Step One: Use It As An Outlet
When I started Mississippi Barbell years ago, it was my metaphorical baby. I don't think anyone will ever understand how much sweat, tears, and our own money went into starting the program. Not to sound like a martyr but starting an organized sport in a state that didn't have it was very hard. It's still hard.
I was going through some rough transitions at the time we started it in 2013 (2012 if you count before we got the club sanctioned). And in the periods that followed. Ending law school, relapsing an eating disorder, injuries, mental illness, sexual assault, going broke, and lots of failed (and toxic) relationships.
The club, and the sport, was my outlet from all of those things. I used it to ignore those issues or as a means to channel my frustrations. It also became something I could control (that wasn't my eating).
More than any of that it was my (self-imposed) job. Networking, book-keeping, fund raising, meet directing, recruitment, seminars, social media, website... I spent hours upon hours working on it all. Don't get me wrong I had help from my business partner along the way but it was my choice to do A through Z.
But when you spend 5 hours on Christmas Day re-working a website and schedule sessions at all waking (and non-waking) hours of the day, you have a problem. Or you are on the fast track to burnout. Especially if you keep that pace for 4 years.
Step Two: Don't Ask For Help
Asking for help isn't my strong suit. I've gotten much better at it the last ten months though. But that was only spurred because I had a giant mental breakdown after a trauma, quit my job, and was having suicidal thoughts. Whoa, we just took a giant turn here didn't we? Don't freak out: they were just thoughts. Never actions. I'm medicated and see a professional.
CALM DOWN BABY BIRDS CUZ WE JUST GETTING STARTED ON THIS HELLACIOUS ROLLER COASTER.
When I was depressed, and injured (because why get massages to repair yourself when you've had chronic pain for over a year?), I didn't like going to the gym. It was mainly the depression but it was also burn out.
Not asking for help with coaching, social media, event planning only made matters worse. I'm also a perfectionist, an ENTJ, and inefficiency makes me rage. If I did ask for help (outside of my business partner), the help was denied, put on the back burner, or never came to fruition (looking at you Fundraiser Planner and One Guy Chicken & Steak).
My love for the sport, and my resentment, was beginning to build. There's only so much one person can do. It felt like the weight of the (local) weightlifting world was on my shoulders. I became Google and everyone seemed to just want free advice. Everything was being taken and hardly any one was giving back (note: this is NOT directed at my core group of gym friends and other clubs. You guys know who you are).
Step Three: Think National Recognition Means People Will Care
Fast forward and I started to hate everyone and everything. I hated myself. I hated that I couldn't make the Club more money. I hated that I couldn't get people more interested. I hated that no one (seemingly) cared.
After all in the last few years (and especially the last year) we had accomplished so much (see the full Mississippi Barbell history here):
- We had been featured on USAW multiple times.
- I'd been nationally published repeatedly.
- We had the first kids and teams to attend National events.
- International medalists.
- WORLD CHAMPIONS.
- Hosted the only USAW meets in the State (repeatedly).
- Brought the sport to the Coast (thanks to my ride or dies at GPX, Gulfport Crossfit).
- Sold shirts designed by local artists to help raise money.
- Coached youth. Coached adults. Coached beginners. Coached advanced athletes.
- Did things for free for so long (check out the Barbell history time line here).
- Volunteered an entire weekend at a national event for a mentor where we had one athlete (seriously, the entire weekend' I absolutely do not regret this at all as it was a very dear mentor and I know how hard it is to staff events. It just occurred at a time where my assault PTSD was high and my medications were new).
- It's not uncommon for us to coach athletes who aren't even ours at events if they ask for it or look like deer in headlights.
- Offered our services to schools (I seriously wrote personalized emails, notes, and letters with brochures to every, single, school in our area. I sent over 50).
- My favorite part is people name-dropping to other coaches across the nation in hopes of getting their foot in the door or getting a job. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind it. I only mind when you were an athlete who quit out of the blue (and didn't say anything to me) or were someone who has literally never spoken to me or attended any event I (or Barbell) hosted. Fun fact: Coaches message other coaches about you. And we speak the Truth. But thanks for using my name and efforts without permission.
I just didn't understand why no one seemed to care. I wanted them to care because I cared so much.
But it was demoralizing and frustrating when I was putting my entire heart and soul into something only for marginal success. We were literally working at least 15 hours a week in the gym and about 8-12 hours outside the gym on growing it as well. Without getting paid.
Remember, I'm a perfectionist. I must be making a gazillion dollars and continuously improving to be a "success". Hilarious, I know.
Step Four: Call Set-Backs Failures
Recently things happened with our facility and we were left homeless with no notice. Our core group of supporters opened their doors to our gang to lift (thanks CF 601 and Res CF for that). I had to cancel a scheduled meet and an event because of it (which is something I DO NOT DO).
So to me, I had failed. I failed because no one seemed to care about what we were doing. No one understood (in my head anyway) Tyler and I weren't making money. No one understood how hard it was for us to balance life and coaching (for free because hey the little money we make goes to our athletes and their needs; grants weren't rolling in). What else do people want?
I got bitter. I'm still a little bitter. Is it because we don't have half naked people on our team? Is it because I'm perceived as a cunt? Yea, I said it. It's true though. Was it my fault we "failed"? Did I not work hard enough?
I can't answer those questions. I can't make people give two s**ts.
I sincerely wanted to step away from it all. I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit coaching. I wanted to quit the club. It wasn't fun. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
But all of these things were just momentary set backs and not failures. I am nothing if not persistent and I just needed a little break.
Step Five: You Ignore Who You've Helped And Disregard Your Successes
My turning point was when a local gym (CrossFit Flora) reached out for a private group weightlifting session. I was still bitter about everything. But as soon as I started coaching, the love and pure joy I get from it came flooding back. It energized me and encouraged me to push through all of this. Just with a much more level head and a set of checks and balances in place.
And guess what? MS Barbell still exists. We still lift. We still support weightlifting in Mississippi. We've had to move a lot in our small time due to space or rent issues. We haven't quit. Luckily I have Tyler who isn't injured and always on site. I kept the Youth program and train the kids in their parents' garage or gyms with our equipment. We have just had to adapt how we offer our "services" and that's ok. Two years ago we didn't have a Youth program.
I've had at least 4 people in the last six months (here and across the country) reach out to me for help in starting their own programs. From California to Florida, Mississippi Barbell had a hand in helping those programs get started. Not to mention the fact the reach my national publications have had that I don't even know about (is that egotistical)?
Meets still happen. Because we started them here. We still have our state meet set for June 3rd 2017.
Clubs still continue. When we started we were the first ones to exist. As of this publication there are five other clubs in the state.
Regardless, I'm like Cher or a cockroach. I'll never die (just on the inside). Since I won't die then that means the club will never die either. Nor will the passion for the sport. I've been lifting since 2003. You don't stay in the game this long if you don't sincerely care about it.
I stayed here after law school to start and run this program. I've had a lot of people chastise me for it. It may have been silly to do it considering i wasn't get paid. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. I just regret that I tried to make it mean anything to anyone else. What other people think matters in this day and age. You can't convince me otherwise. Social media is the Devil but it's a necessary evil. I quit caring about trying to make my own personal account anything for anyone else and I lost 50+ followers and set it to private. Don't want to see cat pictures or me doing karaoke? Don't follow me.
But when you have fallen down a million times, you dust yourself off. The Club, and the sport, isn't a way to make money or make a name for myself. It's a passion that we worked so hard to get started.
We'll never die. We'll just keep designing more and more alienating shirts.
Have You Killed a passion before?
What was it? Did you ever come back from it? If so, how?
Share your stories in the comments below along with any topics you wish to hear about as well.