March 18, 2009
Chris Cooper writes about one of his clients, Sebastien Wetzel.
Called ‘Baba’ by his friends, the typical French diminution of his given name, Sebastien has gone from a distracted 12-year-old to a powerhouse athlete in a few short years. He plays football; he plays basketball; he powerlifts. He does CrossFit. And he’s autistic.
Sebastien and I became friends when he started with Catalyst Fitness (our box), here in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, three years ago. Back then, Catalyst was a non-CrossFit personal-training-only facility, set up on the top floor of a dumpy office building, and Sebastien’s verbal skills were limited to one- or two-word questions and requests. “Toilet now” while tugging at my sleeve was a big one. He was also prone to bursting out into laughter, or doing little shrieks as if he were testing his voice, without warning. He was emotionally confused. He’d stop and stare at construction sites when we were on our way to the park to work on balance. Sebastien couldn’t coordinate his feet well enough to use a slide board. He couldn’t focus long enough to answer questions about his pets. He only wanted to talk about toilets.
Today, Sebastien’s a long way from that kid who walked in the Catalyst door three years ago. Now, at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Baba is nearly as wide-shouldered as his CrossFitting father; and he’s 20 pounds heavier than his brother, who’s two years older. In his first powerlifting meet, a push/pull at our monthly Virtualmeet in January, he had a 115-pound bench press and 235-pound deadlift. He’s no longer frightened by fast-moving footballs; he can throw a pattern or receive; he can stick a snatch or survive a closely-judged bench press. He says he’d like to compete in the Special Olympics someday.