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Welcome to the Champions Club Summer 2018!

New Kid on the Block: Josie

Every year or so there's a Champions Club prospect that you know is just a matter of time before they join. So when we get Jay Junkin, Jesse Junkin, and their cousins Kasey and Lindsey Eason, I knew the waiting game was on until Josie Junkin joined. And yesterday was finally her first day.

Josie is a sophomore at the University of Michigan, and graduate of Lamphere high school like her brothers and cousins. She was an accomplished cross country and track athlete during her high school career, and is looking to get some of her conditioning back for the Summer before she heads back to school. Josie finished 2 days of Fundamentals so far, and is set to continue through the weekend. I'll check back in after Day 7.

Behind the Champion: My Sister, Sarah

Sarah is my sister, two years younger, and has by far the best musical ability in my family. She can play instruments, sings a little bit, and just has a great knowledge of both classical and modern music. The most impressive thing, to me, at least, is she managed to do all of her work without taking a single lesson. She just listens to a song and somehow repeats that on whatever she is strumming away at. It's really awesome to watch and listen to.

One of the things I've been obsessing over recently is people's practice habits. Whether it's the kids I coach at The Family, or the track kids, or the private basketball kids, and even you guys at the Champions Club, I have noticed a majority of the people I come into contact with have - let's be honest - horrible practice habits. That's to say when they're under the supervision of a coach or teacher, they are good as can be, but once they step outside that frame, they (or you) don't know how to translate that into personal practice. Whether that's shooting around in an empty gym, or practicing soccer foot skills, or eating a meal balanced with protein, carbohydrate, and fat. If someone needs a coach around them any time they need to make improvements in a given area, they would go broke! So my focus has been to help people become better practicers, if that makes sense.

I have seen, first-hand, that Sarah has outstanding practice habits when it comes to instruments. And when I found out that she just bought a violin and decided to learn how to play, I wanted to feature her in this series to find out about her process of learning on the fly without formal coaching. Here we go...


Let's say you had a burning desire to learn Timber (aka, the non-debatable greatest Ke$ha song) on piano. How would you start?

With the melody ("it's going down...") and build from there. Although, I can't say I do have a burning desire to learn this song, so that usually is the spark that lights the fire so-to-speak.

How many times do you play the "it's going down" part before moving on to "I'm yelling TIMBER"? Do you just flow with it once the melody sounds right?

I usually get the melody right on the first try now bc I'm so familiar with the piano keys after playing for years. After I play the melody a couple times and get grounded with it, I find chords that match the melody. Then, I usually break up the chords in an interesting way, like David Sides from YouTube that you showed me years ago, he's actually inspired my style ever since I discovered him. Then I play it over and over till I've memorized it!

Have you ever taken piano lessons?

I have not. I also cannot read sheet music. I have not taken lessons because I think they would slow me down honestly. I like the creative part of playing music, and learning songs the way I do has always come naturally to me. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I figure out a song by myself.

What has not taking lessons done to your ability? Good or bad.

Not taking lessons has forced me to improve my ear, but also limited the types of songs I can learn. There are certain songs you have to play with proper finger placement (i.e. If there are a lot of notes in fast succession) and I lack the knowledge there.

If someone who never touched a piano asked you to give them lessons, how would you go about doing it?

I'd ask them to pick their favorite song because you have to play what you like. Then teach them the melody to see how quickly they pick that up, and add on elements from there.

How would you compare the practice time of learning an instrument on your own to the practice time of like soccer, or something at work, or whatever else that you've been taught through formal progressions.

I'd say only difference from self-teaching vs. formal training is that it doesn't feel like an obligation. I've never said "I'm going to go practice piano", it's always felt like "ok, time to relax and play some music".

If you could only play one song on the piano for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Arabesque No. 1 by Debussy. It sounds pretty and warms up my fingers! "Arabesque" actually means flowing lines so that's how that song sounds to me, soft and soothing. It warms up my fingers because you have to play cascading notes on like 3 octaves (sets of 8 keys). The movement of your hands and the sound of the song are almost therapeutic.

What do you like about playing classical music on a piano and what do you like about playing popular music on piano?

 I like the structure and complexity of classical, it's like figuring out a puzzle. I like the relatability and soul of popular, it can be more fun. I would compare classical music to dinner and popular music to dessert.

What's one under-the-radar song from both categories that we should learn to appreciate (in terms of the piano performance)?

Popular music: "Postcards from Far Away" by Coldplay (not sure if that's considered pop music). Classical: Tchaikovsky's "June" from The Seasons. They are both kind of songs that are part of popular albums or suites but don't get much attention. Postcards from far away is hidden between two songs on Coldplay's Viva la Vida album. I already think Chris Martin is a genius, but this song really shows how classically trained he is. There are no lyrics, but it's so beautiful and instructional into how his mind probably sounds. And "June" is from Tchaikovsky's "The Seasons", which usually get confused with/ eclipsed by Vivaldi's violin suite "the seasons" (you'd recognize it if you heard it). But he has one song for each month that is so specific and expressive. June is my favorite bc it's not super obvious and bright, but sounds like a summer morning.

What do you see when you look at a piano?

It's more like, when I hear a song, I see the piano keys. But in reverse, I suppose I usually see Grandma Sue when I look at pianos.

What do you see when you look at a violin?

Lots of invisible frets! (Frets are the metal things on the neck of a guitar) apparently you are supposed to just innately know where they are on a violin. I also associate violin with history and culture.

What principles can you pull from the other instruments you've learned to help you in the violin? What's something that's brand new and unique to the violin?

Violin is a fretted instrument, so the principles of guitar sort of carry over. For example, the further up the neck (I think it's called a neck) of the violin you place your fingers, the higher the note will sound. Something brand new is getting used to holding the bow (stick thing) at a certain angle, or using a bow at all really. One major commonality though, is that I absolutely have to be passionate about the song I'm learning or else I won't want to play. So you won't see me learning "Mary had a Little Lamb" or the "Happy Birthday" song no matter how beginner I am :)

What made you decide to take on the violin? Has anything surprised you so far?

Just decided on a whim to buy a violin when I saw a used one for $60 (violins are usually upwards of $1,000). The price of new violins did surprise me, and also the skill and attention you need to pay to the angle and pressure you apply to the bow.

What was the first song you wanted to play on violin? What is the current song you're trying? What is the next song?

First song I wanted to learn was "Ashoken Farewell" from the Ken Burns Civil War series on PBS. Current song is "Oh Danny Boy" (Irish folk song). Next song I want to learn is "Bittersweet Symphony" by the Verve.

What other instruments have you taught yourself?

I've also taught myself guitar and ukulele

Quote of the Week vol. 245/Work Poll

"I'd say in a given week, I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual work."

- Peter Gibbons. Office Space

How much time do you spend each day doing what it is you are actually paid to do? Not necessarily how long you are on the clock.

New Graduate: Jen Ash

This afternoon during the 4:30 pm session we split the group into heats based on who could do the full rope climbs and who couldn't. The second group tested out a few climbs and all of a sudden, Jennifer Ashley was halfway up the rope with no signs of fatigue. So I ran and grabbed the camera as quick as I could:

Great job kiddo!

Beast Mode: Linda at 9 am

Yesterday we took on one one of the most notorious workouts in all of CrossFit: "Linda." The full workout requires 3 separate bars (which is also why the workout is known as the 3 Bars of Death) and is a lot of volume at heavy weights. Due to equipment and strength levels, we modified this workout heavily, doing heavy(ish) deadlifts, slow push-ups, and dumbbell cleans. Our 9 am session looked good yesterday. Check them out:

As usual, we were looking for the form on the round of 1 to look the same as it did at the start of the workout, and I think they all did a great job of that.

Pics of the Week: Bubs and the Babies + New Behind the Champion Announcement

This Wednesday will feature our newest Behind the Champion post, oddly enough it's not anyone from our gym. It's my sister, Sarah. More info to come soon.


I know I'm late on this, but there's a few worthy candidates for Pics of the Week. First off, Bubs spent the last week in Africa doing some volunteer work, and she dropped a few pictures of improvised workouts.

She'll be around for another few days I believe so be sure to catch her before she goes back to Spartyville for the Summer.

Next up, I went to a soccer game this weekend that featured two of our stars in the Babies session: Zeena and Natalie. Mrs. Regine managed to snap a picture of all three of us after the game, and oddly enough, we all share the same birthday: November 28.


Athlete of the Summer FYI

Before the Summer 2011, Brian decided that we should do an Athlete of the Week for every week of the Summer to highlight a kid who put on a good showing. That tradition still stands during the Summer, but at the end we also did an attendance wrap-up with a mock Athlete of the Summer.

For our first Summer in this new building I thought it would be cool to formalize it a little bit more - making it an actual award and not just a Franklin Lama nomination because he was the coolest kid in the club. So Bubs got our first ever vote for Athlete of the Summer, then I retroactively gave it to Frankie in 2010 and Nick Prys in 2011. In January 2013, an addition was made that gave the award some new juice:

Like rafters in high school gyms of state champions and record holders, we added our own to our place to emphasize everyone's favorite time at the Champions Club. And since then, each Summer would contain a few athletes with the unspoken goal of seeing their name go up in the rafters, starting with Katie Bromm's perfect Summer 2013, right up to last year's Summer of Div.

How do you get the award, you ask? Well, there are two main criteria:

  1. Top 10 attendance
  2. I have to vote for you
Yup, that's it. Equal parts objective and subjective. We keep track of every attendance day right up until fall sports start (mobility days included) to condense the list down to 10. Then I pick whoever I think earned it the most. That's probably the part that sucks the most; it's not a committee, or public poll. It's my choice.
In 2011, for instance, Katie Shakes was by far the most improved athlete in a stacked field, and had 99% attendance - good for 1st overall. And by August 31, Erika Banet was probably the fittest person in the gym, Jennifer was the most skilled, Lauren was lifting trucks... and Elizabeth got the award.
In 2016 I thought Murley was in the best physical condition I've ever seen from a girl at the Champions Club, and in 2017 I thought Jacob had the best showing out of anyone. In Murley's case, she didn't have the consistency of Katie Shakes and Jacob wasn't in the top-10 attendance.
Awards are always subjective, and when it's being decided by one person that's magnified even more. If Athlete of the Summer is something you're going for, just know that there's one part you can control and one part you can't. Even though hip hop conversations and Starbursts bribes get you a long leash with me for just about everything else, they won't have a bearing on AOTS. All you can do is show up and hope Katie Shakes gets stuck in traffic permanately about 20 times this Summer.
There is something genuinely wrong with David SaporitoIn the end, it's just an award. The real thing that's happening is fitness and health like you guys never imagined in a way that can be sustained through a lifetime. But every now and then it's fun to put the long-term binoculars away for a bit and be good now. That's what Athlete of the Summer is about; who was the dopest person in our gym at that time? The 9th banner will be going up in 3 months (assuming I spell the name right), and it will serve as a landmark to remember what Summer 2018 was like. I can't wait to see who it will be!
Recomended reading: the Athlete of the Summer Feature Series