July 9, 2013
Australia's Top Team: Schwartz's CrossFit Melbourne
By Carter Jee

"You don't go out there are create such a wonderful environment  in your gym, it just happens. If you do the right thing by people -- and I think at Schwartz's CrossFit Melbourne, we try to do that -- it will occur naturally."


For the second year in a row, Schwartz's CrossFit Melbourne qualified for the CrossFit Games as the top team in the Australia Region.

Schwartz’s CrossFit is one of the first affiliates in Australia, with owner and head coach Ben Schwartz opening in 2006 after completing his Level 1 Seminar under Greg Glassman.

"I found CrossFit while going through a mixed-martial arts magazine and I pretty much booked a flight to do my Level 1," Schwartz says. "It was with Greg Glassman at the original CrossFit box!"

The affiliate has produced a large number of great athletes over the years, such as Chris Hogan, Kieran Hogan and Denae Brown.

For Schwartz, it is respect and an intense desire to bring the best out of every client that has helped him develop his athletes.

"I, and all our coaches, treat everyone the same and respect our athletes,” he says. “So when anyone walks in, I will try and make them as good as they can be. You don't know where your next champion or team member will come from. I think too many coaches treat their better athletes differently to their beginners or battlers. We, at CrossFit Melbourne, don't do that and that is why to me, we have had such a huge success in the competitive arena."

Having a large stable of capable athletes has proven to be a double-edged sword for Schwartz, and the decision to choose who makes the roster to Carson was difficult this time around.

"This was probably one of the worst and hardest decisions I've had since running the gym," he says.

An athlete's work capacity is not the only factor taken into consideration, Schwartz adds.

"Usually, it should just be the best athletes," he says. "But I do believe that you can have athletes who are competitors and might do so well under Regional-level competitions that you keep them in the team over so-called ‘better’ athletes. But competition and Regional performances should definitely go into making the right decisions."

The team representing the affiliate this year consists of a mix of experienced athletes and newer athletes.

Two-time Games competitor, Amy Dracup, will be the most experienced on the team. Dracup finished 11th at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games when she competed as an individual, and was part of the CrossFit Melbourne team last year.

“She is an amazing athlete and is loved by everyone,” Schwartz says. “When you speak to most women in Australia, Amy is the reason they started CrossFit.”

“Ali (Murdoch) is a physiotherapist, and one of the best people to watch doing anything CrossFit,” Schwartz says. “She is a beautiful mover and always knows how to bring it when it counts.”

Food technologist Penny Kemp is an athlete Schwartz describes as someone who will give her all for the team.

“While Ali and Amy are both amazing athletes and more naturally gifted than Penny, if I was going to go to war with anyone, it would be Penny. She is team through and through,” Schwartz says.

Veteran Kieran Hogan is also part of the Schwartz’s CrossFit Melbourne team this year, and is one of the most seasoned CrossFit competitors in Australia.

“Kieran Hogan has been training at our gym since 2007,” Schwartz says.

“Kieran, like his brother (three-time Games competitor Chris Hogan) is a natural when it comes to anything physical.”

At 20, Jordan Bender is the youngest member of the team, but has been involved in CrossFit for four years.

“As an athlete, there is no one I have more respect for in the sport than Jordan. Everything he has achieved has been done through hard work,” Schwartz says. “He is not a natural at anything but is always willing to work hard and keep learning. His maturity is beyond his years as an athlete, coach and individual.”

Lucas White is the surprise choice. With just over a year of CrossFit training behind him, he’ll go to Carson, Calif., as the least experienced member of the team after being discovered training in a park with kettlebells and rings.

“Lucas has been only training with us for 18 months,” Schwartz says. “He has a big future in CrossFit if he so wishes. Lucas works with his hands all day as a laborer, which makes his training even that more impressive.”

The training plan for the team is simple.

"We try to make sure that we are always improving our gymnastic skills and our strength," Schwartz says. "In our conditioning, we make sure that we can put it all together."

Members mix up their programming and train both individually and as a team.

"By working and training together, the team members will develop the necessary teamwork and respect for each other,” Schwartz says.

To prepare for the unknown, the team will expose themselves to as many implements as possible.

"Before the Games, we will try and play with as many different things as possible," Schwartz says.

In terms of recovery and diet, each member is on their own. But Schwartz is confident his team knows what’s expected of them.

"We all know what works for each of us," he says.

As was the case last year, the team will not be alone in California. A contingent of friends, family and supporters will be there to support them.

"It makes a massive difference to know you have people who have come to cheer and encourage you through the weekend," Schwartz says. "I could even hear them cheer last year as we were competing on the main arena, and that was just awesome to look up and see them going nuts after each event."

“You don't go out there to create such a wonderful environment in your gym, it just happens. If you do the right thing by people — and I think at Schwartz's CrossFit Melbourne, we try to do that — it will occur naturally."

Schwartz believes that this year, representatives from the region have potential to end up on the podium at the Games.

“The standard in the Australia Region has grown ridiculously,” he says. “And I think we are very close this year.”