By Sheri Alderman and Dayna Aguirre
When we heard that we could interview an Invictus coaching extraordinaire, we jumped all over the opportunity to interview Melissa Hurley. Mel, as many fondly refer to her as, has been coaching us in semi-private classes almost since she’s been at Invictus. We are part of the ‘chalk whores’ club who will stall by chalking up to gain an extra three seconds while Mel screams at us to get on the box and reach for the bar. She knows all our tricks and is the perfect coach for two people that like to do things their way. In Mel’s class, it is absolutely her way-we work hard, we have fun and sometimes, she makes us cry a little while playing out dramatic charades of “I’m going to die!” All kidding aside, she inspires us through her words, her strength and her ability to care so darn much that we just keep coming back for more. So here is a little tidbit about one of our favorite peeps in and out of the ‘box’.
Since we didn’t see a bio for you on the Coaches page of the website (which made us sad), give us the 411…Where did you grow up? Where did you attend College?
I grew up in Visalia, CA, and decided to go to University of Akron in Ohio for undergrad, but really I went there to play softball. I went there on a softball scholarship and got my BS in Exercise Science, and then went off to Augusta State University in Georgia to earn my Master’s Degree and to be a Graduate Assistant Softball Coach. From there, I moved to Charlotte, NC to work at UNC-Charlotte as an offensive coach. At the age of 28, I found a head coaching job at Maryville University so I moved to St. Louis, MO.
Wow! A head coach at 28? That’s so young!
Yes, I think I was the youngest head coach in the division. That was a huge learning experience for me – because of the small age gap between myself and my team, I had to set a strict boundary between us, so they knew I wasn’t there to be their friend. I learned really quickly that it is more important that people know you care before they care what you know – I went in and taught them all of these things that I knew, but they didn’t want to listen. I had to nurture relationships with each member of the team, and they gradually started to respect me and take what I told them more seriously. The interesting thing about the students at Maryville was that it was a really good school – the students were there for school first, then to play softball. I had gone to school to play ball, so I had to adjust my perspective to figure out how to coach them best. Just like with CrossFit, I think of coaching as sales because you have to figure out what will motivate people and what they will buy in to. Like for instance, I know you want to look better in your jeans so I constantly remind you with your squats, “the lower you go, the better your butt will look.” Figure out what motivates each person.
What got you started with CrossFit?
Because of my background in exercise science, I knew how important the muscular-skeletal system was ( l love the
body). I was in pretty good shape, but I couldn’t do a pull-up and it bothered me. I had a cousin that took me
through a crossfit style workout at a family reunion and I really liked it. I loved the variety and the fact that I could
shut off my brain and let someone else tell me what to do. When I joined my first gym and completed my fundamentals course, the coaches had kind of pinned me down as a future competitor, so I jumped right in. 2010
was my first year of competing and I have competed every year since. In 2012, I competed at Regionals as an individual. In 2013, my team and I placed 4th at Regionals. So close!
Well we all know the results of the 2014 CrossFit Games, how did you celebrate the win last year?
I really didn’t. Hearing stories from everyone about how awesome it was to watch was like having several mini celebrations. Just reliving it through the various stories that people shared was really cool. My goal really is to inspire other members.
As a child, what was your dream job?
Believe it or not, the first job I remember wanting to do was to be a coach. I had so many bad softball coaches, and I really thought that I could do it better. It’s supposed to be a good thing to be on a team, and have someone encourage you, and help you learn. I wanted to be a good coach because there weren’t any.
We’ve heard about this Funky Fitness, can you tell us a little more about it?
When I was working at UNCC, I had to find a gym for myself, since I didn’t want to work out with my team. I joined a local gym, and I noticed that there was always a class going on that had a big group of women that were dancing and looked like they were having a great time. After watching them for a while, I decided I could do that, and went to a class. I was hooked! I was in there dancing and screaming while getting a good workout.
What is the most annoying thing that you see at CrossFit?
People not putting stuff away. I want people to know that it is their gym so the more they leave stuff out and don’t clean up, the grosser our gym will be. I want people to feel a sense of ownership. Another thing is when people cut corners in movements to get more reps or use higher weight. If you’re going to do something, do it right because you’re only cheating yourself. No one cares what you’re doing so just get over yourself and do it right. I also try to tell people not to be so hard on themselves. You’re going to have good days, bad days, thing aren’t always going to go right – give yourself grace and know that you showed up and you’re going to finish.
Who do you look up to most?
I’ve always looked up to my mom for her strength and tenacity. Also, I am always looking inside myself to do better. I don’t have one specific person that I follow but I do observe everyone around me and learn from others. Every experience is a growth process. As the youngest of four children, I learned from my siblings everything I wasn’t supposed to do.
If you could create the playlist for the CrossFit games, what would it include?
Oh I’m not very good at remembering song titles but I really love rap and lyrical singing mixed in together. I like upbeat music that changes tempo. Not so much into rock music or just rap.
What’s your favorite movie?
It’s an old school classic that I watched with my brother over and over-Sandlot.
What do you do outside of Invictus?
Cooking, I really like to cook and spending time with my partner, of course. Usually the challenge is not doing work. I tend to do my administrative stuff and check in with members when I’m at home. I love being outdoors but I don’t like to get dirty unless I’m prepared. I mean, I can be spontaneous, you just need to let me know.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream. I really like soft-serve. My favorite is Menchi’s right now. I don’t call it yogurt; it’s ice cream to me. I know it’s bad so don’t try to fool me by calling it yogurt. I do get headaches if I have too much sugar so it’s deterred me from eating too much of it.