The South Squatober Challenge 


Coach Eve-Esh leads a class in squats for Squatober.

Emily Strom, Staff Writer

Middletown South is participating in Squatober, a physical challenge to do daily squats, brought to our school by strength and conditioning coach Zach Even-Esh. One of his friends started this challenge a few years ago, where he posted it to Instagram and it blew up with the hashtag #Squatober. Now, thousands of people from all over are partaking in this challenge. Coach Even-Esh wanted to incorporate this challenge with the athletes he trains after school as well as his two phys-ed classes. He also decided to turn this into a fundraiser to benefit people outside of our community. 

“Since 2007, I began doing an annual fundraiser at my gym [The Underground Strength Gym]. I called it Lift Strong,” said Even-Esh. “In the beginning, the fundraiser would always benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society because a mentor of mine from the early 2000s mentored me while he was battling Stage IV Leukemia. He actually never told me he had Leukemia yet he spent hours every week with me teaching me how to take my Strength & Conditioning business from a garage to a warehouse and into a real business. I kept telling him, ‘I have to pay you back!’ He replied, ‘Don’t pay me back, just pay it forward.’ Well, three weeks after opening my gym, I held the first ever fundraiser, Lift Strong. I did this fundraiser every year, until Covid-19 [hit].
“Around 9 years ago, after opening a second location for my gym, I decided to pair the donations with a cancer foundation and also a military foundation. Around 2009, I had two former Navy Seals come to my gym and go through a certification I created for Strength Coaches. We became very close friends and I began writing about training Special Forces soldiers. My writing caught the attention of Special Forces soldiers all around the world and I began helping them with their training. After reading books like Lone Survivor and No Easy Day, I started pairing my fundraiser for cancer with various Navy Seal foundations. Not doing the fundraiser last year due to Covid actually bothered me a lot.”

He knew it could not end here. That’s when he thought of bringing a similar challenge/fundraiser to Middletown South. 

“I wanted to share my idea with Mr. Olausen and Mr. Rasmussen because I knew that if I simply shared the idea, I would now be responsible for making it happen! They both loved the idea and so I was on the hook to make it happen. I called a friend of mine who is a former Navy Seal and told him about the idea and that I needed help finding a non profit. He put me in touch with The Navy Seals Fund which is run entirely by volunteers, so 99% of the funds raised go directly to former seals or their families.” 

Students have been asking their friends and family for donations, and at the end of October, they will be collected to go towards the Navy Seals Fund. Coach Even-Esh is also tracking everyone he trains after school and his two phys-ed classes on a collective Google Sheet to see who has the most total reps at the end of the month.

By bringing the Squatober challenge to South, Even-Esh hopes students will be inspired to pay it forward and do more for others during this month and beyond. 

There is a powerful inspiration when you take the focus off yourself and do something for others who can never return the favor to you,” he said.