Coaches Corner: James Lopez
First of all I want to say that I’m grateful to CrossFit SoBro for creating ‘Coaches Corner’ as the new space for coaches and athletes to share their stories and insights. Even though I feel a bit uncomfortable being called Coach — I’d rather be called James — coaching is what I get paid to do. So I’m grateful to be one of the first to take advantage of this vehicle of expression and communication.
How I Got Started
I started CrossFit in 2016. I was finishing up a semester abroad in Ecuador when I came across CrossFit Tucán in Guayaquil. I had no experience with CrossFit before that, but I was no stranger to weights nor intensity — I was a football player at Dewitt Clinton High School. Working out helped me escape stress, boredom, or any issues I had at the time.
Finding Tucán CrossFit let me work off steam in the short term, but it also made me realize that fitness was a neglected passion. I had always thought of health and fitness as a hobby or a way to pass the time. It was an afterthought; a way to look good, just shallow and superficial. Besides, what kind of living could anyone really make just teaching people how to workout?
But I remind myself of the vibe I felt after experiencing my first CrossFit class in Ecuador often, and it’s one I try to replicate for any new guy or girl walking through that gate.
Why I Kept Going
It wasn’t just the hard workout that left me in a puddle of sweat and crawled up in fetal position; it was the encouragement of everyone around me. Those complete strangers pushing each other to finish, cheering each other on for that one special hour of sincere unity. It wasn’t superficial.
It wasn’t selfish. It was community. It was CrossFit.
When I came back home, it was only natural for me to look for a Box nearby. I needed a space to workout in, but I also wanted to feel that CrossFit-like camaraderie again. Fortunately enough, CrossFit SoBro was just a few blocks away back in the Jackson days.
Thinking of it now, it’s as if the Universe actually wanted me to get into this stuff. A Box near home in Ecuador, and now a Box just a flew blocks up in The Bronx? I was lucky; I am lucky.
How I Became A Coach
The idea of coaching came to me almost instantly. It was a goal that I voiced from day 1– free intro class, Saturday and Sunday at 1pm. The coach at that time went around and asked the new group what brought us there and what we wanted to get out of it. I remember it clearly because I butchered the whole title, “CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.” Five months down the road, I earned the right to call myself just that.
My favorite part of coaching is the sincere gratitude that I receive after helping someone understand a movement or after guiding them through a tough workout. It’s all about those “Thank Yous” for me. It’s those “Thank Yous” that reaffirm the deliberate dedication that I give to this. It was actually a “Thank You” from fellow member Frankie Del Valle (shoutouts bro), that really got me thinking, “Hm, maybe I should try this out.” I was only a member then, but I guess that appreciation stuff really hits home. It’s the end goal during every coaching hour.
At this stage, I constantly go back and forth between being “James the Athlete” and “James the Coach.”
My long-term goal is to eventually be able to open my own business back in the homeland. Maybe it’s kind of corny, but I can envision these things rather clearly. Either way, there is always so much more to learn, and so much more to experience. Whatever the outcome turns out to be, I can express with confidence that I am grateful that I have earned the position that I am in now. And so for now, I will continue to do my best to progress athletically while continuously learning how to guide others in the same direction. Sometimes when everything around you is going to shit, a workout or a PR makes all the difference.
Coach James has been a Level 1 Certified CrossFit trainer coaching CrossFit SoBro members since March 2017. He also created and coaches the Bronx Box’s Iron Barbell Clan class, a specialized strength-training class to improve Olympic style lifts and overall strength.