SPRINGFIELD, Mo — The sport of CrossFit is not for the faint of heart, but one gym here in Springfield is breaking barriers one athlete at a time…
What makes a champion? Is it to stand atop a podium holding a trophy, or can it be as simple as conquering a mundane task? While success can be presented on a large scale, rest assured that even the smallest victories in life can deafen a room with applause.
“They surprise me every day, even with the little things,” said Josh Downing, a RTB VIP Volunteer Coach.
Meet Jacob Thornsberry. He is 16 years old, and was born with autism.
“When he came in he used to have a problem walking up stairs,” said Downing. Jacob battles through daily tasks most of us take for granted. “Lunges were hard. I couldn’t do lunges when I first started,” remembers Jacob, as if those days were a distant memory, but he tackles those challenges head on.
“One day Jacob came in here and said yeah, I’m going to do it,” said Nick Hostler, another VIP Coach.
“He came up and said I want to try a 20 inch box like my dad does,” said Downing. His dad, Jonathan Thornsberry, could be described as a Crossfit Athlete himself, attending Crossfit RTB classes multiple times a week.
“We all sat here for about 45 minutes watching him,” remembered Hostler.
Jacob made 113 attempts to try and jump on that box, and he failed to land with both feet every single time. It wasn’t until his 114th attempt that he finally made it. Who would have ever thought a 20 inch box could make for a rocky mountain high?
“The 114 times? Yeah that was life changing. I was not expecting that. That was like… I didn’t know I could do it,” explained Jacob. “It was awesome, but pretty embarrassing.”
“That split second, it didn’t even register with me,” said Hostler. “The whole gym kind of erupted. He was just looking around like hey I just did it.”
“Crossfit is a scary word. People would ask why you want to do it with high school kids with special needs, but the motto of Crossfit is that everything is infinitely scale-able, and that’s something that we can do here,” said Hostler.
The VIP program does exactly that. Take a sport like Crossfit, and scale it down for athletes with special abilities, no matter what the disability, or how severe. It’s a program designed to increase their motor skills, but the the program is much more than that.
“These kids have been excluded at times, and now they have an inclusive group,” said Downing, who has taught and coached athletes of all levels for various sports. “They are friends and they go to school together. Its an infinite amount of things that they gain from it. They are here with people that care about them and believe in them.”
Josh and Nick are volunteers who mentor these athletes. With smiles and hugs, the success stories pile up week after week.
“The reward you get from seeing the kids laugh and smile. There is no words to describe the reward you get from that,” said Downing as he tried to hold back a smile.
Just like Jacob’s box jump, Alec Clairday has a success story of his own. He is an 11 year old battling Bardet Biedl Syndrome. Severe vision loss has hindered him in the past, but watching him squat here with a 45lb bar, proves the program works. It’s a constant reminder to both athletes and coaches that,
“The sky is the limit for them, inside and outside of the gym,” said Hostler, and that even the smallest victories in life are worth celebrating.
For more information about the VIP Program, contact Brian Joy at Brian@CrossfitRTB.com or at 417-414-4266. You can visit RTB’s website here.