Imagine being turned away from a handful of gyms (boxes) because the injuries you sustained while serving your country left you disabled; that the owner of the gym deemed you a “liability”. Mike Santiago is an Army war veteran, husband, father, Crossfit coach and athlete. I have followed Mike on Instagram and Facebook for a while and finally had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife, Omara, at the Working Wounded Games on Saturday. Throughout the day, I watched him grind out 50 thrusters (on his feet), pull a heavy sled and perform “Grace” with an odd object.
Mike lost the use of his left arm and leg due to a spinal cord injury; he was shot while on active-duty in 2002. We chatted for a bit on Saturday in between his workouts and I asked him what he would like to happen in the Adaptive Athlete Community. Mike told me that he has been kicked out of three boxes because they felt he was too much of a liability. Yes, you read that right. Mike went into a place that promotes physical and mental wellness and was told that he was too “broke” for them to help. As a trainer, I personally, found that appalling and was extremely shocked that there are fitness professionals out there that are that ignorant. However, this is the world we live in and what these athletes face more often than not. Mike has fought and overcome depression with the help of his rock, Omara and through Crossfit. He is a CFL1 and will be taking his L2 in November.
Mike told me that one of the things he would like to see happen is more education for coaches and trainers in regards to adaptive athletes (appropriate scaling, modifications, anatomy, equipment knowledge, injury knowledge) so they can be more confident and let’s be honest, less scared. He also would like to see more general awareness about the Adaptive Athlete Community.
We will be on the hunt for more coaches/athletes (adaptive and non-adaptive) who share the same mindset and integrity for the adaptive community.
Thank you for being a part of Team Blacksheep, Mike! And thank you for your service to our country.
Project Black/Team Blacksheep