* Part 2 of a new series "A Coaches Story". Hear how the Coaches at CFS came to start CrossFit and how it has brought them to where they are today *
Since I can remember fitness or sports have always been a major part of my life. My father was a bodybuilder and my mother was a powerlifter so growing up I was always in a gym watching, trying to do all the movements all the ‘big boys’ did, watching what I ate, and all that comes with a gym rat family. Eventually, my parents split and my mother began to fill my time with sports so I did not just sit around the house. I played baseball, soccer, lacrosse, tried boxing, at one point thought Id be a surfer and realized I was to pale for a sport like that and sharks are a pretty scary thing. Those were all mixed into my two main sports of football and wrestling. I loved these sports for the moment I began doing and could not think of a life without them. So from the age of four until I was eighteen every day I was either in a wrestling room, on a football field, or in a weight room.
Flash forward to a 14-year-old Jake weighing in at a monstrous 126-pound wrestler. I had just recently decided to not return to the football team, to focus on my wrestling career, and needed to find something to fill my time and help train for wrestling. One of my lifetime training partners had recently started CrossFit mad was trying to get me to do it but I had the old school mentality that it was “for girls”, “I'll just lift in a REAL gym”, or “I don’t want to get hurt doing that.” So I spent a year trying different training methods like bodybuilding and powerlifting only to eventually get bored of the same old routines, lifting by myself, and just overall not having a good time.
During this time is when I also started to coach. As I grew up I was very fortunate with the coaches I had in my life. I think taught is to light of a word for the lessons they instilled in me over the years they coached me. They taught me not only how to be a good athlete, but a good friend, a leader inside and out of sports, and in some ways a coach. So I started with football as a way to give back to a program that had given me so many life lessons. I instantly fell in love with every aspect of it. I coached football for four years, started to help coach at my wrestling club with the younger kids eventually helping with the national team, became an assistant coach of Xavier’s Junior Varsity team and even a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Anything I thought I could help give back to younger kids that was passed down to me I wanted to.
And now back to CrossFit. So after feeling stuck in my training for a while, I went back to that old friend. We went out for pizza one night and I was asking him questions about it. While we were talking, on a tv in the back they were playing the 2014 CrossFit Games. As we sat there I watched Events 2 and 5, a clean speed ladder and the muscle-up biathlon. Watching these people do those amazing things made me fall in love instantly. How fluidly they moved such heavyweight and there bodies through space like it was nothing, I knew from that day that, that is how I wanted to start training.
Now we reach the part where I actually find a gym. After looking around my house, I found one that was owned by someone I used to wrestle with when I was younger. I remembered him as a smaller kid that was a decent wrestler but when I saw him again he was four times the size, faster, more explosive, than at any point that I knew him, (his names Zach Moran 5x Regionals athlete looking him awesome dude. The first time I went to his gym I almost left because I was so scared of this new training, but I went in and started my Prep.
I loved every moment of it. The lifting, gymnastics work, Oly, anything you could give me. So I started in the summer when I was 16 trained hard for a summer and then just used it to supplement training and cutting weight for wrestling. While I was gone I missed it so much to the point that at the end of my winter season, for the first time in 12 years I decided I would not do the freestyle spring season and would just focus on CrossFit. So that’s what I did and I continued to fall madly in love with it. When my senior season came around, I almost did not wrestle. I had over 15 full-ride offers from different schools but I didn’t want to that anymore. I found something that had the same stimulus as wrestling but I didn’t get beat up, someone wasn’t actively fighting me, and not only did they say I could eat they wanted me to stuff my face and get big. I loved every moment and only wanted to train and coach CrossFit. But at 17 you cannot get your CrossFit L-1 and my mom was close to killing me when I said that.
My whole was focused on wrestling and school so my mom did not want me to give that up for CrossFit. I had toured colleges, applied, looked at offers, and was in a very hard sport in my life. Long Story short, every school that had both wrestling and a nice medical program told me I couldn’t do both. So I committed D1, and backed out, committed D2 and backed out, committed D3 and backed out. Decided I wanted to study medicine at Boston College and backed out to finally decide to go to ASU, mainly because Zach M by this point had moved out there for medical school, said I could come live with him, and I just wanted to train with him. So that was my plan, f**k wrestling I'm going to the games.
My life was all over the place from September of my senior year until June. I forget to mention that Shelley Jones (yes our coach) had started doing CrossFit at the same time, we're both lucky enough to be invited to train with Zach because he saw something in us, and we developed a friendship that made me look forward to seeing her every day. So in the whirlwind of those months, I had to change gyms to one that was closer to my school. The night before I was supposed to fly out to Arizona for my first orientation. I had worked out at my gym and decided I would go see everyone at the old gym one last time. I didn’t have my L-1 at this point was planning on getting it before I went to school so I coach as a job while out there. I went to the gym, saw Shelley, kicked her butt in some deadlifts, and at the end, we started to talk about my plans for the future.
I explained everything and at the time that gyms head coach had just decided to quit and the gym was in desperate need of a coach. Shelley offered me a job as long as I got my L-1 and the rest just came naturally. I decided to take some time off school and life and figure out what I really wanted without anyone trying to tell me what I want. I got my L-1 started coaching and refell in love with the sport. I've coached every day since then, well except for my days off, and just wanted to be the very best at what I did. I was a coach there for 2 years officially but Zach was nice enough to take me under his wing for about a year and help show me how to things correctly. Now, this was a smaller gym that couldn’t support coaches doing only that as a job. So I was also a manager of a restaurant and eventually became an EMT to support myself. After some time it became too much and I decided to stop coaching so I could work more for the jobs that paid me well.
This was a hard choice but a necessary one. I was living on my own, paid my own bills, and needed money. I didn’t want to do it but I needed to. It was about two weeks later I saw a post for a CrossFit Coach job, I read the description became probably a little too excited, immediately applied and then emailed Rob to make sure he got my application and to tell him some more about myself. Apparently, it all worked because he not only gave me an interview but a chance to be part of one of the best communities and gyms I have ever been in my entire life. And now we're all hitting some mean WODs while I smile and dance because there’s no place I'd rather be than in the gym, well maybe snuggled next to Shelley, but that’s on my off time.
So to answer the question: “Why did you start CrossFit?” The basic answer was to help my wrestling. Now that I look back, it was to help myself become a better person. I was in a rough spot in my life, no idea what to do next, what I wanted, or what I was doing. This sport and the people I met helped pull me from there and change my life. While I was a successful wrestler locally and nationally. I would give it up every single time.
Well, that’s the abridged version sorry if you thought it was long. I did leave a lot of filler out so be thankful for that. I’m always down to talk more about my journey in CrossFit so please feel free to stop and grab me and pick my mind someday. Everyone jokes about the Kool-Aid (*cough cough* Matt Lyold *cough cough*) but if you buy in and truly use everything we try and give both inside and outside of the gym, it can make a huge difference. Just remember that when it sucks it sucks for everyone you, me, Rob, Pete, and even the kids in the back room. But we all know what it is like, the feeling of suffering through a wod, of wanting to stop, to just give up but with everyone doing it together it makes it a little more tolerable, makes the pain feel not so bad for a moment when you know everyone else feels the same. So continue to show up every day and CRUSH EVERYTHING!