In Athletes, HD Videos, Special Populations

December 15, 2012

Video Article

For Tyler Belanger, coaching special kids is about allowing them to live without limitations.

At CrossFit Catalyst in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., the coach works with an almost non-verbal, functioning autistic boy.

“Does he understand what is actually being said, and pitch and tone of voice? Probably not,” Belanger explains. “But we can’t really tell either. What we know is that he really enjoys when people smile, and he doesn’t like when people frown.”

Belanger says the experience has made him a better coach.

“Now I’ve got a huge vocabulary and language for breaking things down, and (I’m always) being mindful ... that we’re starting with the basics,” he says. “I understand now that I can’t skip steps.”

Carl Kennedy is another one of Belanger’s athletes. Carl had trouble focusing in high school. Whenever a teacher asked for corrections, he reacted by biting his arm or ripping up a book.

He’s had to fight to overcome these challenges, but he says he’s up to the task.

“I fought hard to get into school,” Kennedy says, “I fought hard to go to CrossFit, I fought hard to get on the football team, I fought hard for every aspect of my life that people take for granted.”

Kennedy now has goals, including making the first string on the football team.

“I know what I want now, and I’m going to get it,” he says.

Video by Rabbitview.

12min 58sec

HD file size: 312 GB
SD wmv file size: 155 MB
SD mov file size: 75 MB

Please note: For smoother viewing of HD videos, please download the entire file to your hard drive before watching it (right-click and choose Save Link As...).

Additional reading: Truly Special Populations by Josh MacDonald, published Aug. 15, 2010.

Free Download


16 Comments on “Coaching Kids With Special Needs ”


wrote …

Great story. I love seeing what other affiliates are doing with their kids programs. I hope to hear about both these kids in the future.


wrote …

@Tyler - this is awesome work you're doing bro - so inspiring to see the difference you're making in these kids' lives, and the incredible patience and empathy you coach them with!


wrote …

This was one of the most inspiring and touching things I've seen on the journal for quite a while. All my respect to you, Tyler.


wrote …

What an amazing story. Tyler, you are doing amazing things for those kids. Shawn and Carl you guys are awesome. Keep workin hard. You guys are an inspiration.


wrote …

This was a beautiful story. Very touching and it's so awesome to see that these kids with special needs are getting the same opportunity as every other human. Such a humbling experience. God Bless these kids and the coach in this film.


wrote …

Thanks, guys. If you'd like to do the same, this is our Ignite program at Catalyst ( and there are daily workouts there. We combine CrossFit with cognitive / academic lessons.


wrote …

Only one word comes to mind when I see coaches like Tyler: Angel.


wrote …

Truly inspiring. Keep up the good work. God bless.


wrote …

GREAT.YES, give everyone a chance. RESPECT everyone. REWARD EFFORTS over Victory. Look at the conviction in his voice when he says I'm going to work my butt off and get the things I want. That's beautyful... warming, and nice to see him changing and adapting through the struggle. The victory is throug ht the struggle. Great stuff. Thanks.


wrote …

so this reinforces the observation that we all need the same aspects of fitness. The differences may be just the speed and intensity of the experience, but not the form.


wrote …

Incredible work.. When all the dust settles and you are asked "Who is the best athlete you've trained?" I'm sure these two kids will come to mind.. Crossfit will help Knowshon Moreno and Hasselback and Manning and Will Johnsom but it will improve real peoples lives every day..


wrote …

I am a behavioral therapist at a school just for kids with autism and emotional behavioral disorders. We use applied behavioral analysis therapy to help the kids out. What you did with theses kids is amazing you did everything right! You did a great job of building a rapport with the child and you highly reinforced him after he did a task which is awesome! This just makes me want to get my level 1 cert and start this at my school! If you have any additional information on how you went about doing this that would be awesome and greatly appreciated! Thanks!


replied to comment from Michael Fuchs

Hey Michael! We're well familiar with ABA, and agree that the combination is excellent. We don't mention ABA by name, but you'll see it a LOT in our book, Enrichment Through Exercise. I posted a link to our program above ( please feel free to email Ty directly about combining CrossFit into your school at Best of luck!


wrote …

Very cool to see this. I am special ed. teacher and I have been working with kids with disabilities for over 15 years. I wanted to start a little CrossFit club at my school a few years back, but of course, the powers that be wouldn't consider it. Unfortunately, not all of my students would benefit as we have some significantly disabled students. But there is a large population that would... Seeing this video makes me want to push for this again.


wrote …

Just wanted to say what a fantastic video that was. Truly inspirational... Top work Tyler, Shawn and Carl...


wrote …

Thanks for sharing what you're doing. I hope to help my CFKids have similar results: living without limitations.

Leave a comment

Comments (You may use HTML tags for style)