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Behind the Champion with Erica

See the interview here.


Entries in alyssa jabara doing alyssa jabara things (32)

College Athlete Admission Standards

Editor note: this was originally published on January 11 at 9 am... right around the time the comments went down. So I'm bumping this one and Binno's Eggstreme Eggstraveganze to the top for a bit because they are probably discussion worthy.

Every few years I have an eye-opening coaching experience. The first was The Meeting, the second was Carl Paoli's seminar, the third was the trip to San Francisco CrossFit, the fourth was coaching at the Day Care, the fiiiifff was the presenting with Coach T at the Michigan State Clinic, and the most recent one has come over the course of the past 6 months while doing private basketball coaching.

Since June I have been charging 60 bucks per hour to do basketball stuff with kids ranging from 7-16 years old. It is awesome; I am obsessed with game of basketball, I am obsessed with coaching, I get to recruit kids to do CrossFit here, and every cent that comes to me gets direct deposited into the Champions Club bank account. What is has also done for me is helped me realize that parents will pay SIXTY FREAKING DOLLARS FOR 50 MINUTES of sports training. And I am about to raise my prices in the spring. It is baffling. In fact, I've told more than 75% of the parents that I think they really should reconsider spending all that money on basketball training for numerous reasons, the least of which being that their son does not seem to like basketball (“but let me tell you about this thing called CrossFit” is what usually happens next). Surprisingly I get mostly positive reactions to this, and hopefully once basketball season is done I’ll be able to add a few New Kids to our regular ranks. The Babies session has already benefited from it.

What this and a few recent discussions with Champions Club parents tells me is that there is no ill-will behind anything – such as parents trying to live through their kids, or kids being arrogant. Instead, they simply don’t know what it takes to make the next level. They see their competition in the Greg Grant league or their middle school with a graduating class of 15 and they can’t help but think that private lessons are the way to a college scholarship.

Coincidentally this was a message to me as I was editing this editorial

All but 2 of the kids I have coached said they want to play at a D1 college, then play in the NBA. This is something I empathize with completely. As a 28-year old who currently has a public goal to be the best CrossFit affiliate in the world, you can probably imagine this was totally me at their age and older. I wanted to be an under-the-radar recruit who, after watching Rashad Phillips play (anyone know who he was?), chose U of D Mercy over Michigan, Purdue, and Illinois, then went on to an NBA career with 11 All-Star appearances and 7 championships. That is not a joke, and that lasted all the way until 8th grade when I saw Yancey Gates, and I found out that good 8th graders are 6’4, black, and dunking on fools. I was not any of these, so I started to work harder. Up until February 23, 2012 (The Meeting) I still had the idea that I could play professional basketball in some league, despite my college career being less than remarkable. And so when Andrew, who just got cut from a last-place 7th grade team, tells me he wants to play for OKC, I am not just being nice when I tell him that it’s possible. I’ve seen weirder things happen. I just think there needs to be some guidelines in place.

My two athletic claims to fame are: 1) being a benchwarmer on the best AAU program in Michigan, with Draymond Green as our team’s second-best player and  2) getting a preferred walk-on offer over the phone from Oakland University the summer going into my senior year. Despite the fact that I never made it to where I wanted to with basketball, I really, really think I had a mindset and work ethic that would reflect someone that played at that level, and coaches have confirmed this to me along my career. But I only refined this dedication because I was fortunate enough to be on the court with people who were already professionals or clearly future-pros. I saw where I was relative to them and I tried as hard as I could to make up the gap.

None of the kids I have coached through private basketball lessons have seen that, and their parents only see what their kids see. Most of the Champions Club athletes still in high school and middle school haven’t had that exposure either. So I figured having a formal checklist could help families see reality and decide how much they want to commit to their sport (shouts to Matt Fecht, Alyssa, and Sap for helping). The idea for this is simple: you must accumulate the allotted point requirement for your desired level (10 points for D1/D2, and 5 points for NAIA/D3). The factors are split into two categories: controlled and non-controlled. The non-controlled factors have a lot more to do with genetics and family conditions, and there is little any athlete can do to adjust those in a meaningful way. The controlled factors are the opposite; they are conscious daily, weekly, monthly, and lifetime decisions made by the athlete that slowly tip the scale in the direction they want to go. Here is the breakdown:

Division-1 College Athlete (10 total points needed)

*Give up your sport for 6 months, or keep your sport and give up everything else “fun” for 6 months?

Division-2 College Athlete (10 total points needed)

*Same as above except for 2 months

Division-3/NAIA College Athlete (5 total points needed)

*If you sat the bench for your first month of the season, would you quit or stick with it?

While the metrics in here are not exact, the overall theme is important, and pretty accurate. The way to get your point total is slightly different for D1 and D2, and radically different when looking at D3. You can read the graphs from the top-down or bottom-up, depending on where an athlete and parent want to be. But here’s a few notes:

Being a college athlete is not hard to do. There are a ton of small schools out there that will take anyone. And I mean ANYONE.  Our 2012 Marygrove roster had 3 kids that had never made a high school basketball team. And we were middle-of-the-pack record-wise and in the upper 5% talent-wise for all NAIA schools. If you want to play at a small college, first check to make sure your heart is beating and then start sending emails and highlight tapes. It doesn’t take much. And it certainly doesn’t require lots of money pumped into kids travel teams. Save that for Albion, Hope, and Olivet’s tuition. It’s gonna be around 40 grand!

Recruit yourself. Alyssa Jabara is the best example I have heard of this. She played for a good travel softball team in high school but was not getting the college attention she wanted. So she took it upon herself and emailed coaches every weekend starting her junior year. She is at Concordia now (in the NAIA league with Marygrove, Madonna, Aquinas, etc.) and a lot of that has to do with the initiative she took. The extra controlled factors she put in that more closely resembled D2 is the difference between her just being on the team and her beating out 2 upper-class catchers as a freshman last year.

1-month quit test. Small school sports suck. There were bigger crowds at high school games. You get crammed van rides for hours and hours. Practices are at 6 am. In other words, you put in a ton of work and get very little publicity – especially if you are 1) a girl or 2) playing anything besides football and basketball. And on top of that, scholarships are treated differently at this level, so don’t be surprised if you came in with a handful of other freshman at the same position. There were 7 freshman quarterbacks on the football roster during my only semester at Albion. And the coach still asked me to try out. The more kids they bring in, the more enrollment goes up. Bottom line is, you have to love the game unconditionally.

Well maybe I’ll just go D2 instead. The Division-2 level is the most misunderstood tier of college sports in my opinion. These dudes (or girls) can play, man. Everyone thinks they are pros here, and to their credit, some of them are right. You’ll notice that there is a big jump from NAIA/DIII to the D2 level, and D2 is not that much different than the D1 requirements. The areas I have noticed the biggest difference in the D1 and D2 athletes are the non-controlled areas, which are just a tad lower than the D1 group. But where this can get tricky is with transferring. Take Glenn Winston, who had the makeup for D1 but didn’t get the playing time he wanted at MSU, so he transferred to Northwood and immediately played in front of Cam – who, by the way, had all the measurables and connections to make a really good D2 running back. Division-2 is loaded with talent, and it’s often people who shoot for D1 and miss that are standouts, not D3 kids looking to move up.

Non-controlled factors. Now we get into the Division-1 category, and this is where there are pretty solid factors that are not completely mandatory, but very hard to bypass. Measurables are simply the raw mass of your body. For instance, if you are 7’0, or over 6’6 with arms longer than your height, you have the right measurables for a D1 basketball player. If you are over 300 lbs., you can be a D1 offensive lineman. The specifics are different with every sport, the idea is the same. “Elite” skill means that your skill in that area is at a professional level. I knew Alex Marcotullio growing up at St. Dennis (he is good friends with my cousin Josh) and he played for The Family the year after I got there. By everyone’s account I was better at dribbling, driving, mid-range shooting, passing, defense, rebounding, and I was stronger and better conditioning than he was. But his 3-point shooting was – no joke – NBA worthy. Combine that with the measurables for his position (Jay Junkin’s height) and he played 4 years at Northwestern. Connections are the next thing, because with all that skill and genetics, a lot of it depends on who you know. All it takes is for one coach to like you.

Social Norms. Now we are into controlled factors, and this one comes directly from Matt Fecht. This means when the normal thing to do is party after you won a game, you skip it and sneak back into the gym to practice more. Or when it is snowing outside, you still get your training run in, regardless of the awkward looks you get. Your “process” takes precedence over what is considered normal by peers.

Scheduled down-time. For most elites in their field, down-time does not happen when they feel like it. It is built into their schedule. This includes family events, television, video games, cheat meals, and parties. Time away is a very important part of staying healthy. As Kobe Bryant said, “If the sun never went down, everyone would get sun-burned.” But even the sun does it on a schedule. So set a cheat meal to coincide with your grandma’s 90th birthday party, or plan on some father-son bonding whenever Michigan is playing on Saturday, and use that as an incentive/reward for staying on track during the time leading up. My personal productivity, both as an athlete and gym owner, really coincides with this.

No job. Your sport is your job. End of discussion.

S&C + Individual practice. One of the things I tell families is that if their son wants to play Division 1 basketball, they should not be relying on paying a trainer to improve their game. If the kid doesn’t have the passion to spend 2 hours per day practicing by himself, then no trainer is going to fill that void. On the other hand, having some kind of direction is good, but only to guide your individual efforts. Strength and conditioning is a different area of expertise, so having a coach is a little more beneficial, but a determined athlete can definitely get away with working out alone. Still, this is mandatory.

AAU. Okay here’s the deal: If your travel team is legit, they are sponsored by an apparel company. If you are not paying team dues, or travel expenses, or equipment fees, then you are probably sponsored (unless there’s a very rich parent). Also, apparel companies don’t sponsor youth programs, only high school. So just know that having Nike gear and having a Nike contract are two separate things. If you are not part of a sponsored team and you are a legit prospect, then you are either not paying the full amount, or not paying anything at all. Your payment is your coach getting to say he “coached” you. If you think you are a legit prospect and you can’t pull the juice card, then you are not a legit prospect.

School. You can go to school at any point in your life. On the other hand, you have about an 8-year window where you can make money on your athletic abilities. If 8 hours of homework per week is eating into sports training, then cut out some homework. You don’t need a 4.54 GPA, a 3.0 will work just fine. If you can’t get a 3.0, then just start turning in your freaking homework. That’s like a 2.8 right there! Then be nice to that smart kid who idolizes to you and it’s all set.

Food and bed. Nutrition is like religion, and sleeping remains to be one of the most unfigured-out things in the world of health and fitness. I have opinions about what are best practices. Your coach has opinions. Your grandpa has opinions. As long as you are making conscious daily decisions for both, then you get two checks.

November 2014 - right around the time Alyssa started recruiting herself and Matt was... well... still being Matt.

Now, the important thing to understand is that the more stock you have in one column, the less you need in the other. For instance, if you are 7’0 with an 90-inch wing span, then you can spend all the time immersed in your homework as you want; somebody is going to give you a free tuition to win points in the lay-up line. On the other hand, if you have every single category covered in the Controlled column, you might be able to get away with not being tall, fast, or big.

The idea is to have this reality check when setting goals. So if Andrew-who-got-cut-from-his-7th-grade-team still has dreams to play for John Beilein, he can look at the list and be like, “yep, I can see myself putting in that kind of commitment,” or “ooh… yeah that doesn’t look like something I’d be willing to do.” Either way, the information is right there and the decision to start pumping money and time and energy into that sport becomes clear. Or, at least a more educated guess. It’s the difference between asking someone what they want for Christmas and hoping they will use a $50 Whole Foods gift card.


For this 2017-2018 season there are 7 D1 basketball schools in Michigan, which have a total of 114 roster spots:

  • Central Michigan: 18
  • Eastern Michigan: 16
  • Western Michigan: 14
  • Oakland: 16
  • Detroit Mercy: 17
  • Michigan: 17
  • Michigan State: 16

There are 9 D2 basketball schools in Michigan, which have a total of 138 roster spots:

  • Lake Superior State: 14
  • Northern Michigan: 17
  • Ferris State: 17
  • Wayne State: 13
  • Michigan Tech.: 15
  • Davenport: 17
  • Grand Valley: 18
  • Saginaw Valley: 13
  • Northwood: 14

This is a total of 252 roster spots for Division 1 (114) and Division 2 (138) combined.

When you go two levels lower to the NAIA (132) and DIII (114), you have 246 total roster spots:


  • Cornerstone: 16
  • U of M Dearborn: 18
  • Rochester: 17
  • Madonna: 17
  • Aquinas: 22
  • Sienna Heights: 15
  • Concordia: 17
  • Lawrence Tech: 10 (first-year program)


  • Adrian: 12
  • Albion: 17
  • Alma: 24
  • Calvin: 16
  • Hope: 15
  • Kalamazoo: 17
  • Olivet: 13

*does not include roster numbers for JV teams, which usually carry at least 10 and fluctuate

Now when you take this down to the high school level, there are 710 school varsity basketball teams in the state of Michigan:

  • Class A = 188 teams
  • Class B = 180 teams
  • Class C = 170 teams
  • Class D = 172 teams

Assuming 13 kids per roster, there are 9,230 varsity basketball players in the 2017-2018 season.

That means that approx. 4% of all high school players will play college. Obviously there is a degree of variety to that, seeing as kids can go to college out of state, and Michigan schools recruit all over the Midwest (and world, see Mo Wagner, Stauskas). Also, basketball has the fewest roster spots of any sport, but it’s probably all relative with baseball, football, and track, which routinely carry rosters of 20, 60, and 100 kids respectively.

The specific numbers don’t matter as much as the overall message: a very small percentage of kids get to play a college sport. I, personally, think that is awesome. It’s something to be proud of whether it’s Alyssa Jabara playing at Concordia or Alan Wisniewski at Penn State. They are part of a select group of people who had a combination of controlled and non-controlled factors that gave them the opportunity to compete at a very high level.  If a formalized list is available to show the demands at each level, families will realize that playing college sports is not for everyone, but it is for anyone.

Beast Mode: Conor

You know how sometimes you can look at a kid and immediately label them in a certain camp? Like you see Alan and think Basketball Player, or Alyssa Jabara and think Strong As An Ox, or Binno and think Skinny Fashion Model. Well when I see Conor the first thing that pops into my mind is World of Warcraft. He's skinny, has horrible posture, talks quiet like Panic from Hercules, and is pale as a ghost. Yup, this kid hasn't seen the ol' outdoors in some time.

But the cool thing about this gym is we cover so many aspects of fitness that everything gets exposed, bad and good. And it turns out that Conor can jump. Well... I don't know if I can quite call it jump. But he kind of floats, or levitates. Maybe he learned it from a raid in WOW. Either way, he did the highest box jump height during the workout today with 40 inches (beating even Saporito). Mind you, this was a 20-minute workout with slow squats and a ton of hip/ab killing GHD sit-ups. Once the workout was done, he mentioned that it would be fun to try to go for a max height jump. I asked him if he wanted to try it on the spot, despite his legs being fried, and he was all for it.

After working up a few plates, he topped out at an impressive 49 inches!

That is legit, dude. Especially after a workout. Off the top of my head, I think JZ has the gym record at 53 or 54 inches, so give it a year or so and we might see a new box jump champ.

Campus Improv Eats - Alyssa 12/11

Final exams are coming up for the college kids (and for high schoolers too), which means it is going to be important for all you to eat well. The last thing you want to be occupying your mind during a test is an empty stomach. My advice has always been if given the choice between eating 1) no food or 2) eating bad food, I would prefer you guys eat whatever is in front of you. But the cool thing about following the Zone is it gives you options for choices that are not necessarily favorable. On the other hand, it also calls to attention the idea that protein and carbohydrate need to be in balance of some degree. On that note, here's Alyssa Jabara's breakfast from last week.

Here's the breakdown:

  • Protein - little lump of eggs
  • Carbohydrate - banana, fake peach, and biscuit under the gravy, probably gravy too
  • Fat - maybe a little in the gravy

This breakfast reminded me of one of those cereal commercials that shows Wheaties as part of a "balanced" breakfast (complete with a muffin, orange juice, and a banana). An outsider might look at this meal and see a bit of protein with the eggs, two pieces of fruit, and some grain with a small amount of gravy and think yeah, that's a hearty breakfast, there. Unfortunately we are highly represented by one of the macronutrients: carbohydrate. In specific, we do not have a single favorable source (assuming the peach slice is canned and sugary. In school they tell us not to label and categorize people, which is good. Heck, even Parker and Hickey poke fun at their cross country coach for "assuming their gender" when he says "Hey guys!" In nutrition, it's the opposite; the first thing we gotta learn to do when looking at a plate is label the foods we see as P, C, or F. Put them in the categories then see how balanced you are. Alyssa is off here. But stay tuned this week for the second meal picture she went.

Win or loss: This is a loss. Not enough protein probably. Way too much carbohydrate. No good fat. She's just asking for an energy crash in an hour or so. But at least she keeps sending in the pictures.

Next time: Add extra eggs. Lose the biscuit and probably banana. Add an extra peach slice. Find a freaking jar of peanuts!

Campus Improv Eats - Alyssa 10/5

Alyssa recently sent me this picture as her cafeteria food selection.

Here's the breakdown

  • Protein: turkey/chicken (hard to tell which one for sure)
  • Carbohydrate: rice, corn
  • Fat:

Okay let's get the first thing out of the way, everyone please donate to the Alyssa Jabara Needs a Jar of Peanuts fund by placing a nickle in the cup next time you're in the gym. All proceeds will go towards helping Alyssa Jabara buy a jar of peanuts. Starving college athletes, man. Pay the players!

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the carbohydrate choice. The rice is considered a high-density carbohydrate - meaning there's more carbs per ounce or cup compared to other foods. Veggies, in particular are typically low-density; you can eat about 2 cups of green peppers and it would equal about 1/4 of a cup of rice. Obviously the peppers would fill you up more and last longer. The tricky thing about this is there are a few exceptions for veggies. Corn is one of them. 1/4 cup, same as rice.

In Alyssa's case, she possibly thought, "well, rice is not the best choice, but corn is a vegetable, so I can load up on that." Or maybe she wasn't thinking at all and was just hungry as can be. Either way, the chicken/turkey and the rice was probably very close to being balanced. The corn tipped it over the edge. If it was broccoli or celery instead of corn, then it would be a different story.

Win or loss: I gotta go with a loss on this. She was pretty far over on carbohydrate for this meal. There was also a mad Binno in the Fat column.

Next time: Pick rice or corn. And see the Alyssa Jabara Needs a Jar of Peanuts Fund.

Campus Improv Eats: Alyssa 9/21

Alyssa sent me this meal picture last week of the dinner option she chose:

First off, this plate looks absolutely delicious. Grilled chicken and broccoli/cauliflower combo are good enough as is, then add the gooey goodness of mac-n-cheese... man! Here's the macronutrients breakdown:

  • Protein: chicken, some cheese-type substance
  • Carbohydrate: cauliflower, broccoli, noodles
  • Fat: n/a

Two major things of note. First, on paper it might look like the carbohydrate way more represented than the protein, but this is where having a basic knowledge of density can help. The veggies are technically in the carbohydrate category, yes, but they also are not very dense in carbs. In fact, I doubt there is even one full block (9g) of carbs in those veggies. The macaroni, on the other hand, is very dense in carbs. Off the eyeball test, I would guess it's a little more than 4 blocks. Assuming the chicken in 4-5 oz., it is safe to say the carbohydrates and protein are pretty well-balanced.

The category that is missing completely is fat. Alyssa did not include any nuts and seeds on the side (as far as I know), and it appears the chicken is a very lean cut. While I'm sure there is some fat in that "cheese" I think it would do better to add some extra, then take a little bit of mac-n-cheese off the plate. Just a tiny bit, though!

Win or loss: I'd call this one a draw. If I recall correctly (and assuming gravy is as I thought), this is the second time I wanted to see Alyssa add some fat to her meal. But her good balance of protein and carbohydrate makes me happier.

Fix for next time: Buy a small jar of peanuts or something and take a tiny handful for the meals.

Campus Improv Eats - 9/6/2017

We are going to start doing this thing where some of our college kids send a picture of their meal options and their meal choice so I can write some stuff about it. This is the first one courtesy of Alyssa Jabara.

Here's the layout:

Alyssa got to campus a little earlier than most other students, so there were slim pickin's as far as food choices go. We have some eggs (probably powdered), sausage, biscuits, and gravy. We can also assume there were probably cold cereal choices somewhere nearby. Here's what Alyssa went with:

Not bad Jabara! It is always good to look at the food on your plate and immediately sort into categories. Here we have:

  • Protein: Eggs (about 2 eggs), sausage
  • Carbohydrate: Buscuit, probably the gravy
  • Fat: Maybe the gravy

When I look at this, the first thing I would notice is the lack of fat (assuming the gravy is mostly carbohydrate - if not, then I'm wrong). Yes, the eggs have some fat, yes the sausage has some fat. But assuming Alyssa has softball conditioning, as well as practice, I would think she could add some extra. This is why the first thing I recommend buying are peanuts, almonds, cashews, and such; most places have some kind of protein available, every place has carbohydrate available (favorable or not), but there is a definite lack of fat. However, I think she balanced out the protein and carbohydrate pretty well (again, assuming the gravy is high in carbs).

Remember, you are always one meal away from being balanced. Even if you don't have perfect options in front of you, you can make the best out of it.

Win or loss?: Considering the options, I count this as a win. A loss would've been losing the sausage and adding another biscuit. Or something along those lines.

Christmas Workout Spectacular Recap

Hey kids, this was our 7th(!) consecutive year doing the Christmas Eve workout. And I gotta say this may have been my second-favorite one ever (the parents getting the surprise shirts last year was classic).

It seemd like the ice melted outside but it was still wet and I didn't want to risk it. So we made a few modifications with included shortening the first workout, altering the format of the Magi Mile, and subbing mountain climbers for running. Elizabeth and Alyssa took home the win this time around. The full results can be seen here.

Another first this year was the invitation of the younger crowd. I gave the parents a really short notice so I figured we were a year away from getting this where I want, but we got off to a good start this year with "the babies" joining the mix: Haley, Kyle, and Jacqueline. To make matters even better, Mrs. Pip brought in Baby Oliver and carried him along the workouts with her and Crawford. The youth and the renewal of a few faces (Kris, Hickey, Mr. Anderson, etc.) really added a lot of flavor to the workout today.

You can see the full photo gallery here.

Again, thanks to everyone who took time out of a holiday to come be at your 2nd home and 2nd family. This is one of my favorite workout days all year and you guys are the reason why. Well... that and the goodies after. Make sure you thank Mrs. Carey, Mama V, Mr. Carey, Katie Shakes, Maddy's mom, Mrs. Pip, and Mr. Wonsil for making everything work.

I'll be at the gym Christmas Day at 11 am for a make-up workout session/open mobility for anyone interested. Otherwise, enjoy the weekend and catch you back on Monday!