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From Athlete to Grinder

I’ve played sports my entire life. My story is probably similar to many who are now focused on CrossFit training as their current competitive outlet. No matter the age or skill level, all athletes hit a point in which they have to accept the reality that their playing careers are over. For many this will coincide with graduation from high school. A select few might make it to continue playing into college. Even fewer will participate in their sport of choice as a profession. But regardless of when the day comes all athletes will have to stop competing at the level they are accustomed to.


Often, this void takes time to heal and is difficult to fill. If you are a competitive person by nature, the lack of athletic competition can sometimes put athletes into a depression. Finding ways to occupy yourself is key to keeping productive without going into a destructive pattern. Meaning it’s probably better if you find a local sports league than drink at a local bar every night.

Growing up in a small town playing Little League and flag football, I was introduced early to team sports and the ups and down of competitive leagues. Through high school it was much of the same whether it was a golf match, basketball or baseball against another town or conference rival. I had a few chances to continue my playing days on into college, but chose to go to a bigger school for the academic programs they offered as opposed to a smaller school so I could keep my playing career going. That decision effectively ended my time in organized sports.

Aside from a few adult soccer and softball leagues here and there, I hadn’t found a competitive outlet until I started CrossFit competitions. I enjoy the fact that CrossFit is competitive on a daily basis but only constitutes being a sport in the area of local Comps or during the Open, Regional and Games times of year. There is something different when it comes to competing in CrossFit that I never experienced in my years playing organized sports, because it is the most sportsmanship based activity I’ve ever witnessed.

I can’t think of another sport or competition where athletes exhibit more compassion and camaraderie during the actual event than at CrossFit. I’ve seen thousands of examples in other sports of teams shaking hands after games and helping each other up on the field and court. But for athletes to genuinely support one another and cheer each other on and encourage a person who would normally be viewed as an adversary is very inspiring to behold.

Transitioning from the life of a professional athlete to a local CrossFitter can be even more of a challenge. Logan Gelbrich from Deuce Gym played two years as a catcher in the San Diego Padres organization before hanging up the cleats and looking for the next thing. For Logan, this was not always the plan.

“I didn’t want my career to end for another 10 or 15 years, I knew I wasn’t going to be one of those guys in the bar talking about their glory days,” Gelbrich says.

Logan didn’t find CrossFit right away and he took some time off from sports before making the switch. “Before I pulled the trigger on my next move, I looked inward. It was an incredible time. I read three books at a time all the time … probably 100 texts in just a couple months. I painted, I drew, I wrote, and I trained. It was a powerful time. CrossFit easily handle the third of my focus that was seeking physical development,” he recalls.

Regardless of any person’s level of athletic involvement or time when they walk away from structured team based sports it will ultimately come to an end. The hope for each of us at that time is that we can find something which will help to fill in the gap left in our lives. CrossFit fills that gap for many and helps to give back to the flame of competitive fire that continues long after the buzzers go off on our playing careers.

Almost all CrossFitters from Games athletes to Grinders have stories like these. Share yours with me at

Stay on the Grind.

Jamie Toland (JTol)