IT WAS A NIGHT OF TORRENTIAL DOWNPOURS...
The story has been told scores of times, and always starts the same way: with the rain. The damn rain. It was that kind of New England rain that is relentless; one part tropical storm and one part Nor'easter. Everything was wet. Everyone was soaked. Yet in spite of the daunting elements, ten men showed up at a local college campus to try something brand new.
The guy who gathered them up was a goofy dreamer named Christian Matyi. (He often goes just by the shorthand nickname "XN.") Christian was a healer, a thinker and in 1998 became a competitive bodybuilder. He was inspired to compete by a good friend who passed away, as well as because he had been healed from a dangerous direction by the power of a positive-minded community. The power of community stayed with him, and from the time he started lifting in 1992 until that rainy moment in 2000, he was amazed at what people can do when they pull their resources together.
So, the nine other guys he found he chose by hand specifically because they "got it." They were other men who believed in the power of teams. And that night they hatched a plan: what if lifting and bodybuilding were sports that were team-based? Even though athletes compete singularly, what if they operated "just like any other sport" and pulled together as a team?
Team Fusion was born. And while it would be several years before The Next Level would come to be, Team Fusion set a standard for teamwork that has been carried through every Next Level team since.
What happened to Team Fusion? Well, all the men on it excelled beyond what they had ever anticipated. They were able to collaborate on ideas and develop plans faster and more precise using the knowledge of the group. While not every guy won the contests he entered, they all created an incredible momentum for themselves.
A lot of people wanted what Team Fusion had. Almost every athlete who met the team wanted to have a team of their own, too. The physique sports - bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman and the rest - don't have many "non-business" teams. The teams that existed were typically based around a gym or a trainer. Rarely was there just a team of athletes who were bonded for the love of the sport, the betterment of the individuals and the appreciation of the power of teams.
In a couple years Team Huge was developed to figure out "just how to do it." Team Huge was a long experiment in coaching and competition. It is where many of the base theories for The Next Level were first written down.
In 2003, Christian Matyi pulled together a few other knowledgable athletes and set up a plan. In the spring of 2004, the first "run" of The Next Level occurred. (The weather that day was cold, yet far less rainy.) The goal of the first team was the same as Team Fusion's four years prior: to work together to get the best results possible, regardless of whether people won anything. (Which sometimes they did.)
The other goal was to have each team influence the next. It is an ongoing "recycling" project. The experience of each team shapes the program for the next team. In this way a great community began to be built. (We call it the PhysiQulture Collaborative.) Athletes not only had their teammates and coaches for support, but also a vast network that stretched back many years and across a lot of of athletes.
Presently, the Next Level is over a decade old, and the way it runs teams is unlike anything out there. With so many experiences to draw from, we have the art of team-building and the science of method-building down cold. Each team is part of a grand legacy of competitors, and each team benefits from the paths of those who walked before them.
Who knows what the weather will be like when you show up for your first team meeting? Maybe it will be clear and calm, or maybe it will be as torrential as that first team's experience. That is the greatest legacy of Next Level teams, however: we are ready for almost anything.
Let it pour. Together, just like the first teams, we'll figure out how to make it work in our favor.