Major Haley Mercer Raises the Bar With Successful Military Career, CrossFit Affiliate Ownership
Major Haley Mercer of the United States Army is not the average CrossFitter. She placed 190th worldwide in the 2019 CrossFit Open (ages 35-39), graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management, earned two Master’s Degrees, and graduated from the Sapper Leader Course. She also owns Third Coast CrossFit in Dickinson, TX and exclusively uses the sport for her training while serving as Executive Officer of the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion.
Why this matters: CrossFit has always very popular in military communities as members strive to remain in peak physical condition. Many soldiers use CrossFit training instead of simply relying on a routine of running, push-ups, and sit-ups mixed with some weightlifting. The reason for this is not complicated.
- “I think it’s gained a lot of popularity, honestly, two words: ‘it works,’” Mercer explained. “I think people started seeing a lot of improvements in their overall fitness much more quickly than what they had been doing previously.”
- “Whether they had been a distance runner or a cyclist or just a powerlifter or one of those single-domain sports. Once they started getting into CrossFit, they realized that their overall fitness level has started to increase in all areas.”
- “Another reason it caught on was — for the average CrossFitter — you don’t need two hours in the gym every day. 60 minutes with a warm-up and a cooldown. Even with 60 minutes, you can fit in a METCON and a strength or a strength and a METCON. You can still hit all of those buttons in one hour.”
First exposure: Mercer deployed to the Middle East early in her military career as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was during the second of these deployments that she discovered the sport that would change how she trained and lead to her becoming an affiliate owner.
- “I first started CrossFit back in 2011,” Mercer explained. “I grew up as a competitive athlete my whole life, I played D1 sports, so fitness has always been important to me. Once I left college and joined the Army, I never had that competitive draw to anything.”
- “On my second deployment to Afghanistan, I had a boss who was like, ‘hey, you should come try CrossFit in the morning at zero six hundred.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know anything about this CrossFit, but I’ll try it out. I like anything physical.’”
From athlete to coach: Mercer was hooked on the sport from the very first workout and has not done anything else in the years since. She became a Level 1 coach in early 2013 along with her husband. They remained active coaches for three or four years in Atlanta, GA, ultimately moving to Galveston, TX and opening Third Coast CrossFit after the opportunity presented itself.
As an active military member, Mercer serves a variety of roles. She is the Executive Officer of the 307th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Bridge Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. These duties keep her away from Third Coast CrossFit and the city of Galveston, but the affiliate continues to run smoothly due to the support system created by Mercer and her husband, Jake Lohr.
- “We do have a very solid staff. We have about nine employees, but that equates to our clientele size,” Mercer said. “That is adequate for the size of clients we have. We have had those — I would say 80% — of those coaches since we owned the gym. We have had a little turnover, but it’s honestly those coaches who run the day-to-day classes and are responsible for bringing in new clients.”
- “My husband still plays a very active role. He does all of the programming, he does quarterly visits, and he does advertising as well. Between my husband and the core group of coaches, we make it work.”
The bottom line: capitalize on opportunity. Mercer has accomplished a lot during her military career and as the owner of a CrossFit gym. Graduating from West Point — which she highlighted as a major moment in her life — is one example that set her up for success in all future endeavors. Similarly, graduating from the grueling 28-day Sapper Leader Course, where the female graduation rate is 35%, was not a simple task. However, Mercer saw several opportunities present themselves, and she did not hesitate.
- “For me, it’s all about opportunities. I never ever turned down an opportunity, and I’m constantly seeking opportunities. The opportunities that I’ve had to attend West Point or go to Sapper School or own a CrossFit gym — whatever it may be — are opportunities that presented themselves to me at points in my career. And then me just being ready at that time to take on the risk and test out that opportunity.”
- “I haven’t done anything special or crazy that anyone else couldn’t do. It’s just — it sounds cliche — always being ready in the event that an opportunity presents itself to you. Opportunities are available. Opportunities come every day, and if you are ready, then you can jump on those opportunities. If you are not ready, then you have to turn down opportunities that could create future career potential for you.”
Any comments made belong to Mercer and do not reflect the opinions of the United States Army nor the 82nd Airborne Division.