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The Champions Club Checklist

“Youth drives the Champions Club. But youth has nothing to do with age; it’s about mentality. Unfortunately becoming an “adult” usually comes with boredom, over-complication, and realizing most things are too good to be true. We’ll have none of that. The Champions Club is the cure for adulthood. We exist because we don’t know any better.” – True in the Game

Thanks to Jim Cawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax, there are ten general physical skills that CrossFit recognizes. They are: Stamina, Strength, Endurance, Flexibility, Speed, Power, Coordination, Accuracy, Agility, and Balance. In other words, those are the things that can be developed through a strength and conditioning program. Coach Glassman took that a step further and said that he/she was as fit as they were developed in those 10 general physical skills; and a deficiency in any one of the categories was a deficiency in one’s overall fitness.

About a month ago, I realized we had our own rating system. I call it, The Champions Club Checklist.


In 2009, there was an article in the CrossFit Journal called The Asshole Barrier. While it may sound like something from a site Jacob and Faust peruse at 2 am, this article talked about the natural ability CrossFit had in the earlier days of weeding out bad-character people and keeping quality individuals. And I think this is still a thing even though public perception may say otherwise. In reality, someone who is not willing to work hard does not last very long at a CrossFit gym. Neither does someone who does not make health a priority. It definitely attracts quality, like-minded individuals.

And then there’s The Champions Club: a strangely obsessive group of people in an unsightly warehouse where parents act like kids and kids… also act like kids; a group of people so unique as to garner the praise of some of CrossFit’s royalty. I have been giving a lot of thought recently as to what exactly makes our community so great(other than our website). Why is the quality of individuals so obvious to everyone? Why are the people here so easy to get along with? Why is this so much like a family? Why do people hang here for hours at a time? In the end, nobody will ever know for sure but I think I have a good idea.

There are 10 character traits that have to be present for an individual to last in The Champions Club. I call it The Champions Club Checklist and they are: Patient, Unselfish, Confident, Nice, Tolerant, Smart, Driven, Tough, Humble, and Youthful. In the same way each component of Fitness plays on the other ones, each trait is influenced by the others. A major deficiency in any one of CrossFit’s 10 general physical skills could cost you your game, your mission, or your life. And if a major deficiency is present in The Champions Club Checklist, let the countdown to departure begin.

Here’s the breakdown:

1. Patient

To be patient, you are constantly thinking and operating in the present. Although it seems looking ahead is the key to patience, doing so will often skew your present thinking – which can cause you to doubt yourself and act impatiently. Look at the picture above. The Freaks are what they are at that exact snapshot in time. What they did in the past made them into that snapshot and having an idea of where they want to go will dictate what they do after the snapshot. But that moment is concrete. Someone who is patient understands that there are good snapshots and there are bad snapshots and trusts in the process to get through both of them. Good example: Jennifer Banet. Less good example: Jacob

2. Unselfish

As I mentioned before, being unselfish is the single most important trait I look for when analyzing coaching. But since we operate similar to a team, it also spills over to the athletes. We don’t have the means to give everyone what they want so you need to act accordingly. You may have to share your favorite bar. You might get stuck with the floppy med balls. The session that is the most convenient for you may not be the best for the other people in it. But in the big picture it’s not about you, it’s about the Champions Club. When the Champions Club does well, so will you. There is also a loyalty factor here. Unselfish athletes stick with the program even when things aren’t going well because of the domino effect around them (which also takes patience). Good example: Murley. Less good example: Binno.

3. Confident

When people think of confidence, the most popular name that comes up is Kanye West. Why? Because he tells you (and everyone) that he is confident. In fact, Kanye West is one of the two Wests that inspired the confidence I have now (Coach West is the other). But what’s interesting is Kanye’s words had little influence on me compared to his melodies; to make the kind of music he does requires a supreme level of confidence. I could do an entire editorial on Kanye West that nobody but Matt Morrow would read, but the point is actions reflect confidence more than words. Someone who is confident also does not take themselves too seriously. They are comfortable being the butt of a joke, the runt of the workout litter, or the lone adult in a group full of kids. They are comfortable because they have confidence in the group around them. Good example: Elizabeth Banet. Less good example: Jacob

4. Nice

I do not know how to define nice other than to give examples of the nicest person in the world…

…and the least-nice person in our gym…

5. Tolerant

The two keys to happiness are 1. Being able to change things to make you happy and, 2. Being able to tolerate things that make you unhappy. The second element is the point of emphasis here. Running in the cold doesn’t make anyone happy (including myself). Being crammed for space doesn’t make anyone happy. Having to use old, worn down equipment doesn’t make anyone happy. Not being able to hold on to a slippery bar does not make anyone happy. In fact, they all do the opposite; they can hinder your workout experience. However, they are all things out of your control at that exact moment and if you have some confidence in your abilities, you will realize that it's not the end of the world. Being tolerant of these conditions is especially important when you are working out in a gym that is hovering at the poverty line. It is also a glimpse into the world of “convenience.” Those who only do things that are convenient suffer in the tolerance area. Good example: Bubs. Less good example: Lil Kim.

6. Smart

We could argue forever on this. If "smart" has to do with grades, then we have that covered (lots of of 4.0 students, three Salutatorians, two future teachers, one professor and one future doctor). If "smart" has to do with just accumulation of knowledge, Brian the Trainer has no peer. For street smart, Alex Faust runs these streets. We also have Ryan Richard, who fits in the category of Wow He Doesn't Look Smart But He Built A Gym Out Of Wood. We also have people who are not "smart" in any sense, but, oddly enough, are smart enough to realize they aren't smart. The one thing we are absent of, however, is idiots. While the 5 pm goons may tiptoe that line every now and then, they learn from their misfurtunes more than most other kids their age. Good example: Aaron Sabal. Less good example: Master P.

7. Driven

Driven is a little different than hard-working in the sense that there is a precise end-goal. It is having a vivid image of the future while maintaining a patient focus on the present. Part of it comes with a weird autistic-like obsession with something. While hard-workers just generally enjoy working hard and feeling accomplished, the driven are a different breed. They will find something and latch onto it like teenage girls latch onto Ricky Carey. The other the part of being driven comes with tricking yourself in a way. You have to be smart enough to know that you are not the best, but you also have to be stupid enough to know that you will be one day. And then that sense of obsession gets you past any obstacles and speed bumps you encounter. Good example: me. Less good example: Murley.

8. Tough

One of my most sincere desires is that the Champions Club was some team (preferably basketball, football, some made-up co-ed sport…anything but CrossFit really) and I got to coach you guys in that sporting environment with wins, losses, cuts, competition, and physical contact. This is where I could really see who is tough and who is not. But toughness does not always have to do with who can foul the hardest or make the biggest tackle. I quoted MGoBlog editor Brian Cook on being tough before, but it is worth repeating. “If I believe in toughness it's an ability to keep your head on straight when put in a bad situation, which is related to intelligence and organization, two qualities Michigan is also sorely lacking.” That makes sense to me because if the mental aspect is on point, the physical will follow. It also applies very well to our gym. Since the Champions Club is not a contact sport, you guys show off your toughness (or lack thereof) by how you accept criticism. How you react when I give you a harsh reality check or hold you to a seemingly impossible standard illustrates your level of toughness. Good example: Katie Bromm. Less good example: Emma.

9. Humble

Being humble sometimes comes with the connotation of talking yourself down. But that, to me, is false humility. I think being humble means you have a realistic sense of your abilities and where you stand, but also understanding that nobody really cares. A humble person proportionally celebrates good achievements and quietly regroups when they fail. Good example: Matt Fecht. Less good example: ??

10. Youthful

The spine of the Champions Club Checklist, and the Champions Club in general, is youth.

The Freaks, the McGonagall Rule, the Calendar, the Handsome Gentlemen's Club, sledding, Theme Workouts, the unprofessionalism, the website, the sassing (see Aly above), dodgeball... it all revolves around preserving and encouraging the youthful vibe that makes this place electric.  The importance of that can be explained by the other categories in The Checklist, but illustrated by the most youthful group I currently coach.

When we do precision jumping at the Day Care, all of the 3 year olds tell me they are going to fly, and they literally believe it. So their turn comes up and... they don’t fly; in fact they crash face-first harder than Carter diving for Matt Morrow’s rope. Then they bounce up, laugh and make choo choo train noises, and do it again. And again. And again. Then I’ll give them a specific color on the mat to jump to. Once they realize flying is out of the picture (for now), all of their attention goes to the pink, blue, or yellow (furthest of all) segments of the mat. When they miss their mark, they waddle to the back of the line and try again and clap for others while they wait. When they finally land on their goal color, they laugh, make choo choo train noises, give me a high-five with less accuracy than Mr. Wonsil… then waddle to the back of the line to see if they can do it again and clap for others while they wait. Within three minutes, every kid demonstrates every character trait in the Champions Club checklist.

We are not 5 years old any more. In fact, a lot of you are not teenagers any more. And there are frames in your real life where acting like a kid could cost you your game, your mission, your job, or your life. But the Champions Club is not real life; it is an exaggeration of reality – a place to develop things that help you in real life. Your perception of yourself can slow you down more than fatigue or technique ever will. It could be avoiding an awkward situation, ignoring your creative side, being unenergetic, or not trying something you aren't good at. But when you have the ability to think like a kid, you become free of those restrictions. Every day we combat adulthood in here moves us closer to youth – which naturally develops a better foundation for the nine other traits above. Best example: Mr. Wonsil. Worst example: ??


I wish The Checklist was a master plan from Day 1 where I have been secretly screening new kids on the block every time they come in. But it didn’t work like that. Instead, The Checklist was shaped organically and snowballed as a byproduct of my coaching methods, our location, the equipment, and most importantly our team. Those factors serve as a net that naturally sifts through the dirt and finds the diamonds. If you could somehow genetically merge all of those traits into one person, he or she would really be a pleasure to be around. Now think about our gym. Everyone in the Champions Club has every trait on The Checklist to some extent, otherwise they would not be here. That is why we are so dope.

We exist because we don't know any better

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Reader Comments (8)

Can't be patient when everyone is counting on me to be a hunk by summertime.

April 27, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjacob

Lol ^^^^

But noticed that all these are pretty much mental whereas the other check list is athletic ability but more times than not I think my mental state determines wether I have a good or crappy workoutt. Also I think our individual athleticism has pretty much to do with the community aspect. Pretty sweet list.

April 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBubs

I agree with the athleticism too Bubs. That is probably the same for just about every CrossFit gym though

April 27, 2015 | Registered CommenterChris Sinagoga

Definitely enjoyed reading this and every point was on point. Nice editorial Chris!

April 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

Very good read. Me gusta :)

April 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSabal

Feeling a lot of #9 right now...

April 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Wonsil

Nice list. I struggle with patience. It's a balancing act to stay driven and yet patient.

April 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Well written and a very enjoyable read I must say. I'm assuming you put youth last for significance, because I think that a lot of that stuff follows if you have a youthful attitude. There aren't a lot of kids who aren't humble (they don't know any better) or nice.

April 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

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