From Bambi to Beast. The transformation from athlete to coach and beyond…

About 5 years ago, I walked in the doors of Starke Strength and Conditioning with nothing more than nerves and low expectations. At the time I was playing club volleyball, soccer, running cross country and track and field. I was also a mere 100 pounds and although I could run like the wind, I didn’t have the strength many of my opponents did. I was looking to supplement my sports schedule with some extra training, to get a bit stronger, quicker and maybe improve my vertical since I had been told many times that I was “too slow” and “couldn’t jump”. I will always remember my first workout at Starke, particularly the sensation in my legs that set in during the workout and lasted several days after, compliments of lots of full depth squats and box jumps! After the muscle fatigue and soreness wore off, I was back for more. Over the next few months my parents would drop me off at Starke for 6 am because my evenings after school was usually filled with practices or games, and 6 am was the only time that allowed me to train at Starke. It was a slow process and I didn’t see immediate results; however I absolutely loved the feeling of working so hard that you were left lying on the ground, heart pounding, legs trembling and lungs burning. That feeling kept me coming back. It wasn’t long before the endorphin rush I learned to love was accompanied by physical changes, such as PRing my mile time and the ability to recover quickly after exerting myself. I started to be able to do things I was once incapable of, such as a kipping pullup or a 60lb kettlebell swing.

However, I think the most marked change was in the growth I experienced internally. The confidence I gained from coming to Starke was (and still is) unparalleled to anything I had ever experienced. The supportive community that wants you to succeed as much as you want yourself to succeed, the confidence that comes from conquering tough, seemingly impossible workouts that give you power knowing you can overcome anything, whether it be on the field or in life…these are the things that I noticed the most. When I was feeling insecure or inferior on the volleyball court, I could fall back on the comfort of knowing that I had been working extremely hard, and I was mentally and physically the strongest and fittest I had ever been. I had teammates constantly comment on how my legs were scrawny and weak and looked like they were going to snap. I was told that “real” athletes had big legs. I had other people’s parents tell me I needed to eat (although I think my own parents can attest to the fact that I have ALWAYS had quite the appetite!). This constant degradation greatly affected my confidence and for a long time, I too saw myself as skinny and weak.

But I chose to just put my head down, silence the critics and silence my own doubt by showing up to Starke and working. Focusing on proper technique, soaking up all the cues and tips coaches would throw at me, working on weaknesses, spending a few minutes before and after class doing extra skill work, and giving full effort in metcons. This slowly allowed me to stop seeing myself as a scrawny, weak, incapable athlete, something that I and others had always perceived me to be, and instead start seeing myself in a more capable light. I had a burning desire to get better, prove to everyone that ever called me weak that they were wrong, but mainly prove to myself that I was strong, fit, and capable. The choice to keep going, keep working when almost everyone doubted me, and even I doubted me, was what lead me to where I am today and has made all the difference in my life. This was just the beginning…

I experienced some memorable sporting moments like winning cross country provincials in high school and being captain of my club volleyball team. But eventually, my drive and passion to run, play volleyball and soccer were just not there. My passion was in the gym, at Starke. Eventually, I took the steps to become a coach at Starke, putting in over 100 hours of shadowing and learning under Paul. This gave me a whole new appreciation for strength and conditioning and allowed me an entirely new opportunity to share my love for fitness with other people. What we do at Starke, helping people become fitter, build strength, gain mobility, decrease health risks, build confidence, improve their quality of life and give a sense of community and belonging, is something I believe in wholeheartedly. I believe in it because I witness daily what it does in other people’s lives, but I also know what it has done for me. Aside from the lifelong friendships, I have made, the muscles I have gained, the skills I have acquired and overall fitness improvements, Starke has given me a sense of confidence and purpose, something I was missing before I walked in those doors. It has been a catalyst in my transition from a young, insecure girl into a woman that is now confident in my abilities both inside the gym and out, and one with both purpose and passion. And now I have set out to share that passion and my own experiences with other young people; to be a part of building confident, strong young athletes.

My experiences are not unique or different than many other young athletes. There are plenty of coaches and people out there that will tell them they aren’t good enough or won’t amount to anything. But from my experiences, that never built me up or helped me get better. Having Paul, other coaches and a community of people behind me believing in me and wanting me to succeed is what made a huge difference in my life, particularly as an athlete. Having something positive to channel my efforts and energy into helped me overcome doubt and insecurity. Having something to constantly work at, constantly challenge me and make me want to be better has done only positive things. I am now the strongest and fittest I have ever been, and it just keeps getting better! Being able to hit a set of 10 strict pullups, do a muscle up or snatch a weight I could never before back squat are things that Ali 3 years ago even, would not have believed she could do. But showing up every day, working hard at the things I can control, focusing on doing simple things well, moving efficiently and putting my best effort and heart into this has truly taught me the value of hard work and consistency. Making small choices every day over time leads to incredible results. Being persistent in the pursuit of achieving whatever it is you want will get you to your goals. This is what I have learned in my years since stepping through the doors of Starke, and now it is what I am passionate about instilling in others.

I think about where I might be today had I never walked in the doors of Starke. I think about what it might have looked like if I had listened to all the people, including myself, that told me I can’t. But I don’t have to wonder what would have been, because I chose to not let those voices govern my life. Instead, I chose to show up, work hard and not quit, and now I am committed to helping other young athletes do the same. I have learned that I am absolutely capable of whatever I want in this life; we all are. If we are willing to put in the work to get there and trust in the process over time, we can absolutely achieve anything we set out to. That goes not just for sports, but anything else in life too. Through the Junior Athlete Development Program I will be running this summer, I have the opportunity to foster the development of young athletes and help be a part of their athletic journey. Whether they are setting out to make a team in the fall or just looking to improve athleticism overall, I am excited to be a part of helping them reach their goals. I am determined to share with other young people the experiences and lessons I have learned, the value of hard work and the limitless potential we are all capable of. I don’t see any young athlete as “too slow”, or “too weak”. I see potential to build stronger, faster, fitter, more confident, resilient, powerful, and explosive, young athletes. The value of learning proper foundational movements, learning to do the basics exceptionally well and improve strength and conditioning is far-reaching in sport. I am humbled to have this incredible platform to share my knowledge, experiences, mistakes, and passion with other young athletes and help them realize just what they are capable of; absolutely anything.

Ali Jacoby is a Starke athlete turned coach. Ali has been a driven and determined individual since the day she walked in our doors. Ali coaches CrossFit & Group Strength & Conditioning classes, performs one on one personal training sessions, and runs the Starke kids program weekly on Thursday nights.

Ali’s current projects at Starke are
Creating a 45 minute “Starke Sweat” class for people looking to get stronger and fitter without the complex barbell movements you’ll find in our CrossFit classes. If you’re looking for a fast paced, hard hitting class with raw and basic functional movements, you need to try this one! 
Creating an Athlete Development Program to help young athletes learn about strength & conditioning and build on a solid base of mechanics, consistency, and intensity. These classes will help ANY athlete in ANY sport. Each class is two hours in length with a general and dynamic warm-up, skill and strength component, conditioning component and core/cool down. Kids will be learning, lifting and loving these classes.
Last up, Ali is working on her Precision Nutrition L1 to start working with clients in the Fall of 2019 to help them to reach their goals through customized nutrition counseling and nutrition planning. Check out our NUTRITION BLOG for tips and tricks on how you can incorporate healthier choices in your daily habits.