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Welcome to the Champions Club Summer 2018!


Entries in coach t shepherd-er of the sheep (44)

A Coach Named T

There have been so many people in this gym who give off the aura of respect, credibility, and knowledge to varying degrees. From Mr. Carey to Jacob to Shannon to Jason to Mrs. Pip to AJ to Murley to Brian the Trainer. These people often find themselves in positions of having to explain themselves and back up their performances or ideas. I have come to realize Coach T is in this category too, except on a little bit of a bigger scale. From the Michigan High School powerlifting community, to Warren Consolidated P.E., to the Michigan State football program (boo!), Coach T has built connections and gained respect in just about every relevant fitness-related community in Michigan. He even coached someone on the Biggest Loser TV show. I am lucky to be on his good side to the point where he strings me along and involves me in most of his side projects.

And the more I hang around him and realize how many top people rely on him, and how many professional-level coaches he talks to, the more I wonder how a little Champions Club weasel named Amy Potter is the one that changed his mind.

Right around the time this picture was taken - October 2013 - Amy was one of the little rascals in Coach T's Lifetime Fitness class at Warren Mott. After one of the workouts that had deadlifts in them, she went up to T after class and said in that classic direct-but-somehow-not-quite-rude-Amy-tone:

"T, you're teaching the deadlift wrong."

That is art at its finest, right there. No fluff, no filler stuff, no extra words or criticism sandwiches. Just facts. Coach T - who was just as respected then as he is now - had a very interesting reaction to this. He asked, "why?" I mean, sure, that was probably not the first thought that went through his head, but after the initial reaction of this tiny creature questioning the methods he'd been teaching forever, he put his ego aside and asked for an explanation. Fortunately, Amy is one of the best kids I've ever seen at backing up a point she wants to make. She even once convinced JZ he was wrong. And in this particular instance with T, she explained that the Big Butt Big Chest method of teaching the deadlift was actually unsafe in the long run because it puts the spine in overextension; from what I heard she used those exact words. I don't know if I had ever been so proud of one of the Champions Club kids up to that point.

I keep a coaching notebook by my bed that records my thoughts on significant days' events, business notes, and spontaneous 2 a.m. ideas, among other things. On January 11, 2014 I wrote in horrible handwriting,

Mott gym teacher texted me about doing some training there. I wonder how that will turn out... Pokemox X is pretty sweet. Hope it doesn't take up too much of my time.

As it turns out, it's 2018 I still have to use every bit of willpower to walk past the 3DS and not flip it on to see if I can finally add a shiny Rhyhorn to my collection. And as far as the Mott gym teacher part, on May 28 he became the first ever kind-of outsider brought on as an official coach at the Champions Club.

In the modern era of the Champions Club (post-Carl Paoli), Coach T has been the single biggest influence on my coaching. Going into his class to observe for the first time, I was so freaking judgemental. I was used to seeing Banets and Jasons and Mrs. Careys and packed classes of like 9 people. 3rd hour Lifetime Fitness had like 9 good people and about 50 shit kids. All crammed into a weight room expecting to do something productive in 37 minutes. Once I got the chance to actually run a class, I realized very quickly that the Champions Club standard of movement was not realistic everywhere.

An interesting thing happened as I continued to coach with T at Mott, though: I was forced to simplify. Remember when hook-grip on pull-ups was a thing? Or knee push-ups? Or straight bar path on presses? Well, they're all still things sometimes, but I cut those, and tons of other things out of the normal teaching rotation due to my time at Warren Mott P.E. I had limited time, limited experience, and 3 different languages spoken... and even without that there was still 6x more people in a session that I was used to. Adapt or die, as they say. And over time Coach T helped me simplify, and simplify, and simplify, to the point now where I literally teach three things and that's it. This came to fruition at Michigan State in 2017 when we presented at their annual Football Strength Clinic in front of 200 high school and college coaches from around the country.

Building a Champion pt. 9: Reflections of a Dropout in Sparta

Surprisingly, the preparation process for this clinic was not the thing that sold me on getting T to coach here. Instead it was the constant observation of his Mott classes. Early on in 2014, I'd be going to Mott once or twice per week. By 2016-2017, I'd make it to one or two classes every other month or so. And this distance between classes helped me get a better visual picture of not only how well his kids were improving, but the incredible acceleration of Coach T's ability to manage a big group with tough movement standards. It was really impressive to watch, and still is.

This past August was the first time I asked him to coach for me, and I was hoping to make it a two or three year project to work towards. I constantly made passive references and suggestions (Shannon knows how annoying these can get) this entire year and things were looking like it would take even longer until about 2 weeks ago, when I got a random text on the Sunday before Memorial Day from T talking about how he thinks it's time to make the jump right in time for Summer 2018.

What Coach T brings to the table is something that I'm not entirely sure yet. I don't know what his floor or ceiling look like. I just know that there are only a small handful of people in the state of Michigan who teach movement like we do, and even fewer still that do it as well as Coach T. This is a guy we need to have on our team, and by the looks of our record-number roster for Summer 2018, it could not have come at a better time.

I know you've been here before, and never really left, but welcome to the Champions Club my man!

New Graduate: Cecilia

Yesterday morning, Cecilia Steinwascher finished her last Fundamentals session with me and will be ready to join the group.

Over the course of our condensed Fundamentals we spent a lot of time on midline stability - especially correcting overextension - and skill. With the latter we hade a good amount of progress on the final day with Pose running and unweighting. She also got the hang of kipping pull-ups after a few days.

Her final workout was Helen, modified to 200-meter runs, 12k kettlebell swings, and skinny green band kipping pull-ups with a slight assist from me. On a side note, I think I might be opting for that more in hopes of bringing on kipping pull-ups quicker. But anyway, this was a great Fundamentals block from my perspective. Cec shared some goals she has about soccer for the next year, as well as the possibility of playing beyond college. She seems to be completely on board and bought in on both the fitness and nutrition side of CrossFit. I have a great feeling about this kid - we might find her on the Summer 2018 Dream Team. But until then, welcome to the Champions Club!

Ghosts of Champions Club past: Lauren Higgins

Athlete of the Winter: Danielle Worden

The origin of Danielle's whiteboard name is pretty simple; when Coach T texted me back in August about one of his powerlifting girls wanting to try out CrossFit, he gave me a contact number to get ahold of her. The name labeled above the number was "Danielle Woorden". So I called Miss Woorden, signed up Miss Woorden, did Fundamentals and website posts with Miss Woorden, and it wasn't until about two months after when she finally told me that I was spelling her last name wrong this entire time. So the fact that Coach T can teach Afahn Kahn to squat through an interpreter, but cannot give me the correct name of his state qualifying lifter says... well... not much really. I just thought it was a cool story.

A cooler story, in my opinion, is now Danielle is the Athlete of the Winter!

This was a close call. Very close call. Early in the winter Ashley Fry was in permanent Beast Mode and looking like she could overtake Shakes as the strongest girl person in the gym. Then midway through, Mr. Auggie started showing up 4-5 days per week and really made a significant physical change to his body. Plus he brought Bo, his puppy, a few times. And finally, Erica came on late in the winter with some very impressive workout results - finishing in 2nd place by a few "votes." But as with all of the seasonal awards, consistency reigns. And Danielle had the Champions Club on lock from late-November through March.

Considering her background we know that the heavy lifting is her forte', but after much thought and analysis - and this is stuff I think about through most of the day, oddly enough - I don't think I would call Danielle a powerlifter; I would call her an athlete who powerlifts. And to make a public plea, I sincerely hope Danielle goes back and gives volleyball and soccer another shot because she is about as well-rounded as female high school athletes get. I really began to notice midway through the winter that she was not really a bad runner at all, and this jumped to "yo Murley... Danielle can run for real!" at the end of January when her and Izzy went head-to-head in the benchmark workout, Eva.

Then I slowly watched her increase mobility in her rack position, overhead position, and hip range of motion to the point where she looks like a normal person doing Overhead squats instead of a Crawford doing Overhead squats. This, no doubt, came from her 6-7 days per week attendance despite living over a half hour away from the gym. Considering she's around here so often, she's blended right in with the family - whether that's Mrs. Carey, Reggie, and Mr. Z at the Sunday workouts, hanging out with the Banets and Shakes after a session, or leading some of the new kids like Izzy, Emma D, and Laura. Honestly, this girl might be something special here at the Champions Club and learning how and when to hold the reigns back will probably be the biggest challenge. In fact, this was evident during her powerlifting season; a few weeks ago Danielle came to me talking about feeling burned out from CrossFit and powerlifting. Luckily for her, Coach T and I are really good at communicating what we are seeing, and we made the call to go In-Season for her CrossFit workouts in the weeks leading up to the Ford meet, where she hit massive pr's on her lifts. We did the same thing for states, and she hit another pr on her deadlift.

Just business as usual this Winter for Woorden.

...........

I want you guys to do CrossFit so that you can be good at everything that is not CrossFit. Because CrossFit is CrossFit, it can do that... even when it's not done with the best of form, as was evident when I was doing it in high school. Combine the movement standards that the Champions Club holds with the daily workout and you truly get a skill-transfer to whatever you want. But it didn't end there because Danielle was hearing the exact same language at Ford, as Coach T holds his athletes to the same movement standards we do. Aside from the physical side of this, CrossFit also exposes mental baggage because you are constantly coming up to things you suck at. It's really interesting to watch from my perspective. Mr. Carey, in my opinion, has the best understanding of this in the gym, but it is impressive to see how mature our younger crowd carries themselves. And not "mature" in the way your Math teacher talks to you about (usually with a hard "t") after you shoot a paper hornet at one of your classmates, but rather how calm you stay when you don't like what's unfolding around you.

Danielle has a lot of room improve in this area; the most exciting part about this, whether she knows it or not, is how fearless she seems to be in putting herself in those situations. The challenges in CrossFit is one thing, but man the stands were pretty packed at those powerlifting meets. At Ford, she had like 6 Champions Club people there watching her, plus me, Jarrod, and Brian; that's a lot of pressure to perform. At States, Danielle's bench press did not go the way she wanted and it showed. Somehow she fixer herself up in time to set an all-time pr on the deadlift and be a supportive teammate for Kayla, who ended up making All-State. And what is she going to do next? Oh you know, just go out for track and do the 800, long jump, shot put, and discus; not only an extremely difficult blend of events, but also a sport that she's never done before.

I have always believed that it is a disservice to coach girls any different than you would coach guys. Whether or not I am right about this will probably be more clear when I'm 103 years old and coaching Elizabeth Banet's teenage granddaughter how to do push-ups, but I do know that if I was a chick, I would be pissed if I felt that I was getting coached to a lower standard than a dude I was training with. I'm just as relentless with Danielle as I am with Conor or Isaac Dawkins, and she's met everything I've thrown at her this winter. This award, whatever it's worth, was truly earned.

Coach's Corner: Midline Stability at States/Kayla's Beast Mode

The coolest thing about good form is that it not only is the best way to keep you safe, but it's also the best way to express strength and power. So the conversation will never happen like, "yeah, I fixed my knees on my squat and my lift went down 20 pounds," or "I really like this new footwork adjustment on my jump shot even though I am missing everything I throw up at the rim." Obviously there can be a learning curve where a few steps back are necessary, but over the long term safe technique always equals the strongest technique. There is no exception to this. And thank God for that.

The State Championship powerlifting meet last weekend was a great illustration of this, as I noticed while watching the girls' deadlifts over and over. We always talk about not allowing change in the spine while lifting. Obviously it's not safe to practice over and over, but aside from that it's also much less powerful. Watch the video below; the first clip is a girl from some random school hitting her max on the final lift, the second clip shows Kayla Landman - who is part of Coach T's team and has been by our gym a few times, including Lifts 4 Gifts - hitting her max at 265 lbs.

The thing you should obviously notice by now is the difference in spinal position; Kayla stays very solid while the first lifter lost position right away. They both completed the rep, but notice what happens on the second half of their lifts.

This poor girl has stood up just about as high as she could with her hips - as you can see they are nearly fully extended - and yet the rep still has not technically been completed because her torso is not upright (shoulders behind the bar is the rule I believe). So what's the only way to get upright? Well, in this case, it can't be the hips because they're already extended; it's the spine that's lagging behind. The only thing she can do is the most epic back extension/superman of all time while praying the judge does not call a hitch. In short, you can always tell who loses their spinal position on deadlift by seeing who gets stuck near the top. It's weird to watch and something that can be called with almost perfect accuracy at the heavy weights.

I actually lucked into recording an even better example of this; just simply look at the girl to Kayla's left.

Both girls lifted at the same time and are on their way up. Judging by the picture, who do you think would finish first? Rewatch the video to find out.

Now imagine if this was a clean, or a shot put, or any other kind of athletic squatting motion; who would have more power on the top of the lift? The spine is the only thing that connects the hips to the shoulders. If you put a kink in the hose, so to speak, then all of the work the legs do leaks out and cannot be transferred to the arms. In the case of the deadlift (a less-athletic squat) it is still critical in completing your max lifts, as seen time and time again in Saturday's meet. Thankfully for Kayla, she had a coach like T to hold her to a tough movement standard. Great job to both!

Beast Mode: Danielle

At the Powerlifting State Finals meet yesterday, Danielle Worden overcame the disappointment of slightly missing pr's on the squat and bench press by hitting a new pr on the deadlift. She topped out with her final list at 255 lbs. Check it out!

This marks the end of the powerlifting season for everyone. Danielle definitely represented well, and it was cool to see that her technique improved from her last meet. Now it's on to track season, where she said she's just dying to run the 2 mile every practice.

Great job kiddo.

States for Danielle This Saturday

Champions Club rookie-who-seems-like-she's-been-here-forever Danielle Worden will be competing in her final powerlifting meet of the year this Saturday at Lake Orion High School. It turns out this is also the State Championship meet, which she qualified for earlier this season, then subsequently destroyed her previous pr's three weeks ago at the Ford meet. With a week of in-season training here and tempered lifting at school under Coach T, we are hoping Danielle comes into Saturday fresh and ready to perform.

The girls start lifting at around 8:30 am, but there will be a ton of schools participating I'm sure, so this could last a while. I'll be heading out there after the mobility session on Saturday for anyone who wants to tag along - where I'm guessing I'll miss the squat but catch the deadlift and the bench press. It's a cool environment to 1) see kids participating in weightlifting and 2) appreciate the technique that goes on at the Champions Club and Utica Ford.

Hit me up if you want to carpool. And in the meantime, Danielle: your form is good! Don't think, just lift!

From the Vault: The Takeover Goes to Sparta For Real This Time

So when Coach T and I left MSU last year, we both left a tad bit disappointed because, in our eyes, we did not think we got the point accross to Coach Mannie like we were hoping. But new info makes me think we may have been wrong about that assumption.

Neither Coach T or I went to the clinic this year, but one of T's assistants did and was shocked when hearing Coach Mannie give his weight room demo. I got an email from T this afternoon.

"So I think Coach Mannie was paying attention to us last year and did some reading of Supple Leopard 

Watch his weight room demo this year and pay attention at about 8:13 when he puts his guy through the bench. I have heard him talk about Bench for 9 years now and never heard about elbow position and bending the bar."

 

In addition, at the 16:40 mark you can watch Coach Mannie coach one of his athletes through the deadlift. And it's honestly incredible to hear him say the words "brace," "hip hinge," and "neutral midline". I have not gone to his clinic for 9 years like Coach T did, but I did watch about 20 hours of film on him in prep for last year's clinic and I cannot remember a time I saw or heard him fix someone's deadlift set-up when they rounded to grab the bar. This is very cool. Here's our weight room demo from last year for reference.

Slowly but surely the Movement Standards are getting spread around the athletic community. Stay tuned...