“If your (sic) main goal is going to be to constantly challenge us and our business than this is where we part ways. When can you meet at the gym to give me back your key.”
More than three years of coaching, and it was over – via text message. Like a bad break-up with someone who lacked the courage to tell you face-to-face. My older brother picked up his gear, turned in his key and rode off into the sunset – but he didn’t do it alone and he left a mark – memories those athletes won’t forget. Whether it was helping someone hit their first unassisted pull-up, the young weightlifter who he would give up his weekends to travel with and coach at meets, or your everyday CrossFitter who he encouraged through a tough workout on a random weekday.
My girlfriend and I have an ongoing joke – whenever one of us tells the other to do something, no matter how mundane – the other replies in a faux-angry tone – “Don’t tell me what to do!” This is all in good fun – but my family, specifically the men in my family, are seriously adverse to being told what or how to do something. We make our own road, we do things our own way, it’s always been this way. As long as I can remember, my dad was a man of principle. A man willing to stand up to the Archdiocese of the Church when they made decisions he didn’t agree with. A man who left his priest’s collar behind at the Episcopal Church over an issue like that – choosing instead to wade through hip-deep snow with a chainsaw in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, cutting down trees in sub-zero temperatures to support his family – rather than continue working a job that paid well, gave him a car, paid his mortgage and a number of other perks – but that he didn’t believe in.
I tell you that brief story about my dad, because he passed that trait along to his four sons. We’ve never been great at following rules - and we’ve never been good about being told what to do or how to do it. We march to the beat of our own drum – and every so often (read: often) this runs us afoul of those who expect us to simply fall in line.
My older brother is no exception. While the other three brothers usually refer to him as “The Golden Boy” (he joined the military and didn’t really start acting wild until he was closer to his 20’s – this qualifies you as “well-behaved” amongst The Waggener Brothers) he still embodies these traits of rebellion.
When he felt like two athletes he coached at CrossFit Helix in Greeley, CO. were being treated poorly by the gym’s owners – he stood up for them and was critical of the decisions being made. He was given an ultimatum (hold your laughter) – he predictably refused to back down and was told to turn in his key. When he sent me a message for the athletes he had been coaching for years – I posted it on the gym’s closed Facebook page. It was immediately deleted and I received a message from the owners saying they would put it back up after they had notified all the coaches of his departure. They told him the same thing.
Two other coaches resigned within 24 hours. When the gym sent out an email to its members notifying them of the coaching changes, it included messages from the two other coaches, but nothing from my brother. His message was never reposted on the Facebook page – and he received a text saying it would not be posted. He, his wife, my girlfriend and I were all kicked out of the Athletes Facebook page that day as well.
So we decided it should be posted somewhere public for those athletes to be able to read it and know how much he enjoyed his time coaching them.
One great positive of this gym drama – the birth of the wild/STRONG Garage. Coaches and athletes pooling together their money – including what will be an ongoing, monthly donation from wild/STRONG HQ – to outfit a home CrossFit set-up in Northern Colorado. This weekend, the first athletes performed 16.1 at the new spot. These athletes didn’t just whine about not having a place to train – or simply start looking for a new gym – they built their own. In one week they had a place to do the Open workouts. The wild/STRONG Open Tour – where we will be hitting five boxes in five weeks to perform the Open workouts – will most definitely be stopping by the garage in the next month to check things out. Gary Vaynerchuk once said “if you are even one percent unhappy with what you are doing, change it.” This is the kind of attitude that few people have, but when you see it in action, it should inspire everyone. Don’t like your gym? Build your own. Don’t like your job? Get a new one. Don’t like working for someone else? Start your own company.
When you live your life this way, people who see things the same way want to be around you – and those who don’t, despise you, are threatened by you – and do not know how to deal with you. It came as no surprise to me that my brother immediately had a number of people who wanted to continue to train with him – because those people are like him. They are badass alphas who won’t tolerate those who live to be subservient to others. My brothers and I have a lot of people who can’t stand us. There are a number of gyms we would not be very welcome to train in – establishments that won’t allow us through the front doors. We wouldn’t have it any other way. When you live your lives the way we do – you don’t have time to waste being around people who serve no purpose than for you to stand on their backs as you achieve greatness.
One of the former co-owners of CrossFit Helix – and a man who certainly falls into the aforementioned category of alphas who pave their own road – posted a photo of he and my brother on Instagram shortly after the news broke of his termination. It simply said – “Never apologize for being awesome. Stay the course.”
Stay the course – it’s so much easier when you are the one who makes the course.