The Growth of Crossfit Camden-Frontier, A Non-Profit Affiliate
Camden, MI teacher Jeff Fisher has been teaching for 13 years and CrossFitting for six. In a small town surrounded by corn and wheatfields, Fisher was teaching at a small K-12 public school with approximately 500 kids, coaching many sports and getting burned out.
Through a combination of parents, students, and athletes not listening or being coachable, Fisher was discouraged about how poor the sports programs were at his school, and one day, he got tired of complaining.
- “I wanted to think of a solution. And I’m not wanting to just sit back and just complain- I want to be involved. I want to help out,” he said.
Fisher was a mainstay at CrossFit Timoro, where coach Matt Young helped to change his life. Shortly after starting at Timoro, he got his L-1 and began coaching, and the thought of creating a CrossFit space at his school started to take shape. He planned to start the program in the summer of 2019, but Covid threw the schedule for a loop. However, it also brought more help to the cause.
- “I think this all kind of started when COVID was going on. There was so much health and mental wellness money available, especially for public schools. And our PE teacher, who was also a CrossFitter at the time, asked for some of that money to be used to buy a rig in our weight room. And so, we got a 25-foot rig.“
- “And I thought to myself, well, if the superintendent and the school board are going to approve that money that easily, then maybe I’ll get together some odds and ends, so I got together probably $15,000 worth of stuff. And the superintendent was behind it, and the school board was behind it.”
Fisher continued to hustle to put more money into the space. “We have a really cool community foundation called the Hillsdale Community Foundation. I applied for two separate grants, both about $5,000. One of the grants was another kind of senior and youth health and mental wellness grant, and the other one is another grant that teenagers run.”
- Through all his work applying for grants, Fisher brought in about $27,000 worth of equipment. “We got rowers,bikes, new barbells, new bumper plates, wallballs and odds and ends that we’ve been using to run the program. So, it’s pretty cool.”
After building the space, Fisher started his morning program, running one class daily before school from 6-7 AM. In the beginning, he would only have two kids consistently, and one teacher showed up occasionally, making it challenging for Fisher to get up in the morning. But he knew it was worth it. The numbers have built, and now they average ten people a class. “It’s just amazing. That dedication that kids have to show up at six o’clock in the morning to work out before school. These kids are depending on me to be there and to lead them through the program every day.” Fisher said.
Jeff Fisher says the change in the kids has been evident.
- “The kids are just moving so much better. I mean, it’s unreal. I would like to have some numbers because I know it would be pretty impressive. But luckily for me, a lot of the kids that are coming, a couple of them are our best middle school athletes, and their times in track have improved; some kids are running times that are faster than the varsity runners.”
- “On the academic side, these kids that are coming are all pretty sharp. And I think they all have at least been student of the month. I like to take pictures of them for that, and we have a bulletin board of students of the month kids, and I’ll post that on our Instagram page. I’m trying to just show that it’s not just CrossFit, you know, it’s academics, these kids are involved in band and piano and bowling etc., and they’re excelling at everything they touch.”
Until recently, the gym had been unaffiliated and only following CrossFit programming simply because of the cost to affiliate. Before the CrossFit Open this year, Fisher reached out to CrossFit to ask if the kids could post their scores on the leaderboard, even though they were unaffiliated. He quickly learned that CrossFit has a non-profit affiliation program, where they waive the affiliation fee and liability insurance. His paperwork was immediately approved, and CrossFit Camden-Frontier was officially born.
- “The kids have just really bought into the program. They show up every single day, and they just grind. And I just can’t wait to see how much better they’re going to get because they have a fitness program available for them.”