March 27, 2013
Coaching Outside of the Box: CrossFit Stars
By Jolene Raison

"We started training on a deserted soccer field. It was muddy and we didn't have any equipment, but everyone loved what we did and the numbers just kept growing."
Photos by: Ahmed Abdel-Aziz

Affiliate owner and coach, Ramy Saleh, thinks outside of the box. He has to.

When he first began as a coach, all he had to work with were a few eager would-be athletes and a muddy field on which to train them. Now, he owns the first and only CrossFit box in Egypt, CrossFit Stars.

Saleh was introduced to CrossFit in 2010 on a trip to Salt Lake City.

“When I first heard of CrossFit, I immediately went to L.A and got my Level 1,” Saleh says.

The affiliate was approved in March 2011, and like many, they started small.

“Back then, we didn’t have a box or the means to start one.”

Undeterred, Saleh set about training kids and a few athletes.

“They were all tennis players as this is the background I come from,” he explains.

Determined to grow the group, Saleh called in a few friends.

“We started training on a deserted soccer field” he recalls. “It was muddy and we didn’t have any equipment, but everyone loved what we did and the numbers just kept growing.”

There were so many challenges in those early days.

“First of all, we couldn’t find an appropriate location,” he explains. “Here in Egypt, we don’t have many of the type of warehouses that boxes usually exist in.”

To compound the problem, CrossFit equipment wasn’t yet available in the country. What’s more, no one in Egypt knew what CrossFit was.

“I was basically educating people over and over again as to what this amazing sport is all about.”

Starting a box meant actually having to build one.

“We built a steel structure from scratch. It’s not big, but we love it and we consider it a great start,” Saleh says. “We imported all the equipment in the box from Rogue in the U.S.”

Initially, growth was slow, but since early 2012, the box has grown exponentially. Saleh even sent three trainers abroad to the Level 1 Seminar.

Together with the new coaches, Saleh is taking CrossFit to the people of Egypt wherever and however he can.

“Our box has over 30 members,” he explains, “but we also train people at five outdoor locations across Cairo. Our community now has 500 active members.”

Judging by their presence on the Africa Leaderboard, this community is producing some strong athletes. While the affiliate didn’t register a team, they do have 41 athletes registered and competing as individuals in the Open. In fact, one member, Karim Maamoun, took second place in the region on 13.2 with 307 reps.  

Saleh has already come so far, but this is only just the beginning.

“I would like to have a box that is 10 times the size of the current size,” he says. “And I dream of having many more boxes around Egypt.”