As much as I would like to say Bexar Barbell started in my detached garage off Woodlawn Ave that isn’t where the seed was first planted. Woodlawn Ave happened out of need, but the one car apartment garage at 12222 Vance Jackson happened out of desperation.
For many lifters, this sport is their sanity. It is the one thing they have that makes them feel okay with the world, and with a pandemic just starting to rear its ugly head, a worldwide shutdown would send any athlete into a spiral. For some of my lifters they had home setups so although they were uprooted from their team, they still had the barbell. For a handful of my athletes, they had none of this. A few lost their jobs, almost their homes, and they had no normalcy the moment I found the red sign on the door of the gym informing management that if we stayed open we would be fined.
I immediately went to craigslist. I found a couple of sets of Pendlay plates, some beater barbells, a moldy set of pulling blocks, and a really really crappy squat rack. I borrowed a truck, picked up some plywood and stall mats off Facebook marketplace. I had just bought my dream car five months prior and had a one-car garage attached to my apartment so that it stayed covered and safe. My dream car was now in the parking lot next to a broken down Lexus, and my one car garage now had two 8×8 plywood platforms down the middle and an assortment of plates organized down the wall. I bought crash pads to minimize the attention drawn and installed a keypad outside the garage door.
I sat down and went through the list of all the athletes I coached. No longer did these athletes need me as their coach, but they needed me as their person. The person who found a way, who made a way to keep them okay. I started a group chat, hilariously enough this group chat still exists. What started as a “Super Secret Garage Club” with 9 athletes now has over 30 athletes and the conversation is no longer about who can train in what two-hour time slot, or who made sure to clean the equipment completely but is about daily banter and team training sessions. We created a schedule. Athletes would train in two-hour time blocks, completely clean all equipment and be in and out. No coaching, no team training, no organization other than this is where you have access to a platform, a bar, plates, get in, get your work done, and get out. For fear of repercussions no pictures or videos were allowed. That one car garage gym off Vance Jackson wasn’t about how many likes you could get, or what witty hashtags you could put with your video but about having that one place in a world of chaos with that one thing that was constant. The barbell.
The one-car garage worked, but as the pandemic continued to worsen I knew I needed a better solution. If not for myself, but for these athletes. The day before Easter I went to Zillow to find a house with a garage that would work better so that more people could train while still adhering to social distancing. Within 20 minutes I found the house I currently live in, I put in a request and two hours later my current landlord called me. The next day I had keys in my hand and garage renovations began the following Monday. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
Out of the nine people in the “Super Secret Garage Club,” there are six I still coach. Each of them has no idea how much their loyalty, commitment, and dedication to this adventure means to me. Blindly trusting another person during what was (and is) one of the roughest times of their lives is hard. What started as a way to stay “okay” is now an entire business and Olympic Weightlifting club with almost 100 athletes. When I think of who Bexar Barbell is, at its core, it is those humans being committed and dedicated to not only themselves but each other through the unknown.