Name: Mindy Coby
Occupation: CrossFit Kids Coach at Practice CrossFit, 2nd Grade Teacher
Mission: "To teach young girls that they are strong, capable, beautiful individuals who can achieve literally anything they want to."
Earlier this month I received an email from Mindy requesting a few LIVE LOVE LIFT bracelets for some of the girls in her gym’s Steve Club program. Steve's Club brings CrossFit to at risk youth for little or no cost. Mindy was looking for a way to motivate her young recruits... the girls in particular.
“Getting teen girls involved in our program is like pulling teeth... these girls don't have any women in their lives that promote fitness, strength, and health, so they have little or no desire to try it themselves. To them, exercise is for people who are fat, which is such a shame. I'm starting to finally connect on a personal level with a couple of them, so I'm looking for little things to slowly bring them into the program.”
Yikes. Wake up call. Mindy's email got me all fired up. I immediately sent her a package of inspirational jewelry for the girls. Yes, sure, let's try a jewelry bribe to get these girls to try her program. I have no problem with providing a little "incentive". After all, part of our mission as a brand is to help young girls realize that "strong is beautiful" and that lifting weights and building muscle isn't just for the boys. So we put a feminine spin on something that is traditionally viewed as masculine in hopes of encouraging girls to embrace fitness.
After the bribe... I mean inspirational jewelry... was shipped, I couldn't stop thinking about Mindy's email. I decided to feature her as our Fashlete of the Month so we could shed some light on the challenges she's been facing as a coach of young girls.
What does it take to change mindset of these young girls? How can we as a community – whether you are a parent, teacher, coach, friend, etc. – reach young girls who do not value fitness as part of a healthy lifestyle? And most importantly, why is it so important that we do? Mindy has some great answers.
Mindy is a coach at Practice CrossFit in Troy, OH, a second grade teacher, and a new mom. She has been the CrossFit Kids coach at PCF since 2010. She competed on a team at the original CrossFit Games held at the now legendary Aromas, CA ranch. Since then she has competed at the CrossFit Central East Regional 3 times - once as an individual and twice on a team.
Mindy is a strong woman, a serious competitor, and a role model to the kids in her community. She is determined to use what she has learned through CrossFit to inspire the next generation.
Q. Mindy, what is Steve’s Club and how did you get involved?
A. A year ago another trainer and myself discussed working with kids at Lincoln Community Center, a place in town where a large number of economically disadvantaged kids hang out after school. They are fed there, get tutoring, participate in other programs, etc. These kids would never make it into a CrossFit box due to transportation and financial issues, some have really rough home lives, and we wanted to give them a program to positively influence them both physically and mentally.
Steve's Club is a national program that is meant to bring CrossFit to at-risk teens at little to no cost. We have affiliated with them so that local businesses and private donors can help support our program through a streamlined process. We have purchased some equipment of our own, but we still need a more suitable facility so we can work with barbells, have a rig, and not be afraid to damage the basketball court. The current facility does present some challenges, but we do the best we can.
Q. Why do you think it has been so challenging to get young girls involved in the program?
Girls have been very reluctant to try CrossFit. They view physical activity as "punishment", or something you need to do to stay thin. They have never been around women who teach them strength and being fit are desirable characteristics.
Q. Have you found specific ways to engage teenage girls in your program?
Many of the girls clearly have self-image issues as well as confidence issues... so even if they're unhappy about how they look, they're intimidated about trying to do something difficult like a workout in front of others.
A. I'm trying to get to know the girls at the center on a personal level by chatting with them before/after class. I feel like once they trust me and know I care about them as an individual, maybe then they'll feel comfortable enough to give CrossFit a shot. I'm using the girls who do participate in the program as recruiters, getting them to persuade friends to try it out.
Q. What do you think needs to be done (in homes, schools, gyms) in order to make sure that girls get involved in fitness programs?
A. Schools/parents can promote physical fitness in a number of ways: Physical Education needs to be a safe environment and should include more than just dodge ball. Frequent brain breaks in the classroom would help a lot of the "ADHD" problems teachers face, and would improve academic performance. Parents should never use fitness as a punishment, and THEY need to be the examples. Families should get active together.
Q. Aside from improving physical fitness, what are some of the benefits of beginning to train at a young age?
A. So many studies have shown the benefits of physical activity in young children. It helps them ward off physical ailments and preventable diseases, develops cognitive function, instills work ethic, positive attitude, teamwork, etc. These kids already have enough obstacles to overcome as a result of their home life- if we can give them tools to want more for themselves, then its a huge victory.
Poverty is a generational problem... and unless these kids are shown ways that they CAN get ahead, they won't ever even try or see it as a possibility. I think CrossFit and the mentoring it provides can help do this.
Q. What is one of your favorite coaching moments?
A. One of my proudest moments was watching a young girl do her first 20" box jump. She had a mental block keeping her from jumping with 2 feet. For weeks she attempted and just couldn't get there, even though she could jump on an 18" box just fine. One Saturday morning she finally got it and the whole class screamed for her. Her dad witnessed it, her brothers picked her up and spun her around, and then she proceeded to do about 20 more with a huge smile on her face. That morning was awesome, and it’s the reason I do this.
Q. What is your main goal or mission as a CrossFit coach?
A. I have never felt so empowered as a woman as I have since I began CrossFit. If I found this program as a young girl, my self-esteem would've been drastically different as a teenager.
If I can teach young girls that they are strong, capable, beautiful individuals who can achieve literally anything they want to, then I've done my job. I want them to know that strength and health are more desirable traits than thigh gap and achieving a lower number on the scale. I want them to reach for achievements rather than appearance.
As our Fashlete of the Month, Mindy is receiving a customized charm with the word of her choice. Mindy has chosen “Steadfast”. This inspirational necklace will serve as a reminder of her unwavering commitment to her faith, family, the kids that she coaches. We are honored to welcome Mindy to the Fashletics family.
If you've worked with kids in fitness, have questions about the topic, or just want to give Mindy a virtual high five... we'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave your comments below.
To hear more from Mindy on the growth and development of her program, check out this video: