When we opened up Box of the Month nominations to the community, we had an overwhelming response. This month's featured box, CrossFit 8020, outnumbered any other box's nominations - keep reading to see what their owner and head coach, Neil Laverty, had to say.
Thanks to SLM Design for the photos.
KITBOX: Can you start by giving us a brief history of CrossFit 8020?
We opened in January 2013, so we’ll be 3 this coming January. We started in a small warehouse with minimal equipment. In fact, it was so small that a busy class meant we couldn’t do double unders. We grew really fast, and after 6 months I started looking for a new facility. I found a large warehouse that was close to derelict, but had real potential. At 13,000 sq ft, it was definitely big enough, but it took a lot of work and imagination to turn it into what it is today. It was a risk going so big, so fast, but my dream has always been to provide the best facilities, with the best coaching, to produce the best results.
What made you decide to open the box in the first place?
I’ve been involved in S&C in some capacity for over 15 years, and I found CrossFit.com in the early stages, before there were many affiliates, and often just followed the mainsite WODs. I was living and training in England, working in a corporate job that really didn’t excite me. I decided, given the infancy of the sport in Northern Ireland, it was time to move home and have a go at starting my own box!
"The premier box in Northern Ireland, home to regionals athlete Emma McQuaid. A very close family of around 150 members lead by owner and head coach Neil Laverty. Amazing facility and amazing community!"
Barry Mairs, [KIT]BOX ambassador and CrossFit 8020 Member.
You had loads of nominations from your members. What do you think makes 8020 so special?
8020 is obviously special to me: it’s my passion, my pastime and my career. It’s been hard to pin down what makes the place so special. I think it’s a combination of loads of things: I have great staff, a group of coaches that put 110% in every day, they are relentless in the pursuit of excellence, continually improving and always finding new ways to get better results for our members. Without doubt, the community is the strongest I’ve seen. People call into the box even when they aren’t training - just to hang out and grab a coffee, or sometimes to shoot some hoops (we have an indoor basketball area that has proved really popular). I think our variation in members is also great, from retirees to students, from people just wanting to move better to elite athletes. We seem to attract everyone; we even attracted a stray cat that has adopted the box as his home!
What have been your highlights since opening the box?
There are too many to list them all. Our domination of the scene in Ireland definitely has to be one. We're nearly always the biggest represented box, and normally have the largest amount of supporters too. In the Open, we’ve been the number 1 team in Ireland both years we've entered. Having a Regionals athlete was also a great experience, Emma McQuaid has worked really hard, and has risen to the top of the UK and Ireland scene. This year at the Irish Throwdown, we had 1st, 2nd and 3rd on the podium for the females, and 4th and 5th for the guys. The biggest highlight has definitely been the Christmas dinners though - last year we had over 150 people attend, which just shows that its not all about the competition and training, my members work hard, but party harder.
What's your coaching philosophy?
My coaching philosphy has always been the same ‘never accept mediocrity’!
Be relentless in the pursuit of great movement. The gucci moves and the heavy weights will all happen if the sole focus is on moving better. That applies to everyone, the beginner struggling with the air squat, to the Crossfit Games champion, striving to move better. Focusing on efficiency and mechanics will equal the best results. That also applies to being a coach, it’s vital that coaches strive to teach people better, to be better coaches of movement.
That's an awesome philosophy! What are your members like?
My members are great. They all train hard, get involved in the box and the other things we do outside the box. Everyone trains for totally different reasons: some to help with their sport, others to look better, some want to get to Regionals and even the Games, and others just come in because it’s a great hour every day, which allows them to destress.
We have some remote athletes too - including Charlotte Spence, who's currently doing really well in the Battle of the Beasts Qualifiers. She trains over in England, but comes over regularly and I program online for her.
I’m convinced we even have members that just come for the free coffee, and the beer and pizza nights!
Beer and pizza nights? We're in! What does a typical day look like at 8020?
A typical day at 8020 starts at about 5:30am, with our first class at 6am and our last at 8:30pm, closing up about 10pm. We run 7 - 10 classes, depending on the day. A class is just your typical class, we start with a warm up, a technical / skills session or strength element, then work into the WOD. We don’t over complicate things: couplets, triplets and AMRAPs are a mainstay here, though we do program long (30 minutes +) at least once a week.
"Awesome coaching. Great facility. Brilliant community! Helped me get fit, lose weight and get stronger - all whilst having fun and great craic!"
Clair Quin, CrossFit 8020 Member
Finally, what does the future hold for CrossFit 8020? Where do you see the box in 5-10 years?
It’s hard to predict the next 5-10 years. Ideally, I’d like to keep growing at this rate. We definitely plan on getting a sign this year - 3 years and no sign would be bad! :)
We're building a new reception and social area soon so that’ll be cool. It’s hard to see us getting a bigger facility just yet, and we have all the toys. Eventually the facility will expand. I love the idea of an indoor 200m track, but for now we’ll just keep upgrading the kit, focusing on the coaching and hopefully getting an athlete or team to the Games. If we manage that and develop the social side as much, the next 10 years will definitely be a rollercoaster ride, thats for sure!