Friction’s third annual Hometown Heroes competition is nearly upon us! We sat down with the creator of the event, CrossFit L-2 Coach Angela Silsby, and chatted about the inspiration behind the event.
It all started in 2019, just before the COVID-19 restrictions on gyms were lifted. The owners of Friction Grand Rapids, Mike Carr and Bobby Armock, addressed their staff during a meeting and dared them to dream big. “If you could do anything for the gym, anything at all, what would it be? Nothing is too big or too crazy.” The notion of complete creative freedom launched coach Angela Silsby’s mind into overdrive. She began to piece together an event that would have a lasting impact on her community. She suggested a small competition that would offer donations to first responders and military personnel.
So began the roots of Hometown Heroes. By brainstorming with Mike, Bobby, and her fellow coaches, Angela was able to fine-tune her idea into a reality. Working in law enforcement herself and with seven years of coaching experience and a CrossFit L-2 certification, she knew she wanted to establish a one-of-a-kind event that paid tribute to individuals who protect, serve, and respond to the needs of their community. It was decided that this competition would be donation-based and charity-driven, and to best represent the sacrifice that first responders and military make every day, Angela determined that the entire competition would be comprised of Hero workouts. “It just made sense considering the funds are donated to fallen heroes that we then use the workouts that honor the fallen,” she said. “It seemed like a no-brainer.”
In its infancy, Hometown Heroes faced the overwhelming barrier of being created during heavy COVID-19 restrictions. At the time of its conception, gyms in Michigan were still only allowed to operate in an outdoor setting with appropriate safety measures in place. This limited the number of workouts available for selection, as there could be no rig, ropes, and all equipment would need to be mobile to allow for rapid replacement between heats. With over 900 Hero workouts currently written, Angela had her work cut out for her. Sifting through workouts and examining equipment needs, she was careful to never threaten the integrity of the WODs. “In order to honor the fallen you don’t change the workout–you honor the rep scheme and the numbers that are given because of the specifics of passing for the hero. There’s an integrity there
you don’t mess with,” she explained. The first competition was a wild success, with the second year’s competition upping the ante: harder workouts, more competitors, and the inclusion of a kid’s event!
Now, three years later and on the cusp of the 2022 Hometown Heroes Competition, the event is bigger than ever. To prepare, Angela will program up to three days worth of competition with full event layouts and workouts. She will run it through with the staff at Friction, then parse everything down to fit into one perfectly-crafted day. At the start of each event Angela will announce the workout and read the name and story of the fallen hero. Then, ten seconds of silence are given at the start of each heat to honor the individual. This gives the athletes a purpose behind the movements they are about to do, and allows for a framework of understanding behind rep schemes, movements, and timing. When asked if she had a favorite Hero workout herself, Angela said that there is a special place in her heart for Randy, a workout in remembrance of police sergeant Randy Simmons who was killed while on duty on 2/6/08. “It’s 75 power snatches at 75lbs for men and 55lbs for women, done for time. It’s all panic breathing–there’s no room to stop, just go go go, which is what happens when you’re in a life and death situation on duty.”
While some things have changed throughout the years, one thing about Hometown Heroes remains constant: this is a not-for-profit competition! The money donated gets put back into charities that benefit and support First Responders and Military personnel. There is also additional support in the form of sponsorships. Some of this year’s sponsors include Knockaround Sunglasses, RokFit Apparel, FitAid, Born Primitive, and many local businesses from the Grand Rapids community who are proud to support such a unique, meaningful event. The future of Hometown Heroes is bright and the team at Friction have no signs of slowing down. “In the future, we would love to grow this thing nation-wide,” Angela said when asked about plans for the coming years. She hopes to shed light on different charities and allow other communities to feel the impact such an event can have.
This year’s competition will be held at Friction Grand Rapids on August 27th, 2022. Event details are available on Wodify Arena as well as the event Facebook page and Friction Grand Rapids’ website (where donations can also be made). Teams are able to register, but spots are filling–mark your calendars so you don’t miss out on this challenging, emotional, original competition!