Adaptive Training Academy Aims to Educate Health Professionals on Coaching Those with a Disability

August 24, 2020 by
Courtesy of Alec Zirkenbach

Alec Zirkenbach, Logan Aldridge, Kevin Ogar and Chris Stoutenburg have a mission: To bridge the gap between fitness and rehabilitation, specifically for adaptive athletes.

  • “So adaptive athletes can come together and realize they can still live a healthy lifestyle,” said Aldridge, who had his left arm amputated after a wake boarding accident when he was 13.

The four adaptive athletes have been doing this through their company Adaptive Training Academy (ATA), which offers a coaching course that educates participants about how to train adaptive athletes.  

Courtesy of Alec Zirkenbach

Course Details: ATA’s course — Adaptive and Inclusive Trainer (AIT) certification — is a self-paced online course that takes approximately 16 hours to complete. It costs $499 and is registered in 37 states to provide 16 continued education credits for physical therapists.

  • More than 1,400 CrossFit coaches, physical therapists, occupational therapists, physical education teachers and other medical professionals have taken the course so far.
  • Most recently, they teamed up with a school district in Washington, DC and delivered their course online to 90 physical, occupational and recreational therapists, as well as physical education teachers. “It was the coolest thing. We were supposed to do it live, but because of COVID, we had to adapt and deliver it virtually. We ran the teachers through the course as if they were the fifth graders and we were the teachers,” Aldridge said, adding that the class was a “mash up” between adaptive training and CrossFit Kids.  
  • Aldridge added: “They’re probably going to have to teach PE online this year, so we really helped show them how to run fitness virtually for adaptive students and kids with special needs.”
Courtesy of Alec Zirkenbach

One big thing: ATA is also in the process of building an affiliate program to make it easier for adaptive athletes to find trainers who are educated in coaching those with a disability.

  • “Basically $300 will get you affiliated and it will put your gym on the map so adaptive athletes and organizations can find ATA facilities, (meaning) gyms with a coach who has taken our course,” said Zirkenbach, who is also a CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff.

The big picture: Zirkenbach and Aldridge said they are hopeful that CrossFit LLC will soon bring back an adaptive coaching course into their course offerings. They’re also focused on helping CrossFit’s Level 1 seminar staff gain more knowledge about training adaptive athletes.

  • “We’re trying to get the Level 1 seminar staff equipped with the foundational knowledge from our course. We just want them to understand more about coaching adaptive athletes, so when an adaptive athlete shows up to a Level 1 seminar, they’ll be able to accommodate them,” Zirkenbach said.
  • When Aldridge did his Level 1 certificate course, he said “the red shirts did a phenomenal job, and I felt so included.” That being said, there’s an inconsistency among the trainers, he explained. “So we’d love to help set some more consistent standards for coaching an adaptive athlete at the Level 1 seminar,” he added.

Zirkenbach’s message: Even if you don’t have an adaptive athlete at your box right now, gaining knowledge about how to coach those with a physical disability is only going to make you a better coach.

  • “First of all, it’s not if but when someone with a disability is going to come into your facility, so you want to be prepared to work with them,” Zirkenbach said.
  • He added: “Even if you don’t have someone with a spinal cord injury right now, you’ll still get something out of this course. You’ll become better at making decisions for all the other athletes in your gym, too, like when you’re dealing with an injury and you have to adjust. You’ll just become a lot more thoughtful in your coaching.”

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