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Entries in coach t shepherd-er of the sheep (50)

One Year Anniversary: Woooooooorrrrrrden

One year ago yesterday, Danielle Worden (which Coach T spelled out to me as "Woorden") signed up for Fundamentals at the Champions Club.

It was pretty apparent early on that Danielle was going to be a "glue guy" - as they say in basketball terms. In normal people terms, this means she's someone who holds the thing together. Our high school crew is not near where I want it to be, and it takes a few "glue guys" to get things rolling in the right direction. Danielle lives about a half hour from here, shows up 6-7 days per week, and recruits her butt off to try and start a Ford connection - which seems to be showing signs of life already.

On the workout side of things, Danielle has developed a really inclusive fitness capacity; she's a state qualifying powerlifter and also excels in endurance-related workouts. This was showcased earlier this year, as she got the Athlete of the Winter award.

Going forward, Danielle's biggest obstacle is going to be herself. She's definitely enrolled in the Murley/Crawford Class of Self Doubt about twice a week, and this shows on workouts that involve things like heavy cleans, 800s at a fast pace, or anything else that she finds herself struggling at. I've seen tantrums and self-labels of "peaking," only to witness a string of great workouts soon to follow. And I know there will be more to come as well. And that's not entirely bad.

One of the coolest things about being part of the Champions Club is that we see these kids grow up right in front of us. I am going on record predicting that over the course of the next year, we are going to watch Danielle Worden figure "it" out. She's going to develop into one of the fittest and mentally tough girls we've ever seen come through our doors; she's going to realize that it's okay for a 17 year old kid to be exactly one year into CrossFit and be bad at multiple things, and that every failure is part of the Natural Progression she has to go through in order to find the right method for success. And when she does find that out... I'm going to take all the credit!

Thank you, Danielle, for having trust in my coaching and meshing into our community for the past year! And I hope we can keep you around for a long time to come!

Bye Bye Cecilia

This morning's 9 am session marked the last workout of the Summer 2018 for Cecilia Steinwascher.

As far as Summer rookies go, you'd have to go back to 2013 with AJ and Faust to find college kids who've made this kind of an impact on the Champions Club their first time around.

Cecilia came in for Fundamentals at the end of April and was here 6-7 days a week ever since. When she started, she could not run any distance without shin pain. Now she runs 4 miles in a workout with no problems whatsoever. We spent a lot of time working on her overextension as well, and have seen some progress there; she can sort of do hollow rocks now without clunking. Right in the middle of June is where Cecilia began to catch her stride with the movements and intensity and it was fun to watch.

Even more than that, she blended in to our community right from day 1; routinely staying late after sessions to hang out, bringing in people, and encouraging everyone around her. Sometimes athletes who've earned All-American status in their sport are either uncoachable, or look down on other people. Cecilia showed none of that; she acted the same whether David Saporito or Mama V was working out beside her.

Unlike high school, college girls soccer starts in the fall, and camp begins at Grand Valley later this week. Hopefully this Summer helped Cecilia get where she wants on the field, and we'll keep you posted if she's playing anywhere within driving distance.

Thank you Cecilia for trusting our coaching and calling the Champions Club your home! We hope to see you back for the holidays!

Athlete of the Week: Luke Heide

We are officially in August now - the home stretch of the Champions Club Summer - and our athlete of the week this time around is rookie Luke Heide.

Yes, yes, I know I haven't done the rookie post yet. There are technically 25 rookies this year, so to be honest I'm just procrastinating... and waiting to see if we get a few more who are on the fence. But since early July, Luke has been one of the most consistent athletes in our entire group. This week we really got to see him showcase his conditioning. He used Ol' Red on Monday for his 5:30 session's kb swing and run workout, on Tuesday he showed good stamina on his jumping lunges, he posted a top rookie score on their version of Fight Gone Bad (well, besides Mateo and Keiton's impressive 500+ rep count), and yesterday he did great on dumbbell thrusters and 200-m runs.

Luke is a tight end going into his freshman year at Adrian College, and he seems to be very in sync with the balance he needs as an athlete. This will be his last week with us before going to fall camp, but I'm sure we can get a few more good workouts in. Either way, keep up the good work my man!

From the Vault: MottFit

Over 4 years ago, Coach T got me to come in and co-coach his 3rd hour lifetime fitness class. This was the beginning of our collaboration that grew to involve 3 schools, two gyms, and a B1G presentation.

Looking back on the video, I notice a few things we still coach, but most of it is kind of outdated; that is not to say it was wrong, but it has been refined time and time again. Still, it's cool to see the grassroots. Check it out.

Coach's Corner: Back Squats + GoFundMe Opportunity

Coach T has been doing a great job this Summer so far adjusting to the high intensity, all-inclusive way we approach CrossFit. But his specialty remains coaching the basic lifts; back squat, bench press, and deadlift. Last week he got a chance to coach 8th grade rookie Sam Butcher on her first ever sets of back squats. Here's how it looked.

Control of the spine is one of the most critical things to develop for anyone, let alone a teenager playing sports. Going slow and holding static positions is one of the best ways to help that. Keep that in mind moving forward for whenever we have max effort days this Summer.


On a down note, bad news came out of the Utica Ford community on Saturday. Head football coach Todd Koehn passed away this weekend unexpectedly and a GoFundMe page has been started to help cover the funeral costs. I met Coach Koehn a few times at Ford while preparing for the MSU clinic and helping out with powerlifting. In a world of football coaches throwing out terms like "get BIG" without thinking and downplaying anything related to CrossFit, Coach Koehn seemed to be nothing supportive of not only Coach T, but an oursider like myself. I always felt welcome at Ford and Coach Koehn went a long way to make that possible. He's definitely someone I would have liked to play for in high school.

New Kid on the Block: Evan

Jennifer Ashley has been quietly having herself a good Summer with improvements in her running and overall technique. Last week she brought her friend, Evan Pugh, in to try out a workout. A few days later he signed up for Fundamentals.

Evan is Warren Mott alum who was on the football team and also took part in Coach T's lifting classes back in the Big Butt Big Chest era. Since graduating he's been doing his own lifting at a globo gym, focusing on mainly powerlifting. Now he's looking for more conditioning in his routine and also wants to increase his flexibility.

Even has been through 2 days so far and we are scheduled to pick back up this weekend. I'll check in after Day 7 as usual.

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!