CrossFit Program Helps Eight Boys Voted “Least Likely to Finish High School” Graduate, Seek D1 Scholarships
Five years ago, Kelly Barcol approached the principal of a local middle school and asked him “to find me 10 sixth grade boys who are the least likely to finish High School” to participate in the after school CrossFit program he was about to launch, explained Barcol, the owner of CrossFit Winnersville in Valdosta, GA.
- Five years later, eight of the 10 boys have become staple members of the Winnersville community, and are en route to graduate next year. Some are even on track to lock down sports scholarships.
- “Most of them clean and jerk over 300 (pounds) now and a couple squat close to 500,” Barcol said.
The details: The impetus of Barcol’s after school program, a non-profit funded by donations, came after one of his loyal members, a young man named Josh Sullivan, suddenly died of a heart condition.
- “He was such a generous guy, the model person you want at your gym,” said Barcol, who felt compelled to do something generous in honor of his fallen friend. The result was the Josh Sullivan Beat the Streets Program.
- And so, for the last five years, a CrossFit Winnersville coach has picked the boys up from school five days a week and taken them to the gym, where they workout and receive tutoring.
- Each of the boys also has his own mentor — a member from the gym — as a big brother-type program. “They usually do something with their mentor once a month, but sometimes it’s once a week or twice a week. At this stage, some are even going on vacation with their mentor’s family,” said Barcol, who has also taken the boys on outings, such as paddle boarding, hiking, go-karting, boating, as well as spring break trips to Daytona Beach and even Disneyland.
- He added: “They look so strong and fit. There’s a picture of them on the beach from spring break and they all look like little CrossFit Games athletes.”
One big thing: Many of the boys come from homes without a father, from homes where men constantly leave. So, at the start of the program, Barcol wrote up a contract for each parent to sign, which included his commitment not to leave their son, a commitment that has been invaluable to their success, Barcol explained.
- “On the contract on my end, we said that we’re committed no matter what trouble they get in. Kids aren’t going to be perfect, and no matter what, we weren’t going to walk out of their lives,” he said.
- This consistent, unwavering support Barcol and the entire Winnersville community have given the boys has trickled down to how they treat each other. “They have become each other’s best friends. They’re each other’s best friends at school and outside of school. I can’t believe how they came together,” Barcol said.
- For a coach, nothing could be more rewarding. “We asked for the kids we got. We didn’t ask for the top students who were doing well. So seeing them grow, and seeing their characters grow over the year…,” Barcol paused, as his voice started to crack. “I can hardly really tell you how amazing it has been.”
What they’re saying: The boys couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity the Winnersville community has given them.
- “It introduced one of the highlights of my life and created an entire love for weightlifting that I appreciate more than I can say,” said Mikel Anderson.
- “What keeps me coming back after five years is it’s bettering me in my life and strengthening me mentally and spiritually and physically. Also, the people around the gym treat us so special and make me feel special,” explained Cedric Scott.
- Devonte Wilcox added: The program “is overall one of the best things I have ever experienced and am still experiencing each day…It teaches you to fight through pain and furthermore helps you grow as a person. This is the way I grow through Christ, and this program genuinely is the way I found Him….I continue to come back because the coaches know what’s best for me, and for all of this there is not a thing I can do or say to show how appreciate I am. I’m so glad Coach Kelly chose me for this program.”
- “The family that is at CrossFit WInnersville is the best and I just want to be around them all day every day,” added Josh McCutchen.
Next up: With the boys graduating next year, CrossFit Winnersville has recently brought on eight Grade six girls, who they identified as girls who could benefit from some “extra love and support,” to start the cycle all over again.
- Continuing the program after the boys graduate was a no brainer, Barcol explained. “It just really has been hands down the most rewarding thing we have done. And now to sit back and watch them, it’s amazing,” he said.
Donate to the Josh Sullivan Beat the Streets program.