Meet the Mothers of GRID
Mother’s Day is a special occasion celebrating all the amazing women who have brought life into the world and nurtured their children with love and care. From the moment a child is born, a mother devotes her entire life to caring for and nurturing her child. She spends long days and sleepless nights giving up her own desires or needs to ensure that her child is healthy, happy, and loved. This day is dedicated to showing appreciation and love for all the hard work and sacrifices that mothers make for their families.
Here in the Florida Grid League, we have 66 strong, amazingly talented women active on team rosters, 11 of those are mothers. These women are working jobs, raising their children, and competing and performing as high-level athletes. Being a mother and an athlete can be challenging, but it is not impossible. It requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and sacrifice. For many mothers, finding time to participate in athletics can be a challenge. Between work, school, or daycare drop-offs and pickups, cooking meals, and other responsibilities finding even a few minutes to exercise can be difficult. But with perseverance and dedication, these athletes manage to balance it all. They are real-life superheroes.
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South West Florida Sharks
Sammy’s day starts early, around 6 am. She tries to squeeze in some laundry or cooking before her son Maddox wakes up. After getting him ready, she spends the morning with him before he goes to daycare around 9:30. Then Sammy starts training, goes to work, trains again, and picks up Maddox and sometimes finishes her training with him there. Her personal time is dedicated to training, and her gym community is supportive and always willing to help.
Sammy understands the importance of taking time for herself, even if it means sacrificing some of her other obligations. She admits that it’s tough to meal prep for two while living on her own, but she finds ways to make it work. Maddox often accompanies her to the gym, and the people there remind her that it’s good for him to see her dedication to training.
Sammy states, “Balance isn’t easy, and you always feel like you’re lacking in some area.” As a single parent, she has to balance it all, but she’s hard on herself when she feels like an area of her life starts lacking. However, she understands that prioritizing herself is essential because it makes her a better mother in the long run. Sammy advises other mothers not to be afraid to ask for help. “As mothers, we understand how much work it is, and we always want to help other mothers when needed. Mothers need time for themselves, and it’s not a bad thing. Taking time for yourself and prioritizing your mental health is okay”.
Tampa Bay Brigade
Sophia has been a staple member of the Florida Grid League for the last five seasons. She was drafted through the 2018 Grid Trials, where she won 8 out of 10 of the trials. Sophia has competed internationally as a Master’s athlete representing the USA in the International Functional Fitness Worlds. Sophia owns a karate school, teaches classes, and runs a meal-prep company that offers a once-a-week menu and ordering service. She is also the mother of 11-year-old Maxx. Sophia grew up in the circus and did all kinds of aerial events like rings, high wire, trapeze, and ground events like hula hoops, trick riding horses, and contortionism. She is also a 5th-degree black belt for the United Tang Soo Do Federation and fought Taekwondo, being internationally ranked and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 before having Maxx. She was also the Regional Director and Tournament Director for the state of Texas.
After Maxx was born, Sophia struggled to lose the baby weight. At the time, her ex-husband joined CrossFit, and he got Sophia to watch the CrossFit Games on TV with him. She remembers thinking, “Oh, this is what you do? I can do that.”. As most of us have experienced, she was humbled by her first class, and she remembered feeling nauseous after just the warm-up. However, she needed to lose the weight to fight Taekwondo again. Sophia managed to get close to her weight class and got back on the national team. It took her retiring three times before she finally stopped competing in Taekwondo. That retirement lasted only a short time as she recently competed in weapons and forms and won.
Sophia’s balancing act involves getting Maxx ready for school as well as his Taekwondo and Soccer practices. As a single parent with joint custody, Maxx spends one week with her and another week with his dad. During soccer season, it can be challenging because practice happens while Sophia is at work, so she has to coordinate with his dad. Sophia has Hashimoto’s, so it’s a struggle often, but she uses her mom-strength to get her through. In her world, sleep is a luxury, and caffeine is fuel.
Sophia wants other mothers to know that the mom guilt of working out when their kids are young and taking care of them is real. However, you can’t care for others if you don’t fill your own cup. You have to learn to love yourself enough to know you have to take care of yourself for your kids. Taking care of yourself doesn’t always mean you need to do traditional fitness; it could be anything from gardening to walking or anything that allows you to decompress and enjoy yourself. When we prioritize self-care, we model healthy habits for our children. We are teaching them the importance of loving themselves and showing them that it’s okay to prioritize their own needs.
South Beach Palms
Amber’s journey to fitness started with her time in the Army, where she struggled with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The irony, for her, of being in the Army is the regimented fitness just kept her at baseline and not fit, especially with the choice of food available in the dining hall. Between a lack of knowledge of health/nutrition and zero background in sports, she found herself weighing in at 250 lbs and on the verge of being kicked out of the Army. But after giving birth to her two children, a divorce, and moving to South Florida, she found solace in running. She lost 100 lbs through teaching herself about nutrition and taking her fitness journey outside just Army training. Later, a friend wanted to run an obstacle course race and suggested they do CrossFit to get ready. She fell in love with how empowering the barbell felt, and since then, she has been hooked and has never looked back.
As a mother, balancing life, training, and caring for her kids was not easy, but she found a way. When her kids were young, and she was a CrossFit newbie, she would bring them to the gym with her, and they would do homework in the back while she worked out. After her workout, they would do a workout together as a family. Nowadays, her daughter seems to have also caught the fitness bug and works out with her in their backyard gym, which was set up during the pandemic. Amber makes sure to work out in the morning when her kids are at school, then goes to work in the afternoon and early evenings. She is home for dinner every night and makes sure to spend her Sundays with her family.
For mothers trying to learn to take time for themselves or get into fitness, Amber has some valuable advice. She suggests treating your gym time as an appointment, just like you would with a doctor’s appointment. The gym can be your stress relief, your decompression from the day, a social outlet, or even the step you need to take to get your health back on track. It may be hard to leave them initially, but it will get better! Worst case, she suggests finding a gym that allows you to bring your kids along. If your current gym doesn’t allow this, there are others out there that are willing and ready to welcome you and your family. Remember, it’s not selfish to put yourself first, and with some effort and perseverance, you can achieve your goals.
Sarah is a mother of three daughters, Lilly (21), Maddie (13), and Ella (11). Currently, Sarah and her husband own Panama City CrossFit in Florida, where she coaches adults, kids, and Olympic weightlifting. Additionally, she helps with events for the gym and community. For Sarah, owning a gym is not just a job but a lifestyle that allows her to pursue her passion for fitness and share it with others.
Sarah’s fitness journey started with running with her stroller and following Jillian Michael’s workout videos at home. However, once she discovered CrossFit, she fell in love with the variety, complexity, and competitiveness that it offered. CrossFit and GRID have completely changed her fitness world, and she enjoys the challenge of constantly pushing herself to improve.
As a mother of three, Sarah understands the challenge of balancing life, training, and caring for her kids. To achieve this balance, she sticks to a routine as much as possible and learns to roll with the punches when unexpected things happen.
Sarah’s advice to other mothers is to make time for yourself. It may feel selfish, but taking care of your mental and physical health is essential, and everyone will benefit from it. Find something you enjoy doing, whether it’s running, CrossFit, yoga, or any other form of exercise, and stick with it. You aren’t always going to have perfect days, so you just have to do the best you can and focus on what matters most to you and your goals. Go and get those endorphins flowing, and everyone will thank you for it!!
Jused (Jay) Melian
South Beach Palms
Jay, a long-time member of the Florida Grid League, has been a player for the South Beach Palms for many seasons. Not only does she compete she also owns and coaches the Kids Grid team, South Side Syndicate. When she is not in the gym, Jay is a business owner, blessed with the opportunity to have provided behavioral therapy to children with special needs for the past 19 years. She is now celebrating the 10-year anniversary of her company and currently manages over 50 employees. Additionally, Jay is the mother to a beautiful 14-year-old daughter Aniya, who also is a player on the Kid’s Grid team, making them the only Mother-Daughter Duo in the League.
Eight years ago, Jay found the motivation to get into fitness and athletics when her daughter complained about being last in PE. As a mother, she wanted to do what was best to help her daughter improve her physical abilities. Thus, they began obstacle course racing, eventually leading Jay to the CrossFit world and Aniya to run interscholastic track.
As a single mom juggling several responsibilities, Jay attributes her strength to God and the community around her. She believes that it takes a village to raise a child, and the support she gets from her community, especially in CrossFit gyms, has been invaluable. She acknowledges that balancing her life, training, and caring for her daughter can be challenging, but she prioritizes self-care to avoid burning out.
When asked about her experience coaching Kids Grid, Jay revealed that she was initially unsure about taking up the opportunity. However, after coaching for a few sessions, she fell with the excitement and joy that the kids have for the sport. She also acknowledged the parents’ sacrifice to get their kids to practice each week and to the much-anticipated games. We highly recommend watching and supporting the kids in their races.
Jay leaves with this message for all mothers; as caregivers, it’s easy to forget that we also need to take care of ourselves. We often put our children’s needs above our own, but we must remember that we can’t give what we don’t have. Mothers are an essential part of their child’s foundation; if that foundation is not strong, it can easily collapse. It’s crucial to take care of ourselves physically and mentally so we can be the best version of ourselves for our children.
South West Florida Sharks
Breezy is a returning member of the SWFL Sharks. She is a Nutrition Coach and specialist for Life Minded Health, where she works with men and women on reaching their performance and whole health goals. She is also a Crossfit coach at Real Fitness Sarasota. Breezy is a proud mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Savannah, and is currently expecting her second child!
Breezy grew up in a highly competitive and athletic family and played various sports in her childhood. In high school, she specialized in swimming and volleyball and went on to become a 4x All-American Volleyball player in college. During her college days, Breezy was introduced to Crossfit and fell in love with it. After graduating, she joined a Crossfit gym to keep her passion for athletics and competition alive.
Breezy is grateful that her career allows her to prioritize her health and fitness while raising her children. She believes that when she invests time and effort in herself first by working out consistently and eating towards her goals, she becomes a better mother and partner for her husband. Her husband is supportive and helps her find time for her workouts, and they often exercise together. However, they also make sacrifices to ensure that they both get to do their workouts. For her, fitness goals changed when she became pregnant, and they became more focused on providing her body with the best support for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. In doing so, she was setting up her base for a strong postpartum recovery. Her fitness goals have now shifted to modeling healthy behaviors and habits for her children while also nurturing the athlete in herself again through GRID and sport.
Breezy advises other mothers to remember to take care of yourself first. Setting an example for your children by maintaining your health and fitness is important. She believes that you show up best for others when you show up for yourself first.
Austin (Ace) Lavallii
Fort Lauderdale Lions
Ace gets to have her boys at home with her during the day until school or sports start. Knox is involved in travel baseball and football, with five to six nights of commitment each week. Ace uses sports to teach and prepare her young men for the future. They also enjoy biking, fishing, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and other outdoor activities.
As a young teenager, Ace started lifting weights and has always been an athlete. She played college tennis on scholarship and later coached college. After finishing her Master’s Degree, she became pregnant with Knox. However, she didn’t let pregnancy stop her from pursuing her fitness goals. She continued lifting weights, crossfitting, and working on building herself into the kind of woman and mother she wanted to be. She did the same during her second pregnancy with Blaze.
In 2022, after competing in the CrossFit semi-finals, Ace discovered GRID and fell in love with it. She trains at her home garage gym with the Doberman Weightlifting Club (DWC) and follows CrossFit Hype programming.
Ace believes in balancing life and making mindset and attitude a top priority. She attacks each day with a plan and checks off tasks as she completes them. She primarily trains in the morning when her family is still asleep and focuses on rehab and recovery at night when the kids sleep.
Being a mom is Ace’s most important job, and she strives to teach her boys how to navigate the world every day. She pushes herself and carries herself in a way that she wants her children to emulate 24/7. To expect behaviors or patterns from her kids, she believes she must be about it first, all the time!
Ace wants to remind all mothers out there to make small changes for big results. DO IT YOUR WAY. Your children are always watching, so we should walk the walk for them. Plus, Moms are superhuman!
Denise is a returning member of the Daytona Venom. She is a force to be reckoned with regarding strength movements on the Grid floor. Denise works full-time as an educator for Lululemon. In addition, Dee is also a full-time mother to two beautiful daughters.
But Denise’s accomplishments extend far beyond her professional endeavors. She is also a nationally ranked weightlifter, a testament to her physical and mental prowess. With discipline and relentless training, she has pushed herself to excel in a traditionally male-dominated sport. Through her achievements, Denise breaks down barriers and shatters stereotypes, proving that women are just as capable, if not more when it comes to lifting heavy weights.
Denise’s passion for an active lifestyle extends beyond her personal endeavors; it permeates through her entire family. As an active unit, they embark on adventures together, sharing a mutual love for all things Disney. These cherished family moments strengthen their bonds, allowing them to create lasting memories filled with joy and laughter. Denise understands the importance of instilling in her children the value of an active and vibrant life while also fostering a sense of togetherness and shared experiences.
Balance is not always easy to find and sometimes requires much work and sacrifice. Her husband and herself work opposite schedules to balance work, fitness, and caring for their children. She takes things day by and week by week to maintain this balance and tackle anything life may throw her way.
As a mother, Denise believes it is crucial for our children to witness the limitless potential of women. She wants her children to see her as a source of inspiration, understanding that she can excel in every aspect of her life while still being there for them. Denise aims to shatter the stereotype that women are limited by traditional gender roles. She wants her children, especially her daughters, to witness firsthand that women are strong, capable, and can achieve anything they set their minds to. By being a living testament to these beliefs, Denise empowers her children to embrace their own strengths and defy societal expectations.
Alexa Huston is a mother of 3; Mason, 13, Ava, 11, and the youngest, Tate, who just turned 18 months. She formerly played GRID with the Orlando Aces back in 2018 and is returning for her second season, this time with the Daytona Venom. Alexa is a Client Relations Manager for a company called Insurance Risk Services. They are an inspection company that works with insurance companies to help underwrite and assess new risks for both personal and commercial lines. Her job is to manage a set of clients and keep them happy.
Fitness and athletics have been an integral part of Alexa’s life from an early age. Starting with gymnastics at the age of six, she quickly rose through the ranks, competing nationally until level 9. She believed gymnastics is one of the greatest sports, as it taught her so many lessons that continue to stick with her throughout life.
In 2014, Alexa’s mother, who was a CrossFit coach at the time, introduced her to the world of CrossFit. It was love at first sight for Alexa, and she instantly fell in love with the sport. The combination of strength, endurance, and community-driven atmosphere drew her in, and CrossFit has since become an integral part of her fitness journey.
Juggling motherhood, work, and personal fitness is no small feat, but Alexa takes it in her stride. She approaches each day with a flexible mindset, adapting her schedule as needed. Taking time for herself is crucial, as it not only benefits her own well-being but also enables her to be a better mother to her children.
Alexa shares some valuable advice for fellow mothers:
- Find Your Optimal Training Window: Identify the time of day that works best for you and aligns with your schedule. Whether it’s early mornings, right after work, or late evenings, choose a time when you feel most motivated and energized to train.
- Utilize Small Chunks of Time: Take advantage of pockets of time throughout the day. Whether it’s waking up before the kids, utilizing your lunch break, or exercising once the kids have gone to bed, even short workouts can have a significant impact.
- Involve the Kids: If possible, bring your children along to the gym. Many fitness facilities offer childcare options, allowing you to focus on your workout while ensuring your children are in a safe and engaging environment.
Carrie has just signed as a first-year with the Gainsville Wild, only 6 months after giving birth. Since this was her second pregnancy, she felt more comfortable working out and modifying throughout the entire pregnancy. She also found that her job as a Physical Therapist and her return to athletics helped her with the knowledge and steps to listen to her body, rehab it effectively, and return safely. Carrie did experience a hemorrhage as a post-delivery complication, but with some core and pelvic floor exercises, she feels strong and ready to compete with the Wild this season.
When it comes to balancing life, training, and caring for her kids, Carrie says that every day is not perfect, and it’s different for everyone. She uses EMOMs (Every Minute on the Minute) to manage her time on days she is too busy. She makes sure to plan her day ahead of time, or else she feels she will never get it done. She uses every little bit of time that’s available, even if it’s just 30 minutes. It’s important to remember as busy moms or just people that even 15 minutes of movement is beneficial for the body. You don’t always need to set aside an hour or more of exercise daily to reach your goals.
Kayla is a proud mother of one-and-a-half-year-old Jaxon. She is a successful coach and gym owner at CrossFit Sabal Park. Prior to 2020, when she bought her gym, she was a teacher for students with exceptionalities & special needs. Kayla played softball growing up. Then in high school, she got involved in fitness/figure shows, which sparked her interest in weight training. Kayla went on to get certified in personal training and various group fitness classes like boot camp, cycling, pilates, and kickboxing. Ironically the last thing she wanted to do after a day of working in the gym was a workout for herself. However, when she discovered CrossFit, she found her true passion, which made her want to stay consistent with her fitness.
Kayla says that balance in life isn’t real because you never reach a point of true balance. Instead, she sets her days up to allow for her priorities to be taken care of no matter what life throws her way that day. She loves her son, Jaxon, and does everything for him, but she also wants to set an example for him. She believes in doing hard things so that Jaxon knows he can do them too. Jaxon is in the gym with Kayla every day, and as he has gotten older, Kayla has realized that she is a better mom when she prioritizes herself. Her self-care just happens to be working out.
Kayla wants to let other mothers know she understands that mom guilt is real. She advised that mothers should not wait to have everything in order to prioritize themselves. Those dirty dishes, laundry, and other household chores will always be there. Mothers will never catch up enough to feel like they have the time to prioritize themselves. “You just have to do it!” Because if you don’t do it for yourself, then who else will? Your brain, body, and child will thank you for it.
To Our GRID Mothers:
As a mother and an athlete, you are an inspiration to your children and everyone around you. You show them that being a mother doesn’t mean giving up on your dreams or your passion. You teach them the importance of perseverance, discipline, and self-belief. You show them that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. You are a true example of strength, courage, and resilience, and we hope you continue to chase your dreams and achieve your goals.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Article by - Carissa Macay
Former Body Weight Specialist for the Gainesville Wild 2020 & 2021. Returning this year to capture the athlete's perspective of the FGL Season.
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