself making odd statements like that throughout the day at Steve's Club Leadeship Camp. As my 3rd Camp progressed I realized what my purpose was, and why I return year after year.
Structure is a large part of Camp. Something the athletes eventually appreciate by the end. In the beginning, not so much. They don't appreciate being woken up at 0730 by 5 coaches working out in thier barracks. They don't appreciate lights out at 2200, or meals when they are served ... not when they are hungry. In thier every day life they often lack structure and support at home. Most of the kids admit to getting up, going to bed, and eating when they want. Without beds to sleep on or food to eat, some of the athletes have no nessecity to schedule sleep time or meals. Each athlete coming from a different home life, but now living the same camp life.
Each day is full of various levels of "coaching". Everyday the coaches compare CrossFit to real life goals and situations. As coaches we are not here to babysit them or coral them from one activity to the next. We encourage them, support them, workout with them, educate them about nutrition and injury prevention, teach them how to handle negative situations, provide positive reinforcement or deploy consequences, open ourselves to them and be available for them to open up to us... 24 hours a day for 5 days. We are leading them down a path to lead others. We are coaches.
At the close of camp each year we are asked to leave a quote. My quote is "Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle". One of the most rewarding parts of Camp is listening to kids from all over the US talk to each other and help each other get through the challenge of Leadership Camp, 5 burpees at a time. The other is acceptance. A battle becomes easier to fight when you have a "battle buddy". Tonight after sharing my story of growing up as an "at risk youth" I promised each of the 28 kids one thing... They are going to leave camp with more than the luggage they came with.
Sarah N. Sabella
Posted on July 14, 2017 by Steve's Club National Program
As I traveled west on the PA turnpike at 70 mph (because that's the speed limit out here) it was shocking to see how different this region of Pennsylvania is from Philly. Don't get me wrong I love the culture, the hustle and bustle, and the FOOD of Philly. However, the rolling hills out here that were full of greenery, certainly live up to the term God's Country. Upon arrival it was inspiring to see all the service men and women in their uniforms, hard at work, protecting us from threats both at home and abroad. It made me think about how brave soldiers like that sacrifice daily, so that we may gather to participate in events like Steve's Club Leadership Camp.
When I arrived, the group of 28 campers and a handful of staff had just completed a WOD. I could tell by the flustered facial expressions, sweaty foreheads and their disheveled appearance that it was a Tough WOD (the kind I usually skip). I then witnessed the campers fumble through roll call which resulted in 5 burpees. A task that they would do a lot more over the course of the day. The campers were full of energy and were all welcoming as I took a head shot after head shot for each and every one of them. They spoke of being from places I had never been like Cashville (Nashville), Denver, and Alaska. There were also campers from places that I visit frequently like Camden, Philly, and Pennsauken. Although they had ventured from different regions and across time zones they all had one thing in common. They were glad and thankful to be here in Fort Indiantown Gap.
The campers were provided with a healthy snack and reminded to hydrate hydrate hydrate! The campers then made the quarter mile trek to the basketball courts to put in some work. It was there that they were lead by Coach Jack and Coach Matt in a progression that addressed the components needed to successfully complete a one legged squat, also know as a pistol. As the campers worked together in partners I was able to capture their excitement through the art of photography. The campers were nearing the half way point of a spicy WOD when ZAP!! lighting struck in the distance and Coach Steve made the executive decision to head back indoors. He emphasized that while fitness is the goal, safety is first! Once back indoors the campers worked as a unit to transform the mess hall into a House of Gainz! The campers completed a work out that caused chaos on the core. The workout culminated with a plank challenge. During the challenge one camper pulled of an accomplishment that I had never seen the likes of in all my years of CrossFit. He planked for 6 minutes and 30 seconds! If that doesn't impress you, I challenge you to give it a shot and see how close you can get. It was a sight to see, as his fellow campers rallied around him and cheered for his success and commended him on his epic feat. After rearranging the mess hall the group earned some down time, during this less structured time many of the campers showered, hung out , relaxed, enjoyed each other's company.
When it was time for roll call, the campers once again had to bang out some burpees. After getting back on track they were treated to a healthy yet tasty meal that was prepared by some of the campers under the direction of master chef Coach Elise. Smiles filled the room as stomachs filled with the delectable dining. When everyone finished eating, Coach Duncan provided the campers with a brief history on who he is and how he became passionate about the science of counseling. His knowledge and love for helping others was evident by the way he spoke and explained what it meant to be resilient. The campers paid close attention and participated in the activities that Coach Duncan led. The 28 campers were engaged and participated actively. I am sure that they all became more aware of what it means to be resilient.
After the lesson from Coach Duncan it was time for circle sharing. It was during this time when the mess hall transformed into a complete open and judgement free zone. Two coaches and two veteran campers shared their stories and the life events that brought them to the point where they are today. This was a moving experience that words cannot describe. The four individuals shared their lowest and most shameful moments with people whom they didn't know 48 hours ago. The room was silent as pain, fear, and heartbreak was shared. Each person who shared was faced with adversity and with the help of others they made it through. They each expressed thankfulness for growth that occurred and accepted that the past helped to create the better person they were today. There were tears that were shed thought out the room but that is to be expected when people with good hearts are emphatic toward others. But with each one of the speakers, after the struggle came progress. Today was truly a great day, one that I will never forget.
Coach JD and Coach Matt
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