A Chosen Family


Crossfit coaches at holiday gathering with Barb Higgins
This is the coaches’ photo from the CrossFit Amesbury Holiday Gathering. While we may simply look like a bunch of hooligans to you (and by all definitions we are exactly that), what this picture illustrates beautifully is the concept of chosen family.

Chosen family is not a new idea.   

The number of times I have referred to close friends as family, or my BU teammates as family are too many to count. The positive description of family in these instances is a group of people who support love and accept one another. Most people have their actual family along with their chosen family. I value and love my blood related family as well as my chosen families fairly equally.

There are many people who can’t.

Society is full of people who have been shunned, disowned, cast away or simply unsupported by those who raised them. Their chosen families are carefully selected and meticulously cared for. They are sometimes the only reason some people survive.

I wrote recently about my BU family, how we love, accept and support each other. These women are an integral piece of me being ok in my day-to-day life. But I also have my biological family. I have a mother who loves me and siblings I can reach out to. As lucky as I am to have them in my life, they are not always my go to. I rely on my CrossFit Family a lot.

I have two CrossFit families.

I work out at a local gym, which has been a mainstay in my life since my job loss in 2011. A relatively recent ownership change has redefined this reality. I love my friends there, but my place in the fabric of that community has changed.  I have fought it for a while but I realize I am trying to change the thoughts of others and that is not my task.

The universe provides.

I joined CrossFit Amesbury shortly after Jack was born in 2021. There is a class there called MomStrong. A barbell free version of Crossfit, mothers and fathers can come with their children and work out. The children are an active part of the class rather than being taken into a childcare setting. MomStrong is how I regained my fitness after having Jack.

I worked out there two to three days a week for a year. I have met mothers and their children. I have met athletes and coaches.  I have seen a CrossFit gym that epitomizes the meaning of community. Everyone is welcome there, which is true of any CrossFit Gym but this pace is different. Every kind of person imaginable works out there. The community is SO diverse.

So back to the picture.

The two gentlemen on the left, Derek and Chris, qualify as your stereo typical CrossFit coaches. Large, athletic, and strong they totally look the part. They are also funny, sensitive and empathic. With the wide variety of classes this gym offers, coaching at CFA is not a one size fits all gig.

The three gentlemen on the right are the owners. The Monaco family owns three gyms collectively. Dennis, the Dad oversees the empire, Braden and Jared cover the individual gyms and coach classes. They are all unique and each bring their own flair to the community. And they have flair!

The lovely woman crouched in front wearing that snazzy dress is Emmy. She is married to Braden and coaches MomStrong. Her energy, enthusiasm and support of the moms in the gym is legendary. She is also an incredible athlete. A full time mother to mor than just her children Emmy is glue in this community.

There are two coaches left. B, the gentleman in the bowtie is the youngest. At just 22 years of age, he is a level 2 certified coach. Affable and introspective he is a wealth of well shared knowledge. He is also Gracie’s significant other. That lady in the red sparkles is me. I am the oldest coach. Our coaching staff spans thirty-eight years. When former CFA coach Addie left for the military, she suggested the gym bring me on board.

I was humbled. I still am.

Many gyms, my local one included, see value primarily in young coaches. They have a specific way of thinking about the delivery of their services. As my role was diminishing at home, it was flourishing at CFA. Each class is different. We all have our strengths and we all complement one another. I do not coach much at all anymore at my local gym, only if someone calls out.

I was hurt by this once. A lot of things hurt for me these days.

The beauty of a chosen family like this one is that they provide opportunity. When I take another look at that picture, I see parents and a grandparent. I see athletes. I see those beginning their journey and those in the thick of it. I see eight amazing minds that look at things eight different ways. The collective education in this crew is phenomenal.

Mostly what I see, though, is a group of hooligans who want to be a part of what makes someone else’s day better. I see eight people who work hard and play hard. I see eight individuals who come together and form a really terrific thing.

A family.

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