WHO WE ARE
Co-Owner & Head Coach
Jason Fernandez is a co-owner and head coach here at CrossFit Rife. He specializes in improving human movement and developing coaches.
“I’m passionate about success. Success has many different forms and whatever that means to someone is what I’m passionate about. I love when someone tells me that they achieved a goal that they never thought possible. That’s one of the biggest reasons I love what I do here at Rife every day.
Prior to founding CrossFit Rife, Coach Jason was a three-sport athlete. Growing up, he played primarily basketball, baseball, and football – also having dabbled in cross country, track & field, and rugby. While studying at the United States Naval Academy, he played Div I basketball and served as the team captain during his senior season.
“CrossFit will help you achieve many things you previously thought to be out of reach. Take it from someone who has tried about every sport and fitness regimen out there. But those accomplishments pale in comparison to the people you will meet and the friendships you will create along the way. CrossFit makes better people”
Co-Owner & Coach
Jessica Fernandez is a co-owner and coach here at CrossFit Rife. She specializes in taking her members through their fitness journey and helping them be their best through nutrition and wellness.
“What I love most about coaching our members is experiencing that moment when something they’ve been struggling with finally clicks. They realize in that instant that they have greater potential – and that’s a GREAT feeling.”
Much like her partner, Coach Jessica has an extensive and long-time relationship with sports and living the active life. Growing up, she played soccer, volleyball and softball. At Walsh University (NAIA) in Ohio, she played volleyball for a year, then played 3 years of volleyball and 4 years of softball at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (DIII). She currently holds a DIII Volleyball Individual single match hitting percentage record.
“I always knew I wanted to be involved in fitness and coach a sport. I started doing CrossFit because I was bored with the typical gym routine. I fell in love with the sport and the community. We were fortunate enough to be taught by one of the best. We felt we needed to pay it forward.”
Head Club Weightlifting Coach
Phil Sabatini is the head club weightlifting coach here at CrossFit Rife. He specializes in weightlifting, sports performance, and athletic development.
“I love sports and to be in a competitive environment. What I appreciate most about the competitive aspect of sport and games, is to watch individuals DEFINE themselves through their work ethic. No matter what age or skill level, I am constantly reminded of what is important through coaching; The Individual. To watch them grow, not just as athletes, but as humans provides us all with much needed perspective in life.”
Coach Phil grew up wanting to be a pro baseball player. He was offered multiple DI scholarships and chose to attend Ohio University where he became a 3-year full-time starter as an outfielder or catcher. Despite multiple opportunities to pursue pro baseball, Coach Phil decided instead to take a full ride scholarship to earn his Masters in Strength and Conditioning.
“During that time, I was learning a ton of different principles and techniques, and had a mentor who decided that I would be a successful weightlifter if I developed a passion for it. He started me with basic technique and programming, and in my first ever meet, I qualified for the USAW American Open. From there, I was hooked on the sport and training, and I went on to win a bunch of National medals, including winning the 2009 American Open, 2010 National Championships, and was a 3x member of Team USA for international events. In 2012, I finished 5th overall in the USAW Olympic Games ranking. I am still Nationally competitive and am training hard to win more medals!”
While Coach Phil has some awesome athletic accomplishments, he still says his greatest accomplishment is his family. “I have been married to my wife, Erica, for 6 years, and we have 2 daughters, Marielle (4) and Daniella (2). I also play lead guitar in a Pop/Modern-Funk band, “Suburban Sunday”. Come out and listen to us jam!”
Cassidy Ballensky is a coach here at CrossFit Rife. He specializes in the personal development of his athletes and promoting a killer work ethic. “There is always a challenge, constant room for improvements and criticism, and above all else seeing who gets more excited when someone hits a big lift or PR’s, me or the athlete.”
Coach Cassidy comes to Rife with a background in football, track, skiing and snowboarding. “My decision to become a CrossFit coach was a no-brainer. I’ve always lived an active life but never really fell for a sport like I did with CrossFit. Basically, I came home one day and said ‘I’m going to get my L-1 cert.” After that I started paying more attention to the way I moved, and the ways other people did as well. I wanted to try and help others achieve their goals physically as much as I wanted to achieve my own.”
“My favorite quote by William Ernest Henley is ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’ I live by this mantra. Therefore, I enjoy a good workout, good company, good whiskey and anything that feeds the soul and guides me closer to my vision.”
Zoe Young is a coach here at CrossFit Rife. He’s passionate about CrossFit, the outdoors, and is always looking for a good adventure.
“I love hiking, camping, snow-boarding, mountain biking, and diving. I enjoy dark brews and good cigars. There is a special place in my heart of all things nerd: comics, movies, games. Nothing beats a good story.”
“I love watching the members grow, not only as athletes but as friends and also as confident individuals. The posture of a CrossFitter is the product of much more than just growing muscles. We may all be different in many ways but each of us has conquered more than one fear in the presence of one another and I love seeing my friends conquer those fears. Whether it be slowly, bit by bit over time, or instantaneously by total annihilation.
Coach Zoe played soccer from middle school through high school, then participated in basketball, baseball, and track for several years in high school.
“I became a coach after about 3.5 years of CrossFitting. After recognizing what CrossFit had done for me and how it had made me a better and happier person, I wanted to help bring the same joy to others. I asked Fern if he was looking for any interns and the team took me under their wing.”
Gym Mom, Housekeeping, & Childcare Extraordinaire
Tracey Durbin is the amazing house mom here at CrossFit Rife. She makes sure that our children are all happy and well taken care of while WODs are in play, and that we all get hugs if we need them.
“As a parent, I am doing my best at trying to set a good example for my 2 girls. Having them see me and the other amazing women at Rife is very important to me. I want them to see us work hard, sweat, grow stronger and have fun being healthy. To surround yourself with women that empower you and not bring you down.”
Not only is Tracy a great mom to all of us, she was also a competitive swimmer, ran track, and became a Russian linguist for the US Air Force.
“I came to CF Rife after we moved back to the area. After years in a big gym doing bootcamp style classes and spin, I knew I was ready to try something different. I had also heard so much about the crossfit community and being new (again) to the area thought it would a great way to meet like minded people. To say I made new friends is an understatement. The athletes and their families have become family to me. I look forward to spending time with them in and out of the gym. I’ve been blessed to be a part of some major events in the lives of many of them from new babies, weddings, moves, and promotions. ”
Brenden McDaniel has been a CrossFitter since 2008 and started weightlifting four years ago. He now specializes in weightlifting, and loves helping people reach their goals. “I love seeing the look on their faces after a big lift, especially on the platform,” he says.
Growing up, Brenden played soccer, baseball, basketball, and track and field. “I started doing CrossFit for conditioning while I was doing Muay Thai and really liked it,” he says. “I went on to get my Level 1 in 2011. I became more interested in weightlifting and started coaching a few athletes. In 2015, I met Phil and the rest is history.”
A Virginia Beach Fire Fighter, Brenden enjoys relaxing with my family and friends when he’s not in the gym or at work.
His favorite inspirational quote: “There are some things we learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
– Willa Cather
Coach Jerrod Groves specializes in telling jokes nobody laughs at and helping people become better every day. “I love being able to interact with everyone and just have fun!” he says.
Jerrod was a five-sport athlete in high school and played college baseball for four years. Being active in sports kicked off his desire to help others. “It really all clicked for me when I first moved to Virginia Beach and began my CrossFit Rife journey as just an athlete,” he says. “I began to understand the culture around this place and how the coaches really take their abilities to help others to the next level. And I thought to myself, ‘That is something I want to learn and be a part of.’”
When Jerrod isn’t in the gym, he’s eating ice cream, playing a mean game of corn hole, and wrestling giraffes to the ground.
Coach Nicole Tsetsilas has been CrossFitting for five years and specializes in “special populations” like athletes recovering from injuries and kids.
Her biggest passion is people. “I’ve always worked with people,” she says. “Every job I’ve had I’ve approached as building a relationship with those around me. When you get to work with others, you learn so much and get to share in the best moments of people’s lives.”
Nicole found CrossFit during her first year of college, a time of tremendous change for her. “Working with the members gave me lots of life lessons,” she says. “Now I approach every class and individual as people who I can learn and grow with.”
Her favorite quote is “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” -Ann Landers
Youth Weightlifting Coach
Since becoming a certified personal trainer back in 2012, I have worked with a multitude of clients and athletes throughout my six years of experience. What began as merely a “job”has since developed into a resounding passion for training, both personally and professionally. In the fall of 2014, I became a USA Weightlifting (USAW) certified Sport Performance Coach. I was very fortunate to learn my introduction to Olympic Weightlifting through the tutelage of Mike Gattone, and became member of East Coast Gold Weightlifting and began competing in regional meets. I obtained my CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) through the NSCA in 2015.
The greatest thing a person can obtain is knowledge and I have an undeniable craving to learn and understand as much as possible. I take every opportunity given to allow myself to grow as a strength and conditioning coach, an Olympic Weightlifter, and as an ambassador to the sport. More recently, I obtained my USAW certified Advanced Sport Performance Coach, as well as, my Master of Science in Sport Management from Old Dominion University.
I am now a strength and conditioning coach at CrossFit Rife and Olympic Weightlifting coach for East Coast Gold Weightlifting, one of the most decorated and renowned national teams in the country. I am also responsible for their event planning and promotions; including their social media marketing, and development of their youth weightlifting program and curriculum. Along with my strength and conditioning career, this will be my fourth season as the Old Dominion University Dynasty Dance Team coach. I have also recently been named the social media coordinator for Direct Performance Physical Therapy.