Life is an evolutionary journey. From the very literal sense of genetic mutations that may or may not really matter, to just how our lives & generations progress. I have always been held captive to progress.
I love seeing things grow. As a child - even still as an adult - I like to watch plants grow. Seeing how a seed opens up and turns into a fully grown plant is fascinating. Making connections about what lasted in the full grown plant from the seedling is satisfying. I enjoy hearing people's stories of who they were and how they became who I am talking to.
It’s even cooler to witness it.
Enter - coaching.
As I approach my 30th birthday in a couple of weeks, I have been reflecting much. Most years are like this, especially since it’s so close to the new year but 30 is different - though I can’t tell you exactly why. Year beginnings always bring me back to this “why”. Why do I do what I do? A question you should certainly ask yourself on occasion.
Well, here’s a glance at my life story for you that led me here.
I love helping guide people to better states of being. Offering insight that helps people get from where they are, to where they want to be is an enjoyable puzzle. Helping others navigate their blindspots & be able to see what it was that they could not see…and even better, guide them to see what it was they did not know, that they could not see - a mouthful, I know - fills me with joy and a sense of purpose.
Sports, namely track & field, helped keep me grounded. I’ll never forget my first time on a track: 7th grade, September of 2004, a friend, Richie, invited me to a cross country practice that was at the high school track. I went in jeans.
During the workout I ran a 1:14 in the 400 on the first rep of the workout. The coach said it was a good time and that I should do track in the spring. All of those years of chasing buses because I was perpetually late (something I’m sadly still working on 17 years later) & racing kids in the neighborhood paid off. I had a blast during that cross country season and finally became “an athlete”. I never played an organized sport before that. I had abs and muscle cuts on my barely 5ft 90lb frame from XC that fall.
Fast forward over the next 6 years: I moved 8 times, with 6 different people, going to 4 new schools, and running for 3 different track teams. Foster care (when you are removed from your parent’s home and then live with others) was one of the least pleasant experiences of my life to say the least. Track helped me keep it all together as 400m is 400m no matter where you go.
Except those goofy schools that use 300m tracks. No bueno.
I had really 2 positively memorable coaches in my life amidst all of these different schools and teams and sports I played. They are etched in my heart for different reasons.
Coach Hodge from my 10th grade year at Woodland Hills helped me breakout as a decent runner. I learned about training, form, and also gained some body awareness. He gave me confidence I could be good and instilled a sense of hard work in me. Tavahn and I would stay long at practice. The experience was so profound I continued a failed living arrangement because I wanted to run for him again. I improved dramatically that season, walking in wondering if I was the antithesis of fast (9th grade at Penn Hills killed my confidence), to winning medals at invitationals and making relays.
Coach Chuck, who was my club coach my last 2 years, broadened my mind about the sport overall, taught me how to work on my own, and instilled a sense of leadership as I was an older kid on the team. My last 2 high school coaches at Wilkinsburg were - just not for me - I’ll leave it there. Chuck’s practices actually helped me get better. It resulted in my spring track seasons being “meh” but my summers being really good. Chuck made me feel comfortable, a feeling I look back and realize I was rarely afforded as a teenager.
I would catch a bus to Oakland from Wilkinsburg to then go and run a mile to practice (Carnegie Library to Schenley Oval) 3x/week. Often Chuck or his mom would take me home, sometimes not and I’d do it in reverse - no problem. The grace that family showed me is out of the scope of this, but it was tremendous. I’d be at track meets helping set up the meet since I had to ride with him and he was one of the first people there.
Coach Hodge helped me love track. Coach Chuck helped me love coaching.
My last true foster home was with a close friend & teammate of mine. After that first summer with River City in 2009, Chuck helped spur me to realize the value of going to the gym for track and paying attention to the workouts I was doing and how they helped.
So I began coaching Tavahn and I on the track. And I would go to an apartment gym where my cousin lived and lift.
I hit a personal best my first meet my senior year in 2010 after spending my 11th grade season running slower than all of my 10th grade year.
On top of that, my senior year coach was a long distance runner who had a knack for driving too fast & making us sprinters workout on the trails of Frick Park. We got in a car accident once. Ugh. So I “coached” the sprinters, aka I just used Coach Chuck’s workouts. I had the demeanor and experience so she let me do it as she knew her limits.
I ran personal bests in my main races despite only sparingly being able to practice on a track. Usually during my 2nd practice of the day with Chuck, which didn’t start until like April. I also took on the mile, 2 mile, and discus.
Because why not. Actually, I was a tiny bit of a diva maybe, as I refused to sprint in the cold rain and chose to do the mile and 2 mile. Not a choice most sprinters make.
I placed top 5 in both races at that duel meet.
Somehow, I made it to WPIAL championships that spring in the 300m hurdles, though after tripping over 2 hurdles and still running a personal best, I failed to make states. I cried really hard that night. It’s a moment I can’t redeem, and slightly bothers me 12 years later.
Over the course of my senior year, I had a revelation: While I was not the most blessed athlete, better coaching would have helped me rise to higher heights. And I wanted to be someone who could help answer the questions athletes had and give them the guidance they needed to perform. I wondered how many other talented athletes with potential never attain it and end up disappointed due to coaching opportunities.
In my 2 phases of having good coaching, I ran my best and was competitive. My summer after graduation I ran 58 seconds in the 400m hurdles under Chuck which bested all of my college times that would’ve qualified me for conference championships in college. College track is a different conversation for another time.
Having been given consistent training, I believe I would have fared much better as a youth. Unlike our athletes at GHP who train year round, I did not have that opportunity or knowledge. And my life was a bit chaotic during certain points to support that.
I realized at 18, I could be good at it as I began to learn how the body responded to training as well as the emotional and mental components that go into performance. I enjoyed sports, especially track and field.
The struggle of my youth taught me that I needed to learn to be good at something soon if I wasn’t going to end up poor and frustrated with myself as an adult, as I had too often seen.
Though I got to see how happy people seemed to be who were good at things they enjoyed doing.
I also valued being useful in some meaningful way to people. Being a polite stranger giving directions was nice, but better was being more profoundly pleasing.
Admittedly, I can’t really tell you how much of that I really understood at 18. My adult cousin, who saved me from many embarrassing, frustrating, and quasi-legal situations, talked much about being of service. His words meant something to me.
Which then led me to researching careers in sports. Physical therapy caught my attention.
Then the idea came: I want to open a PT clinic and have a gym on the side. A PT clinic because well, PT salaries are good and I had no real idea what a personal trainer was.
Soon after I left for college to study exercise science, learned what strength and conditioning was, and then got one of my earliest coaching experiences: coaching hurdles for Coach Chuck.
Thanks for checking out the story of my becoming a coach. I’d love to know why you do what you do?
Now starting the business, well, that’s a different storyline. Stay tuned. I’ll share that next.