CrossFit Kids Program Fosters Community and Grit

June 6, 2023 by
PHOTO CREDIT:@sawedoffcrossfitkids
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In 2018, Kim Joiner, tiredly chatting with Sawed-Off CrossFit co-owner Brian Healy, shared how exhausted she felt. By working in a corporate job, she had such little time for her four children, and while the paycheck was comfortable, she was anything but. 

Healy took how she felt to heart, and asked her if she would be interested in forming a kids class at the gym. This would involve quitting her job, pursuing her L1 and CrossFit Kids certification, and devoting herself full-time to growing a brand new program from scratch. 

Which is exactly what she did. 

Five years later, Sawed-Off CrossFit Kids has grown into one of most well-known CrossFit Kids programs in existence, and one that many CrossFit Kids coaches and teachers look to for inspiration daily. Joiner has coaches regularly reaching out to her from across the world, asking her for advice, programming help and tips.  

Joiner reflected on the five year journey she’s been on, and the highs and lows of her program. In 2020, while her gym was shut down, she taught her classes over Zoom. She looks back at this time as integral to her development as a coach. 

  • “I had to learn how to coach using minimal words, completely holding their attention over the computer. I had to keep them coming back, which was a huge challenge, but ultimately it made me into a much better coach,” she said. 

She has learned that, like the adult athletes at the gym, her kids need structure and goals. They explore different sports and skills, like running, tennis, throwing and catching and gymnastics, among many others. For many of the athletes, CrossFit Kids is their first and only exposure to certain modalities. 

  • “I have a kid now who plays tennis on a team because he loved playing tennis in CrossFit Kids. And he had never done it before,” expressed Joiner. 
  • “We did a New Year’s recap, and I had another kid reflect on the past year, and he said the one thing he learned is that he loved running! How great is that!?” she said.

Recently, the kids welcomed spring with a “water day,” complete with an inflatable water slide and an Ice Barrel. When asked how she convinces her young athletes to jump into ice cold water after class, she replied that they’ve learned, through CrossFit, to do gritty, hard things. 

  • “When something is hard,” Joiner pointed out, “kids tend to want to give up. So I always encourage them to just try.” 

And upon the introduction of the Ice Barrel, that’s what happened on day one. They all wanted to try. She observed athletes encouraging each other to at least put a hand or a foot into the cold water. 

  • “You’ve done so many hard things in CrossFit already,” remarked one young athlete to another, “just put your foot in.” 

Joiner has watched these lessons expand beyond the gym. She’s been told by parents that they’ve seen their children being children on the playground: hanging onto monkey bars, climbing and running with joy and exuberance. They are trying difficult and new things, challenging their bodies. 

She’s watched her athletes congratulating one another after a workout and cheering each other on, without prompting, and forming new friendships, their confidence growing. She has welcomed new adult members to the gym, inspired by their sons and daughters, and the changes that they’ve witnessed in them. 

Kids are taking what they achieve in CrossFit, and applying it to their daily lives. 

  • “Coach Kim always says finish strong and I thought of that at school today,” one young athlete remarked. 

On Thursdays, the kids share watermelon, popsicles, grapes or bananas. They gather together, sweatily bonding post-workout. They’re building community through exercise, challenge and encouragement. 

“My job is to get the kids in the gym and for them to love it,” said Joiner. “I want kids to be proud of themselves because they’re learning and getting better.”

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