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The 3000 Challenge
A SportsLeader coach launches a tradition that teaches lessons of manhood through conditioning.

The Winton Woods wrestling team with Coach Willertz (far left).
The Winton Woods wrestling team with Coach Willertz (far left).

January 6, 2010. Cincinnati, Ohio. As traditions go, the “3,000 Challenge” is a new kid on the block, started by head wrestling coach Chris Willertz at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A SportsLeader coach since 2005, Willertz arrived to Winton Woods last year to take on coaching the Varsity wrestling team. He knew that building a winning team requires an extra level of commitment in the players. It takes conditioning, motivation, and that extra edge of skill that comes from plenty of training—even over Christmas break.

But most of all, building a winning team requires presenting a challenge that will motivate young men to give their all.

“I needed a hook,” said Chris. “So we decided on a challenge, a kind of rite of initiation, which so many young men need.”

“But one day wasn’t enough—too easy. So, we decided on three consecutive days, with 1,000 reps of different exercises each day, a total of 3,000 in the end. It was a play on the movie 300, but better,” he said.

Inspiration + perspiration

He launched the idea to the players, inviting them to participate on a completely voluntary basis. The response was enthusiastic and wholehearted, and “3,000!” became a rallying cry throughout the season—a reminder of the time when they bonded while pushing themselves to the very limit.

This year’s 3,000 Challenge gathered 25 young men who completed a series of strength and endurance exercises, ranging from running and lunges to wrestling take-downs, spins, slams, lifts, and more. Along the way,
wrestlers throw
Two members of the wrestling team practice their moves.
Coach Willertz constantly motivated them, speaking of manhood, willpower, virtue, going above and beyond, and embracing sacrifice.

While working out, the boys were surrounded by inspiration; the walls of the Winton Woods wrestling room happen to be painted with inspirational quotes from coaches, athletes, emperors, and even ancient Greeks, like this jewel adapted from Thucydides: “We must remember that all men are much the same, but those that become the best are those who are trained in the harshest wrestling rooms.”

On the third day, both athletes and coaches sported red face paint— appropriate for Winton Woods Warriors who had just completed a rite of passage. The boys were congratulated for their achievement, and all received Under Armour for completing the training. Three wrestlers were awarded the Virtue = Strength shirt for their extreme effort and fighting spirit.

Becoming a man in tough times

In his final motivational talk (view on YouTube links below), Coach Willertz encouraged the boys to strive for the “extra edge” in wrestling and in life, and to forge a new path of authentic manhood even if they do not have good examples in their own lives. The message was straightforward, realistic, and inspiring.

“It’s tough! You know what, guys? Welcome to manhood! Welcome to manhood,” he said.

He went on to talk about how SportsLeader is there to help them meet the challenge of becoming a man even when role models are lacking.

“You know people in your lives who didn’t do what they were supposed to do, and you know how you feel about it. The men in your life probably have had some problems as well. So what do you do?  You go and develop yourself so that you can be the man that God created you to be. We’re here to help you make that happen. But it’s only going to happen if you keep training through difficult times,” he said.

The 3,000 Challenge really is a training ground for the difficult times that are waiting for them in life. Surviving those three days in the wrestling room gives them a concrete experience of conquering adversity with hard work. And the experience is a satisfying one.
“It really has become a badge of honor,” observed Chris Willertz.

View the YouTube videos of the Warriors in training and of Coach Willertz’s final talk at these links:



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