Spartan Kids Foundation Sends Clayton Elementary 'Spartan Club' to Race

Spartan Kids Foundation Sends Clayton Elementary 'Spartan Club' to Race
Presented by Spartan Training®

When Matt Hoganson moved from California to Colorado and he and his wife had their first child, the former actor's career took an unexpected turn.

"Somebody had recommended that I try teaching," he said. "So I got into teaching about 11 years ago, and right away it was something that I had a natural knack for. Within five years, I was already dean of students and I've just continued down the path of leadership ever since."

Hoganson has since become assistant principal and district wellness coordinator at Clayton Elementary School in Englewood, Colo., roles that he hasn't achieved by being ordinary.

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"I've always been somebody that, if it's not challenging, I don't want to do it," he said. "The first thing that I wanted to do was to try to do a marathon, and then it was about discovering the next challenge. Then I discovered Spartan."

Spartan Club

After completing his first race in 2014 — during which he failed about half of the obstacles and did over 200 burpees — Hoganson described the experience as "life-changing," and instantly fell in love with the Spartan philosophy. That's how he came up with his first idea: a school for children that would teach the Spartan values — grit, perseverance, resilience — and way of life.

"I thought that this would be an amazing space for kids that are challenged by the way that schools are now, in the sense that you've got a lot of kids that aren't as active and engaged," he said. "Particularly with my own children, who struggle with ADHD, a school that taught the Spartan values would be ideal for them."

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Hoganson, after coming to the realization that opening his own school just wasn't in the cards at the moment, devised a plan for an after-school program.

"The schools that I taught in weren't schools where kids were able to do a ton of extracurriculars after school — they just didn't have the money," he said. "It was just about fitness and working out together, but the kids loved it. It was another opportunity for them to run around and get exercise."

Taking It to the Next Level

Two years later, the assistant principal's school allocated grant funds for Hoganson to obtain his CrossFit Level 1 Certification and CrossFit Kids Certification.

"When I took my CrossFit certification for kids, it was fun but it didn't have that thing that almost makes you want to quit," he said. "I don't think that we're giving kids enough opportunity to be challenged. So I started creating actual WODs for the kids in my program, and each year I've tried to incorporate more."

After plenty of bodyweight burpees and box jumps, Hoganson became intrigued by Spartan's Trifecta ideology — using benchmarks to measure growth and personal achievement. 

spartan club

"So I called my program Spartan Club, and I introduced those virtues into the program and taught the kids what those were," he said. "Then, for as many sessions as you showed up for, you would earn bands — kind of like a Taekwondo system. I also made it hard enough that it would take them over a year to achieve it."

Progressing from a green "Spartan Speed" band to red, blue, and finally the black "Spartan Performance" band, the benchmarks are intended to encourage kids to show up every day ready to work hard and keep trying, support their teammates, do their personal best, and have a great attitude. To earn them, the young Spartans must pass both a physical and mental test.

Spartan Club Benchmark Assessment Requirements

Spartan Speed — Green Band

Character Focus: Self-awareness and grit

The Test

After attending 16 sessions, athletes are eligible to take the follow physical test:

2 Rounds (with a 5-minute time cap)

— 5 calories on the bike
— 5 burpees
— 10-yard Army crawl
— 10 box jumps or step overs
— 5 medicine ball slams 

And answer the following mental tests:

— What does it mean to have self-awareness?
— How do you show grit in Spartan workouts?

Spartan Strength — Red Band

Character Focus: Optimism and integrity

The Test

After attending 32 sessions and having earned a green band, athletes take the following physical test:

3 Rounds (with a 7-minute time cap)

— 10 burpee box jump overs or step overs
— 10 yard walking lunge
— 10 RAMroller to overhead or pancake to overhead
— Sprint back 

And answer the following mental tests:

— What does it mean to have integrity?
— How do you show optimism during Spartan Club workouts?

Related: 10 Reasons to Be Optimistic TODAY

Spartan Performance — Blue Band

Character Focus: Discipline and passion

The Test

After completing 48 full sessions and green and red band tests, athletes take the following physical test:

1 Round (35-minute time cap)

— 400-meter run
— 50 air squats
— 400-meter run
— 50 medicine ball slams
— 400-meter run
— 50 weighted reverse lunges
— 400-meter run
— 50 burpees
— 400-meter run

And answer the following mental tests:

— Complete the entire character test at once

Spartan Performance — Black Band

Character Focus: Commitment

The Test

When the athlete has successfully completed the green, red, and blue tests, their final test before reaching black-band status is to complete a Spartan race

"It's just been a really fun process that continues to grow," Hoganson said. "The kids always want to come back and do more. I have a hard time saying no, but we fill up every single time that there's a session. So we're trying to expand and make it bigger."

Completing the Ultimate Test

spartan club

In 2020, Hoganson began searching for companies that would be willing to send something small — even something as small as a couple of lanyards — for his kids to use and to incentivize the program. He decided to reach out to the Spartan Kids Foundation, Spartan's not-for-profit arm, which took an interest in Hoganson's program and provided him a grant. With it, the assistant principal was able to provide kettlebells, jumping boxes, and — most recently — a few Spartan RAMrollers. 

Before COVID, Hoganson was even optimistic about getting a race funded by the Foundation for his kids to run, so that many of them would get a chance to complete their final band assessment. COVID-related cancellations made it impossible at the time, but — to Hoganson's surprise — the Spartan Kids Foundation then offered to provide complimentary registrations for all of his Spartan kids at the 2021 Colorado Springs Kids Race. 

"They raced at noon, and it was probably about 85 degrees," he said. "Our kids finished, and just getting that medal and going through the first mud pit and getting dirty was something that, you could tell, they were just eating up. It was incredible to just see the amount of satisfaction on their faces when they finished."

Not only did all six of the kids who were eligible to complete their black band test at the race successfully pass, but one of Hoganson's little Spartans even won in the Open heat that he competed in. 

Spartan Club

"He finished every obstacle with no problem," Hoganson said. "He climbed the rope no problem, and I think he didn't even touch the first wall — he just leapt over it. All of [the kids] afterwards were like, 'When can we do this again?'"  

The kids' race was such a success that Tough Mudder even reached out to the Clayton assistant principal to invite Spartan Club to compete in the TM Colorado race at the end of July 2021. Hoganson hopes to continue expanding the program to a curriculum that can be duplicated and applied at other schools across the nation, devoting much of his current time to organizing the Club's plan into a comprehensive package that he hopes to present at the SHAPE Conference.

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"Kids have gotten soft, and we have to let them try these hard things and push them," he said. "Fitness should be fun and kids should learn games and play, but I think that they need more than that. This is something that's not offered enough, and I want every kid in the world to start early so that Spartan doesn't have to be about ripping people off the couch when they're 40 years old, but 12 years old instead."

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