Sunday, September 14, 2014

Coach’s Spotlight: Tom DeVietro

I walked into CrossFit Advance one Wednesday morning just as the 8:30 class was finishing up. As always, Coach Tom DeVietro gave me a hero’s welcome upon entering. Little does Tom know that he’s the real hero.

I met Tom two years ago at the National Personal Training Institute of Philadelphia. Tom, already CrossFit Level 1 certified, had decided to go back to school for another six months. As part of his practical education, Tom seized the first opportunity to train the toughest “client” around: me.

As a congenital above-knee amputee, I present unique challenges to a trainer. Tom unabashedly put me through the wringer that first day. Afterwards, he asked me to take off my prosthesis so he could take a closer look. He was fascinated.

As the 9:30 CrossFit Advance class got underway, one woman asked, “Is this the Mike Burgener method of teaching the hang clean?”

“Nope, it’s the Tom DeVietro method!” Tom replied, as he explained the intricacies of the movement.

Where many a coach might gloss over the details, Tom began with a thorough explanation of the role of the core and breathing in the clean. Nods of understanding swept the room as Tom continued by demonstrating each phase of the progression with incredible fluidity, crispness, and patience.

As he alluded to, Tom’s methods truly are all his own. He’s constantly expanding his horizons as both a coach and an athlete. His curiosity — which extends beyond metal legs — has recently led him to participate in his first triathlon, work one-on-one with an Olympic weightlifting coach, and even engage in strongman training.

Once we were finished with our cleans, we all convened to discuss the impending WOD  a 15-minute AMRAP of double unders, wall balls, and pull-ups. Tom stressed the importance of movement quality over total reps completed. He also encouraged everyone to go hard.

“This is your fifteen minutes!” Tom roared. “You don’t get them back, so make them count!”

During the WOD, Tom darted around motivating, adjusting, and even advising people to back off when necessary. Under Tom’s watchful eye, we all worked hard yet smart.

Afterwards, Tom advised us half-jokingly to “go home, eat a steak, go to sleep, and come back tomorrow ready to do it all over again.” The funny thing is, that was probably his plan exactly.

As most of the class trickled out, smiles across their faces, a few lingered in an effort to soak up Tom’s infectious presence for a few minutes longer.

“What are you guys still doing here?” Tom said. “It’s Friday. Get the hell out!”

With his shaved head and Army Ranger background, Tom might appear intimidating on first impression. Once he begins to speak, however, he reveals a soft voice that immediately puts you at ease. The priority he gives to proper progression and intelligent programming for the individual athlete further reinforces this sentiment.

With Tom at the helm, safety and results are pretty much guaranteed. If that’s not hero material, what is?

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