Coach Matt Torres on Building a Training Camp, the 2024 Season, and the “New” Brute

February 5, 2024 by
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Since 2013, Brute (previously known as Brute Strength Training), has been a big player in the professional sport of CrossFit. 

Linked to athletes like Fee Saghafi and Dallin Pepper, Brute, headed by CEO and owner Matt Torres, has come to be known as one of the elite training camps. It’s sought after by Games veterans as well as rising stars, looking to make their names known. 

Some background: Torres came onto the Brute scene in 2018, when it was decided by the current owners to open up Brute to one-on-one coaching. Having an extensive background in coaching D1 athletics and affiliate ownership, he was able to connect with many teenage athletes, looking to break through. 

  • Torres began working with Dallin Pepper when Pepper was 16, hoping to successfully make the jump to the Individual Division after competing as a teen. Thanks to Pepper, Torres was able to connect with James Sprague, Emma Cary, and Tudor Magda. They were his core four. 

Fast forward to 2022, Semifinals debuted, and Torres was still coaching the original four. There was a turning point after the 2021 Games: Dallin missed qualifying by one spot, Sprague and Magda were close, but didn’t qualify either, however Cary punched her ticket via the Granite Games. 

At the time, all Torres’ athletes were spread throughout the country. But after the Granite Games, he encouraged them to move to Florida, so they could train together, as a cohesive unit in 2022. 

A turning point: By October of 2022, all the Brute athletes had come together in Naples, and it was Torres’ biggest priority to get them all to the Games. 

Over the course of that time, he connected with other athletes like Fee Saghafi and Danielle Brandon, who then joined the team. 

  • “This was the first time that I had all athletes down here at one time. It was more of an experiment. I thought, ‘this is how I believe it will work, and then we figure out what does and what doesn’t and then we move forward,’” Torres told Morning Chalk Up.
  • “Around that time, I was encouraged to purchase Brute, but I owned two gyms. I only wanted to focus on my athletes, but in the end I was convinced,” Torres reflects.

Along with Micah Shoemaker, together they purchased Brute, with Shoemaker currently filling the role as co-owner and CMO.

By the 2023 season, Torres was the new Brute CEO, but he still “(didn’t) have his training camp down, the way (he) felt like it would work the best.” 

He was still learning, and picking up what works from the athletes. With only a small number of coaches, the athlete numbers were growing. He wanted individualized attention for all of them as well as individualized programming.

  • “I knew I wouldn’t be giving the athletes the same programming and that they’d be competing against each other. That, I knew wouldn’t work.” 

So the future of Brute, at that time, while still bright, was in flux. Torres was on the brink of finding what worked perfectly for him and his team: a system that reflected his approach to coaching and Brute’s values of creating people-centered programs. 

The “New” Brute: In late 2023, Brute relocated to Jacksonville, FL. Torres made the decision considering that their new home would be more affordable, a bigger city, with better flow for business. The Jacksonville community has more athletes and members, and accessibility is closer to the rest of the country, with a greater potential reach. 

With their recent rebranding, (new name, new logo with different colors and a new website in progress), Brute is shaping up to be what Torres envisioned back in 2022, post-Granite Games. 

  • “We wanted a logo and a marque that showcases creativity and science just like our training programs,” Shoemaker says.
  • “The colors, the look, the values, I’m so excited to put it together, and communicate who we are to the world. It’s all extremely purposeful…we’re all working in the same direction, we’re all on the same route, on the same train, we’re all for the greater good of one another,” Torres says. 

Looking ahead: Torres admits he found out the hard way at the 2023 Games that changes were in store for him and for Brute. 

  • “Last year I had five athletes, it’s extremely difficult for one person to have five athletes on site and coach them all at the same time at the CF Games.”
  • “It’s just not fair for the athletes and not fair to myself to prove what?… that I can coach more than one?… So here’s the change that we made for every coach on site: they are only responsible for one male and one female on site.” 

Of course, there are one-off exceptions, like those Brute athletes living and training abroad including Rebecka Vitesson, but Torres’ current “game day” athletes are Saghafi and Pepper. He feels that this new turn that Brute has taken is all about setting the expectations and the groundwork early, being clear with the athletes of what is expected of them and what is expected of their coach. 

At TYR Wodapalooza, it was the first time running through this new system. Torres was working with all Brute athletes, but primarily focused on Pepper and Saghafi. He expresses his belief in the two training together and the ability they have to push one another.

  • “Dallin and Fee don’t have to worry about competing against each other. This is the model that we’re using, the only thing that we need now is coaches. We’re currently in the process of hiring coaches to bring down, ideally six.”

This large coaching roster would enable Torres’ ideal ratio of two athletes, (one male and one female) to one coach.  While all on the same “team,” Brute athletes all have the same goal, (to qualify for and place well at the CrossFit Games), and need individualized coaching and attention. Torres is hoping to provide exactly this.

Ideally, in 2024, Torres would like to have a bigger brand presence in the CrossFit space. They now have a large home base: 6,000 square feet at CrossFit Tailwinds. They have been able to  increase their offerings, not only to professional athletes but to those looking for online coaching and programming as well. 

  • “No matter where you are in your fitness or athletic lifecycle there is always an opportunity for progress and that’s where we come in to help you with our remote coaching and online training programs,” Torres says. 

The bottom line: With the big picture in mind, of growing a new (re)brand, reaching people worldwide, fostering elite coaching, and helping his professional athletes reach the Games and excel, Torres looks to the 2024 season with excitement and anticipation. 

“If they win, we win. It’s a symbiotic ecosystem. As long as we’re all giving our best to one another, I have a strong sense it’s going to be a great 2024.”

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