Keep the Ball Rolling

Michael Chabala is onto something…

Sphere, Michael’s innovative concept, is a fusion of boot camp, cross-training and soccer. Michael’s goal – pun intended – is to recreate the locker room experience; drawing together groups of people who play well together and are in one place for a common cause. That cause is physical fitness, and with Sphere, you get a fun, interactive atmosphere where everybody feels like they belong. That interactivity is a slowly growing trend, but something that almost everyone is looking for in their own classes. New classes and gyms can be intimidating, but as soon as you step onto the field of Sphere, you are immediately met with waves, high fives and introductions. I have been to two classes unannounced, I didn’t know anyone and I hadn’t touched a soccer ball in about 20 years; by the end of class – dripping with sweat and a smile on my face – I knew almost everyone by name. I walked away from each class thinking, ‘Wow, this Dynamo guy is onto something’.

The interaction before, during and after Sphere is one aspect that makes it so special; and this is all part of the plan. Michael parallels his class with The Game meaning the soccer game, or any team sport for that matter. Everyone has his or her role to play, but in order to win, you have to play together. Each person will have different goals, whether it be weight loss, increasing endurance, or just maintaining a level of fitness, and these goals can all be met within the Sphere atmosphere. During the class, you will move from a warm-up, to a short scrimmage, to workouts on the sideline where you may be teamed up with another, or running drills as a collective. The idea is to keep the movement constant, just like in a game.

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Michael played professional soccer for 8 years, most of that with the Dynamo, he says that “each player typically touches the ball for no more than 3 minutes throughout the game”. However, the level of fitness required to maintain engagement throughout the game shows through, with the bodies that this type of workout produces. Think Hope Solo, David Beckham, or Cristiano Ronaldo. I always tell people that if they want sculpt their bodies, find a sport whose players look the way you want to look, then go play it. If you want to look like famous CrossFitter Rich Froning, you probably need to be throwing a lot of weight around. However, if you like the look when you google one of these soccer player’s names, then a Sphere workout is for you.

Michael uses Sphere to expand on the ‘game’ mentality, and equates it directly to life. His feeling is that “everyone has their own ball, their own game, their own struggles. You may be setting up a pass for someone else, you can do more with the ball than just score goals” he says, “We are all kicking for a purpose”. It is these kind of parallels that Michael makes in his mind, and just shows the kind of passion with which he lives his life. He puts this passion into the Sphere project and it shows. His team of coaches are constantly building off of one another, playing their own game so to speak, helping each other out. Michael has an idea, but he has the humility to know that it takes an entire team to win a game. His team is passionate about the idea and fully committed to seeing it through.

Fitness is all-encompassing and every sport and concept has its place. The Sphere concept will fill an empty space in the fitness community. I have mentioned in past articles that we all know the feeling of walking into a studio, being surrounded by people, but feeling like the loneliest person on the planet. Studios are tough for the new girl or the new guy; gyms are just as tough. No one is pushing people to interact, so they don’t. After a while you’ll get to know people, but we’ve all seen the people that have come in, taken a class in silence, and never come back again. At Sphere, this simply will not happen. Each coach will have his or her different method of leadership, but that team mentality is central to the concept and starts when you walk onto the field.

Building on his analogy of the game is his idea to “Keep the Ball Rolling”, the Sphere version of pay it forward. This relates to philanthropy, charity, and basically back to the team aspect of helping your fellow teammate. “It could be opening a door for an elderly lady or helping a kid learn soccer.” The idea of keeping that movement goes beyond the game, beyond the class, and is really meant to become a part of life. That constant improvement, not just in yourself, but by helping others, can truly make the world a better place. “Community is not just a group of people, it’s about where they all are, everyone needs help in some way.” Sphere touches not just the body, but brings with it ideas for the heart and a healthy lifestyle.

As I mentioned, I have taken two classes at Sphere, each was different, and one hell of a full-body workout. Speaking with Michael, and his thoughts about the concept, I can see that his ideas are actually manifesting into the class the way he has envisioned it. Many times, when we have ideas, it can be hard to get them on paper or share them with others. What Michael has created comes out of both his experiences and his heart. Having the opportunity to speak with Michael on more than one occasion, I can see and feel how much of his life he is putting into this work. The collaboration with his team only builds on the concept and is creating something truly innovative and new. In the ever-growing Houston fitness community, he couldn’t have picked a better place to start.

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