12 Labours CrossFit Teams Up with Special Olympics Maryland

November 23, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Taylor Jordan
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In January of 2022, the 12 Labours CrossFit community will launch a partnership with Special Olympics Maryland, offering a 12-week, free CrossFit course to about 30 athletes part of the organization. 

The program: 2022 is the second year that the 12 Labours CrossFit community will work with Special Olympics Maryland. In 2019, the program was held only at 12 Labours CrossFit Columbia; this time, it will expand to the affiliate’s second location, 12 Labours CrossFit Annapolis. 

  • “We were in a position… pre-COVID, to give up our time and our energy to give back to the community,” said Wilson Pak, General Manager of 12 Labours CrossFit. “We felt a big calling to the Special Olympics.”
  • He continued: “I literally walked in with this dream, the director shook my hand, and believed in something he knew nothing about.” 

How it works: Most athletes, Pak explains, use these CrossFit classes as training for other sports they’re involved with in the Special Olympics. 

Before the class begins, Pak meets personally with each athlete and their parents, completing a movement screening and learning their behaviors. 

  • “I [get] them to touch every single machine that we have, in addition to doing basic movements like sitting on a box and standing up, doing slam balls and ring rows…. just trying to understand what we’re working with,” Pak says.

A typical class begins with a game or obstacle course. The focus stays on coordination for each athlete, Pak explains, using bands and general movements, before building load with dumbbells. “We always end with a ‘CrossFit’ chant!” he adds. 

In 2022: The next 12 Labours CrossFit and Special Olympics partnership will begin the first week of January, with the movement screenings. After the assessments, they will jump right into the 12-week program, holding two sessions a week at each location.

Pak says there are some returning athletes, noting that during open registration for Special Olympics programs, the CrossFit course sold out within an hour. 

  • The goal is to keep expanding, eventually hosting two cohorts of athletes at each location, training 30 athletes per week in each district.

The way Pak looks at it, “there’s no reason why this program shouldn’t be adopted into every single Crossfit gym in the U.S.” 

The bottom line: Time and again, CrossFit has proved to be beneficial for athletes with intellectual disabilities, for more than just fitness. This program is no different. Aside from changes in energy levels and fitness, Pak says he  saw a noticeable difference in the athletes’ social abilities. In the environment of a CrossFit gym, these athletes were able to come out of their shells, gifting every class with their “smiles and positive attitudes.” 

Taylor Jordan, a coach and volunteer for the program, reflected on her experience in a blog post, calling the partnership “the true essence of what CrossFit is about.”

  • “The encouragement they gave each other, the positivity that showed when they walked through the door, the anticipation of seeing the day’s workout written on the board, it all boils down to why we show up and do the things we do,” she wrote. 
  • “It’s about the community banding together through adversity to celebrate the small victories and encourage others to be healthy, happy, and able to live their life to the fullest.”

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