June of 2016 marks our ten year anniversary. It is mind-blowing, at least to me, that ASF has been open for that long. It seems fitting to wax poetic what has happened over that time.
While it may put you to sleep, here is the genesis of ASF, starting circa 1985…
Sports are, and were, a big part of my life. I played everything I could and turned out to be a pretty good athlete during my developing years. I was very thin and the “springy” kid in the neighborhood games who could out-run most. Running away from the bigger kids was my introduction to “speed training”. However, because I played so much and ate so little, I was usually the lightest kid around. Fast forward to my junior year in high school and everything changed: I was introduced to the high school weight room via a gym class. I was instantly hooked. I subscribed to every muscle magazine around; it was, after all, the early version of the internet. All of my early training knowledge came from those glossy articles and photos. I swallowed pills, pre-workout-100-grams-of-carbs drinks, ate super clean foods and trained every day for hours. If I wasn’t at the high school weight room, it was in my basement throwing around sand-filled weights, while my mother would tell me to turn down hair metal blaring from my ghetto blaster! I would literally hit the speed bag until my knuckles bled.
It was at this time that I decided to stop playing organized sports during my senior year and go into powerlifting exclusively. I now had a purpose: Get on the team and compete. However, the guys in front of me in the 125 pound weight class were stronger and I never received a chance. I decided to still train for a solid year and ended up with a bench of twice bodyweight, and a squat and deadlift around 3x bodyweight, while still 125 pounds soaking wet. That experience started to give me the tools that would later transform into business. I captured some of those tools a few years back.
My power lifting phase was short lived as I was finally putting on some muscle and liked that style of training even more than pure strength training. I never planned to compete in bodybuilding until someone at the Miami University weight room asked me to compete in their annual show. From 1990 to 2005, I competed in 17 shows and did very well. I had also been training people at World Gym during that same time. It was more than a hobby, it was my career and my passion. At some point, I was training several kids of the parents I was helping and even helped a start-up that focused on Sports Performance. Everything had come full-circle: The skinny athlete was now training…skinny athletes! It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The last phase before ASF was born included the demise of the aforementioned start-up facility which lead me to a search for local real estate and/or buildings. I just happened to be driving by Liberty Court and noticed what would become ASF. It was literally just being excavated and I took a chance. Was it luck? Maybe. It seemed my whole life had lead to this one opportunity. It took a while but I was building something from the ground up, not just a facility, not just a business, but a community; I was also in for a big surprise, some of which I will elaborate on below.
- PASSIONATE. ALTRUISTIC. SELFLESS. Those are just three descriptions of what makes a great coach. I came into the business world with a training background, with little prior business acumen. Looking back, I was an average trainer. When I started training people in 1989, there was so little information available that you had to figure it out on your own. It took several years to realize how much I DIDN’T KNOW, let alone accrue what I did know. This profession is so new that if you are not constantly learning and re-inventing your knowledge base and training methods, you get left behind. On a side note, the word passion get used often; it means different things to different people. My take on it is that Passion is the marriage of love and anger. I use each emotion often, but combining them creates another energy source entirely.
- Feeding off number one, CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT is a tool that I have used more than ever. Just the desire to get better is almost as important as what you do to get better. A Japanese concept, kaizen, perfectly embodies the grind of growth. In the book Legacy, the New Zealand All Blacks rugby club changed their whole culture to be one of the most dominant sports teams in history by adopting this model of behavior. I have used the phrase When your good enough isn’t good enough for years to motivate our coaches to keep getting better; that includes myself. It can just be a percent difference from last week, month or even last year. I made a quick video in a hotel room a few months ago and Neil wrote a blog on it. Think about how much better you could be by improving several things just 1%?!
- When I was just starting out in the 1990’s and even in the first few years of ASF, I mistakenly believed that the more knowledge I accrued, the better our business would become. While I still have a thirst for training and science information, I now know that this is a relationship business more than anything. I cannot believe how many close relationships have been forged within these four walls.When my mindset shifted to that idea, ASF really took off. There was also a shift in our culture that was directly related to that notion, although I am not sure which came first. Being an avid reader, only about 20% of my reading list comprises training/science specific material, with the other 80% devoted to business, philosophy and leadership.
- When I married my wonderful wife, I thought that journey was tough; when our daughter came into our lives, I thought that was tougher; but when I went into business, THAT was tough. I have made so many mistakes, I lost count. But…those mistakes have been invaluable in shaping the short and long term future that you see now.
- While my business acumen and our margins have improved over the years, my true currency is the effect that I have on others. Living a purpose-driven life has opened up my eyes that each day is a chance to help as many people as possible in as many ways as possible as often as possible. In other words, leaving a legacy. More on that later.
- Most successful people that I know have had help along the way. It is the same process why you may hire a trainer/coach to help you reach your fitness and/or performance goals. If it was easy, everyone would do it on their own and see results. ASF opened in 2006 and was on a great trajectory until the recession took that momentum away. There were lean times and I contemplated whether to stay open. It was around that time that I became more involved with a group of business coaches out of Louisville called the Fitness Consulting Group and even became a licensee of one of their businesses, Fitness Revolution. Now I have peers who share victories and struggles, instead of feeling like a solo act on an island. On a similar note, the coaches that have been, and are, at ASF are able to experience personal and professional growth, fulfilling the cycle of coaches helping coaches.
- The highs are HIGH and the lows are LOW. Business is a mirror of life in general. If you celebrate the good times too much, or lose your mind during the low times, you will go insane. The struggles that I have experienced as a business owner supersede everything else combined. Luckily, I can lean on the ASF coaches that grind it out everyday to my peers all over the country to my family. The two biggest allies that keep me grounded are the books that I read and the fellow owners that I can use as a sounding board. All of us have taken several rides on this emotional rollercoaster and lived to tell about it.
- Mindset determines everything. Feeding off number seven, if negative thoughts creep into my head, which they do, I have to be aware of them before they manifest into a permanent way of thinking. I have this flow chart on my desk that I look at daily:
LIFE —> MINDSET —> THOUGHTS —> BEHAVIORS —> HABITS —> PERFORMANCE —> LIFE
Every seed planted in the mind can determine the events that follow. It is amazing when life gets heavy, just thinking a certain way can change your perspective. It seems simple, but it is not easy. I also have this quote next to me right now that makes me realize that there is always another sunrise to get another chance…
- I really feel that Coaching is one of the best jobs in the world. The impact that we can have, especially for young kids, is the primary driver that gets us out of bed each day. In a way, we have a lot in common with academic teaching: Kids go through the system of kindergarten through high school/college, gaining knowledge and improvements along the way. While our classroom may be more on a field, court, diamond, track or pool, the process is exactly the same. I mentioned this before, but our currency is the ability to change someone, to impact someone, and in some cases, to save someone. I have had three people in the last two years say, “You saved my life.” That is not to brag but to illustrate the power that we potentially have.
- At the end of the day, people will not remember what you said, or even how you said it, but they will remember how you made them feel. When a true connection happens with someone, on a deep level, that is a catalyst for change, a direction on their compass they did not know existed or did not know how to navigate. If it a smile from a shy 10 year old, a belly laugh from an awkward teenager, an intense conversation with an 18 year old or a heart to heart with a 40 year old having a rough time, we have a duty as a coach to be there for them, even if just to listen. The answer may be on the surface, or we may need to peel back some layers, but it is in our DNA to help people. It is part of our Core Values. Giving of ourselves also gives us back something: “Service for others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth” (Muhammad Ali). Our legacy as coaches is not how much money we make, not how many initials/credentials that we have after our name, not how many wins we accrue; it is the magnitude and culmination of the effect that we have on people. We are the liaisons for where they are, and where they want to be, either in sports, business or life.
At times, it feels like coaching chose me, versus me choosing it. I can’t imagine what I would be doing if this opportunity had not presented itself decades ago. It has given me a purpose for existing.
Thank you for reading.