EAST VILLAGE — When one of his girls soccer players told Neil Curran he was the male version of Holly Palin, he couldn't argue.
Curran, the boys and girls soccer head coach at Francis W. Parker School for 10 years, considers himself "really ambitious with a caring, sensitive side and a toughness that goes along with it."
He said Palin, Parker's field hockey head coach since 2010, shares the same qualities.
"We have a lot of the same aspirations," said Curran, who opened CrossFit CE gym in East Village with Palin on Jan. 7. "We're cut from the same cloth."
Palin, of the West Loop, said CrossFit CE represents the natural progression in her friendship and work relationship with Curran. When they met four years ago on Parker's athletic field, the duo immediately recognized their similar backgrounds, interests and dreams.
"For us, what really makes us feel proud or accomplished is making a positive impact on adults," said Palin, who turns 30 on Feb. 13. "We want to make a difference in people's lives."
Palin, who was on the field hockey and basketball teams at Northwestern, comes from an extremely sports-devoted family. Her father, Drew, played football at Stanford, where her mother, Alice Read, was on the varsity field hockey club.
She has four brothers, and all of them either competed or currently letter for their school's football squads. Her 94-year-old grandmother, Marion Read, was on the field hockey, basketball, baseball, swimming and tennis teams at Bryn Mawr College.
Palin has a bachelor's and master's from the Evanston school and worked in marketing for several years before realizing she needed to return to athletics.
"I was sitting at my desk and knew that was not going to make me fulfilled," Palin said.
Curran, 43, of Uptown, is a former starting goalkeeper for Valparaiso University and a longtime personal trainer and sports psychologist. He strongly believes his and Palin's passion for athletics and helping people will turn CrossFit CE into a bona fide winner.
The gym, 1709 W. Chicago Ave., shares 16,000 square feet with Reach boxing, which opened in September. The co-owners teach 24 classes of CrossFit, which Palin described as "functional movements that are constantly varied, executed at high intensity, but scalable and adaptable to all," each week.
"What's great about CrossFit is an Olympic athlete and your grandmother could be working in the same class," Palin said. "And it's a gender-neutral sport, where you have men and women in the same class, working together."
Registering for unlimited classes costs $205 a month, while three classes per week on a monthly basis will set customers back $175. Palin noted teachers and emergency medical service workers will receive discounts.
As of Thursday, the business had just five full-time clients. Palin hopes to have 75 by the end of 2014; Curran is gunning for at least 120.
"I think I can get a little more aspirational; she can get a little more pragmatic," Curran said. "It helps to have that balance."
For more information on CrossFit CE, visit crossfitce.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.