By Ted Apodaca

A movement recently rose up from Los Alamitos and has reached out to people all around the southland and even out of state. The movement, in this case, is an actual physical movement. Burpees have become a trend, thanks to a cause taken up by the Los Alamitos High football team.

The Griffins have taken up a challenge to complete 1 million burpees and have enlisted the help of the community and anyone willing to contribute through social media. The challenge is part of an off-season assignment for incoming senior football players and a quest to have an author visit the school.

Griffin coach Ray Fenton has traditionally given his incoming seniors a book to read. This year, Fenton assigned the book, Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, by Jocko Willink. The idea is to have the seniors better understand the leadership role they will be expected to take next season.

“It’s one of the other obstacles that challenges us to do something and work together as a team,” Junior Keanu Norman said.

Willink was a Navy Seal for 20 years, including leading Task Unit Bruiser in Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze and Silver Stars. His work now as a consultant and writer stresses the success mindset, how to stop laziness and procrastination, avoiding failure behaviors, including his workouts.

After getting into the book, the Griffin football team reached out to Willink to ask if he’d be willing to visit the school and speak with the students. Willink responded with a challenge, that if the students completed 1 million burpees, he would visit the school. A burpee is an exercise where the person drops to a squat, then kicks their legs out into a pushup position, pulls their legs back and jumps back up into a standing position. It’s a simple, but effective exercise.

However, 1 million burpees presents a large, time-consuming challenge. Fenton said that the general mindset for football teams in never concern yourself with how good, big or talented your opponent is, just focus on facing the challenge.

When the team set its mind of tackling 1 million burpees, the number was secondary to simply beginning the task.

“One of the clichés that we caught a hold of is ‘how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,’ and we just thought a million burpees, just do them one at a time,” Fenton said.

But the football team had another plan to put in place. They decided to try and get help from the local community. They posted a short video on Twitter, asking people to contribute as many burpees as they could to the cause. The idea was getting videos posted with the hashtag #LosAlMillionBurpees so they could be verified.

“In reality, nobody likes doing a burpee, but we all know how good it really is for you,” Fenton said.

But their request for help has been met with a wave of support from all over the southland, and even some from as far away as the Universities of Tennessee and Wyoming, Fenton said. The football team adds some during each day’s workout and they have begun to get area elementary schools involved.

Last week, players visited Lee Elementary School, the Leos contributed 4,000 burpees to the cause. On Friday, Fenton, along with several players and cheerleaders held a rally at Rossmoor Elementary, where the young Knights – who like to call themselves ‘Future Griffins’ – contributed 33,029 burpees to the the total.

“Future Griffin is such a big thing and it means a lot to them and to our football players that we have great community coming up to us,” McConnell said.

The Rossmoor students were treated to a rally, led by Fenton and Griffin students, where they did songs, chants and were shown how to do a burpee. Afterward, they broke up into groups to do burpees for the total.

“I’ve never seen them so quiet and focused … they were just like ‘that’s going to be me’ … it helps remind the kids that we’re a family,” Rossmoor Principal Amy Belsha said.

And on Twitter, videos are betting posted from all kinds of individuals, adding burpees, 10, 20 or even hundreds as a time. Los Alamitos Elementary Administrators posted a video of themselves taking a minute during a meeting to add a couple dozen as a group.

Fenton’s original video, posted with his son and quarterbacks coach, TJ Fenton, asked participants to post videos to help verify and also asked that participants be accurate with their totals to maintain the integrity of the count. The response has caught some off guard.

“I never thought it was going to get this big,” sophomore quarterback Cade McConnell said.

TJ Fenton is cranking out hundreds per day himself to help the cause. The team set a goal of 1 million in 100 days. On Jan. 20, fourteen days into the challenge, the count has topped 185,000.

“Slowly it starts coming into perspective and with the work ethic this team has, it’s going to be great,” MConnell said.

The team is getting into shape, the community is rallying for the cause, and the school is on pace to get a visit from Willink. And the incoming seniors and coaches are bonding for the upcoming 2018 season.

“It helps us as a group, get to know each other better,” Fenton said.

This story was originally published in the News Enterprise

Photos by Ted Apodaca
Los Al High players and cheerleaders demonstrate a burpee to the Rossmoor Elementary students.
Incoming senior Nathan Thomas leads his group in the Knight’s chant.
Los Alamitos High sophomore and Rossmoor Elementary Alumnus, Cade McConnell helps lead a rally at Rossmoor on Friday.

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