Our Athletes, Our Family!
Post-Games Interview With Invictus Athlete Coach Holden Rethwill
Interview by Fritz Nugent
Invictus is known for a lot of things. Longevity in CrossFit – both in the sport and most consecutive Games appearances, and in the gym with local members, many of whom have been attending classes since day 1. World class coaches – many of whom have made a name for themselves coaching said elite athletes and also local gym members. The Sea of Green – aka the local gym members who support our athletes and each other. And being one giant family. Not just that Invictus is a family-run business, but that every single member and athlete is also treated like one of the family. See what that means to our athletes in this post-Games interview with Invictus Athlete Coach, Holden Rethwill, who coached Team Invictus to Gold at this year’s Games and has also experienced the love as a team and individual Games athlete himself.
Fritz: Congratulations on the team and athlete successes at the games this year. How do you feel?
Holden: To be honest, it was a long season. Managing 20+ competitive athletes can be very stressful at times. Every day presented new challenges – logistics, training around injuries, personalities clashing, a bit of a rocky culture at times, etc. I would say that this was one of our toughest years yet but that’s what made the end results so much more rewarding. Being able to weather the storms and thrive in the moments when it mattered most is a true testament to the culture and community that was built over the years at Invictus.
Fritz: What was the toughest part for you about this year’s games experience?
Holden: I think this answer can be two-fold…
First we had the aforementioned 20+ athletes all vying for attention and competing for the same goals. Most of the time this is great because it breeds competition and competition leads to results. Other times though it can lead to unnecessary conflict. This is very common when you put a lot of Type A competitive people in the same setting on a daily basis. It is honestly a great microcosm of a family and let’s just face it, sometimes families fight. So, as coaches it is always our job to keep steering the ship in the right direction and to try and preserve and protect the culture at all costs. I can’t say that always happens, but that is always the ultimate goal and what we strive to achieve.
Second, for me personally it was balancing being a coach, husband and dad. At times I felt swamped with trying to do my job to the best of my abilities while also making sure that the needs of my family were met. As many people know, my wife competed on one of our Games teams this year which means she and I are almost always in the same place at the same time. We also have a now 3 year old and that means that Payton is at the gym much more often than we like. Thankfully Payton loves the gym, loves the athletes, and is (most of the time) a joy to have there so that isn’t necessarily stressful in and of itself – Emily and I are very blessed to have such a great support team at Invictus and so grateful for everyone who has a hand in helping us out. I would say that the stress lies more in trying to balance it all and constantly switching hats between coach, husband, and dad.
Fritz: Invictus has a unique support structure for our athletes at the games. Can you describe what that looks like, and how the athletes benefit from it?
Holden: I haven’t been around any other camps so I can’t speak to what they have going on, but what we have at Invictus has to be truly unique and special. Our athletes, from the time they check in to the time they leave, only have to worry about one thing. Competing. Karen and Pops, CJ’s parents, take care of literally everything else. From booking flights, to hotel rooms, rental cars, meals, making sure we have body workers at the hotel, you name it, they take care of it. Karen has been running the show for 10+ years and has it down to a T. It honestly looks like a colony of worker ants when you come down to their room. Someone is cooking, someone is refilling drinks, Pops is pouring coffee, so on and so forth – and it starts when they arrive til when they leave. Honestly it makes the lives of our athletes and coaches so much easier knowing that they don’t have to worry about recovery because we have Nick and Greg already at the hotel waiting to take care of them (and driving to the venue to get last minute work in before events). They don’t have to worry about food because Karen makes 3 Costco trips a day to make sure everything is taken care of from meals to snacks. They don’t have to worry about anything other than competing because everything is taken care of for them and I think that is a HUGE advantage for our athletes and something that definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.
Fritz: To what lengths of support do you and the rest of the Invictus coaches and support team go to help our athletes succeed?
Holden: Basically anything they need it’s our job to take care of it. I’ve already mentioned Karen and Pops and their team of helpers. They’re the ones that take care of basically everything. As coaches we just make sure that the athletes are where they need to be when they need to be, help them prep for events, warm-ups, make sure they’re eating and getting bodywork, and then there for debriefs, pump up talks, moral support and everything in between.
Fritz: How is this support organized and funded?
Holden: Some comes via sponsorships procured by Invictus. Other portions come via individual sponsorships and fundraising through the gym. One this is certain – we could not have done it without the Invictus members! They chipped in and purchased tee shirts and shopped from the athlete’s fundraiser gear table that we had set up in the main group class training room at Invictus. We raised a significant amount of money, and those funds supported lodging, travel, and food.
Fritz: Can you talk a little about Momma K and Pop’s roles in athlete support and logistics?
Holden: See above. They do it all. You want food? It’s already ready. You want drinks? They have a cooler of them on ice. You want snacks? Open the pantry. Laundry? Check. Coffee? Pops is the best non-paid barista in the game. They literally take care of everything so that athletes and coaches can’t dedicate all focus and energy to the events and competing.
Fritz: What question has no one asked you yet after the games, and what is your answer to that question?
Holden: This is a great question. Maybe “why do you do it” (especially after this year). I’d have to say that my answer comes from loving to compete. Whether it was competing for myself or watching young athletes aspire to greatness, I just love the feeling of being there, being a part of the journey, and watching it all happen. I honestly get more fired up now coaching athletes than I did when I competed. Seeing people exceed expectations, achieve their goals, make progress, you name it.. That’s what makes a lot of the long days and difficult challenges worth it in the end. I truly love helping these athletes become the best versions of themselves and care a lot more about their progress than they probably know. I’m not the best at verbalizing being proud of people (a fault that my wife has pointed out to me many times) but when you’ve got a good group of kids that are hungry for success it makes me very happy to see that come to fruition.