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Building a Champion pt. 5: September 7 and the Events that Followed

"What we are doing here is a very big thing. And we are affecting more than we can possibly imagine." - Carl Paoli


So I thought Part 4 was tough to put into words…this is going to be impossible.

Well, it’s 12:07 am right now on September 10. And, without question, the most eventful three days I can remember have just passed. Not too long ago, Denard Robinson had touchdown runs of 58 and 78 yards and combined for 400+ total yards in a Michigan win over Air Force. And the funny thing is: I could not care less.

The impossible part about this editorial is going to be trying to explain the fact that more than a handful of people (myself included) can say without question that September 7, 2012 is the best day of our lives.

I need to sleep on it for a day or so.

(Or a week, as it was.)

So maybe some background information can enlighten folks to just how important the three day span of September 7 – September 9 was. To me, the Champions Club is known (or should be by now) for having the best form around. Well, a great deal can be attributed to Carl Paoli and his videos on the CrossFit Journal and GymnasticsWOD. You can check an example here. Also, type in “Carl Paoli” in our Search Box and see how many videos you can find that talk about movement standards we follow – standards that have made us better movers, stronger, and gained the attention of spectators at competitions. Toes together on burpees, hook grip on pull-ups, shoulders forward on push-ups, “hollow body” on everything.  I hope you didn’t think I came up with all of this stuff myself. So considering the contribution he indirectly made to the Champions Club coupled with his “CrossFit Celebrity” status, we were all stoked to find out that he was making special arrangements to hang out with us for an evening. And the countdown began back in June.

Fast forward to last Friday. The anticipation was crazy. Thirteen people were in the gym at 3:05 – waiting for the CrossFit celebrity to come in. A few minutes passed, and then Emma ran in the garage door.

“He’s here. Holy shit, he’s here!”

Upon hearing the news, Murley started running around in circles yelling to herself, “Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic.”

As you can tell, they are both very calm under pressure. Word must travel fast, because soon after, my state-of-the-art Samsung flip phone with dysfunctioning (is that even a word?) buttons started to explode with texts saying I’m gonna be a few minutes late, and don’t let him start until I get there. Meanwhile, there was utter chaos in the gym. Kids were sprinting to the bathroom to get changed (completely disregarding the fact that the bathrooms were already occupied) and I was crawling to my crutches and contemplating how I could possibly present myself without Carl thinking I was a total sissy. Not easy to do with an ankle the size of the football players’ egos.

 Seconds later, Carl Paoli walked through our garage doors. I can say with almost a hundred percent certainty that we will look back at that moment a year or two from now as the single most important event in the history of the Champions Club.

The seminar was phenomenal. We ended up with nearly 40 people in attendance to witness one of the most skilled teachers in America do what he does best. Just to give you an idea of his coaching ability, Jacob climbed a rope with good form, Meghan got a muscle-up without previously being able to perform a full range-of-motion dip, and he made Sydni’s right leg about three inches longer. Yeah, no big deal. We saw tons of laughter, ah-ha moments, and numerous graduations. To cap off the time at the gym, Carl got Kelly Starrett on the phone with Meghan and he offered her and a friend a free spot in any one of his mobility seminars. Meghan’s reaction was priceless and, on any other occasion, would have been the highlight of the night.

Twenty minutes and one parking ticket later

I’m sure the same thought was going through everyone’s mind – Dude, we’re sitting at Mongolian Barbeque with Carl freakin’ Paoli. It was truly a special experience, and one I’m sure Aly, Sydni, Mrs. Pip, Abby, Emma, Murley, Meghan, Marianne, Jacob, and Morrow will never forget. The conversations ranged from our departure from Foley, to the fictional glory of using Twitter and Facebook, to the hideous offspring that Carl and Nicole would bestow upon the world were they to ever do that sort of thing.

But I digress.

What are you supposed to do when a master in your field asks what he can do to make your business better? When Carl asked me that in front of everyone at the table, it caught me completely off guard. Because to me, there is nothing more I could ask of him than to spend some time with our kids like he did. Take away any of the movement techniques and skills, think about how much you learned. Mannerisms, teaching methods, voice projection, business tips. More on that later.

So as the night was winding to a close, we were all gathered outside of the restaurant chatting it up. While the kids were grouped together, Carl, Erica, and I were talking on the side. Then sometime between Ryan stealing my crutches and that weird homeless guy asking us for some money, I received probably the best compliment I can recall from anyone. Carl mentioned the fact that he had been to every continent and a ton of different countries (twenty-seven if I remember correctly.) He also went on to say that he had never seen anything like what we had going on at the Champions Club - and that we were the future.

My life was complete.

Or so I thought. Then I got a text message from Carl at 11:36 pm.

“You and your crew just blew my mind. Thank you.”

And then the twitter post.

Even though they tried to explain it to me at dinner, I'm still not exactly positive how the hashtags and such work. But either way, it certainly looked like a good thing. Friday was technically over, but I’m sure I can speak for more than myself in saying that the days were starting to lose track of themselves – which is saying a lot considering we had only been through one and some change. Sleep would definitely not be an option.

Somehow, Saturday showed up, and thanks to Carl’s generosity, everyone that went to Mongolian was invited to his seminar the next day at New Species CrossFit in Royal Oak. Both Brian and I attended for the entire duration, and Abby, Emma, Sydni, Marianne, and Meghan showed up for brief stints. Carl gave numerous shouts to the Champions Club throughout the event – and even gave one to the Handsome Gentlemen’s Club. We talked about some more ideas on the side, and we thanked him again for making the trip. I was back home, ready to take a nap for the first time since I was a toddler, when I saw this email from Emma.


From: Kelly Starrett <>
Date: Sat, Sep 8, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Subject: Re: Champions club!
To: Emma Wonsil <>

To Emma: the future of witch doctory:

Your post is perfect. More importantly it was created by you as a love letter to your training partners. My dream is that there are super users in every community that begin to act as the resource for performance and dysfunction. You are so ahead of the curve.
Count on me being there. You are the future of my profession and our sport. If you don't accept the task and carry the ring. No one will

I'll book some time up in Michigan 2013.

You= the bomb

Can't wait to have you as a guest at one of my courses

That post made my month



Again, this whole “sleep” thing just keeps getting interrupted. And I can’t imagine how Emma felt.


Next thing I know, and it is Sunday. We had a great turnout for Helen in the morning – including an appearance from Hillary and Eva from BMW. Murley, Marianne, and Morrow were all leaving back for college, so we said our peace, then it was a wrap. The weekend of our lives was over – or so we thought.

It was 10:37 on Sunday night and I was checking the site and the pictures just to make sure the last two days weren’t a dream. Then, I noticed that there was an unusually large amount of traffic on the site. So I checked the Traffic Overview in the control panel, and found that we had been getting a number of hits from the GymnasticsWOD. When I traced the source, it led me to this:

Yeah, this is definitely a dream.


What this three day span really served as was a major confidence boost for everyone. Murley and Mr. Wonsil both talked about it in their recent posts. But even more so, the kids’ reactions say it all. Emma, when someone asks you how that “gymnastics thing” went, how do you respond? Blank face and speechless? Meghan, what about when you talked to his Leopardness on the phone? The same? It’s real hard to put into words. Trust me, we have seen so many people show praise and support to our face, but in many occasions, their actions (or lack thereof) would say otherwise later on. For Carl to actually follow through on his word to come here was like nothing we are used to. That’s why I couldn’t answer straight when asked what can make my business better. What more could I want? Him and Erica going out of their way to come here gave us an unbelievable confidence boost. It was like we were finally dealing with people who see what we have been seeing this whole time. It’s very refreshing.

I started to write this from the same perspective as Family Business – trying to explain to someone on the outside why this is such a big deal. But I give up. There is just no use. You really need to be a part of this to understand it. If you are on the outside and want to be a part of it, the door is open waiting for you to come in. If you’re on the outside and don’t want in, that’s cool too. The doors will still be open. But in the meantime, just sit back and watch us excel. Because we will be doing it regardless.

Actions speak louder than words. And in one selfless act (or many), Carl Paoli, Erica Pfieffer, and Wyatt Wong (who coordinated the trip) just found another home in the Champions Club family.

Life is good.

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Reader Comments (5)

Lil Kim, I bet you've never jumped that high in volleyball...

September 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterChris Sinagoga

Carl <3 (that's a heart in social lingo Chris) night of the century? Quite possible

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmma


September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMorrow

Oh my goodness! I keep remembering that weekend and freakin out over and over again. There are more and more people asking me "What is CrossFit" (you know since people at Oakland don't know about it :/) and my response to that question just keeps getting longer. I can't help but get into that whole story even though they have no idea who these people are or what our community is like. One of my friends even started to ask me,"Is it like that place.." and I just cut him off with a "No" right away because there is no one else like us. We may do CrossFit like all those boxes out there and I'm not bashing on them, the CrossFit community as a whole is a friendly, encouraging environment but we are more.

We are an Ohana (:

September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan (Murley#2)

Very cool Meghan. It is hard to believe that weekend really happened sometimes. But I keep getting reminders about it haha. Stay tuned...

September 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterChris Sinagoga

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