Last week I spent some time talking about what my clinical education experience was like and some things that I have learned throughout. This week I want to talk more about pursuing my doctorate in physical therapy, training athletes, growing my business, and other aspects of life as I continue to try and make a difference in the community and set myself up for success in the future.
When I graduated from the University of Iowa I was uncertain as to whether or not I would make it into physical therapy school. I had just come off of an All-American season where we broke the school record in the 4x100 and got 12th place at nationals. Track was still fresh on my mind and all I could think about at night was speed, athletics, and what I would do while I was in limbo hoping and praying that a physical therapy program would deliver good news at any time. I received a call from a former coach of mine who wanted to know if I could work with his son to help his 40 yard dash for camp season that summer. While I had helped at a ton of Iowa Camps & Clinics, I had never considered the possibility of becoming an independent provider of speed & power training. The thought never crossed my mind that my knowledge could be valued and I could distribute it to help young athletes. I agreed to work with his son and they ended up driving over an hour to come and work with me. An hour!?! Somebody in the world thought I was worth an hour long drive to come and get an hour of training in?? Is he desperate, or is there a value here that I'm unaware of? This was hard for me to fathom and really got my gears turning as to the many things I could do with this. Never having conducted a one on one session before or having any idea how I would go about teaching him how to be fast, I fell back to what was natural for me: train him like a track athlete. It seems at first like a cop out, but then I realized that I’ve been developing under some of the best track & field coaches and strength & conditioning staff in the entire world. The experiences that I’ve had, the trials, the failures, the lessons, everything that I’ve ever done in the track world has been culminated into one singular individual, me. I could provide insight as to what I found works vs what hasn’t worked for me. I can share the mistakes I’ve made and circumvent them. I can instill the value of not only working hard, but working smart. I can break down video the same way that I had been breaking down my own and look for insufficiencies to correct. I had all the tools to create the perfect environment to develop a young athlete. It will be hard to establish myself as the best in the world, but I can continue to be a student of the art, teach it the best I can, learn from my mistakes, learn from my athletes, and could potentially make a legitimate name for myself. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyways), I fell in love with the process immediately.
Working with somebody who is so focused on becoming the best version of themselves is such a mix of emotions. On the one hand you’re nervous: at any moment, if I do something wrong, I could severely injure this athlete. That will poorly reflect on me and change the way I’m viewed by the entire performance community. On the other hand: what an opportunity to make a difference! Here is an athlete who was recently cleared to participate after tearing his ACL and I get to help him return to sport. The entire reason I got into physical therapy was because I tore my own ACL in high school and my physical therapists lit the fire under me that was necessary for me to continue working hard and overcoming the odds. So when this young man was walking up to me, having been in the exact same shoes I was just 6 years prior, everything had come full circle. So I found a passion in helping people, I got the opportunity to help someone, and I wanted to help more people. How can I do this? Where would I start? Do I turn this into a business or keep it a hobby? Does this count as building my resumé for PT school?
I had been really hoping that I would get into PT school at Iowa, but things didn’t work out the way I had dreamed. It turned out that I would be moving home. There were no athletes back home for me to train and I was running out of ways to grow. It was then that I received the phone call that changed my life. Washington University in St. Louis had called me and offered me admission into their program. The class which was previously full had a student drop (thank you whoever you are) and they needed to fill the seat. The catch was, school started two weeks from that phone call. What should I do? I had just started this new endeavor to help people, I hit a wall, and then would be moving to a brand new city. Do I close down my operation and focus on school? This city happened to be basically the population of my entire state and the market would be saturated in comparison. There would be tons of trainers in St. Louis, how would I ever make a name for myself? I don’t know anybody down there, all I know is that the city is dangerous. I decided to accept my one and only offer of admission and take the risk of going to STL.
Immediately, I had to multiply my debt. This is the number one program in the country, I’m pursuing my dreams, and dreams come at a price. I came to terms with that and pressed on. I’m in class from 8am-5pm Monday – Friday, just like a full time job. The difference is, when you’re off from a full time job, you’re off. With a doctoral level education, you sit in class all day and then have to go sit home all night and study the material because you’ve got 7 exams in the next 3-4 weeks. On top of that, I decided to take on a personal training job at a gym as well as continue to try growing this “business” that I loved so much to help keep my sanity and to help keep my debt at a minimum. These two jobs turned into four jobs as I accepted two positions to help fellow students in the physical therapy program. Pretty soon I was busy from the moment I woke up in the morning until the moment I fell asleep. I had to balance my academics with four jobs, problems at home, losing my father, being away from all family and friends, and growing my business independently. I was spread thin, but I felt like having the sense of urgency that everything had to be accomplished in a time crunch helped me to really dial in and thrive with everything I had going on. This is what collegiate athletics prepares you for. When you’re travelling 2-3 days per week, competing 2-3 days per week, and balancing a course load while you’re jet lagged.. you find a way to make it work and this was the stress I needed to make my course load work. You see, even with 8 doctoral level science courses, I felt like I had too much time. So I also began training myself to compete in the spring because I missed track & field so much. I willingly chose to add all of these extra stressors, though destroying any social life I could’ve hoped to have. This was the necessary evil I needed to succeed and focus on what was important.
When it came to marketing, I wasn’t sure what to do or how to do it, so I looked up some of the highest ranked athletes in St. Louis and messaged them to decide whether what I had to offer was even going to be something people were seeking out in the area. If you’ve got a business based around a skill that nobody else cares to seek out, well then you don’t have a business. I quickly found out that there was nothing in the area remotely like what I had to offer. There were facilities with treadmill training, VertiMax, trainers who claimed they were speed trainers but hurting athletes, and much much more. It was at this moment I saw an opportunity to really change the landscape in the area and I envisioned myself creating an empire in the city. I wanted the world, but I first needed to find a way to capture the St. Louis. How could I build an empire with such limited time and no idea how to build it? The answer is quite simple: just start building. Build when you can, however you can, and lay each brick as neatly and perfectly as possible, slowly but surely. Give everybody an experience they can’t get anywhere else. Build meaningful relationships and invest yourself in the person, not in the money. My ultimate goal was to help the community by all means necessary. By putting people first and money last, I was able to reach a wide variety of athletes immediately. Some came for one session, some never came but I developed great relationships with, others came once or twice a week so long as we could schedule around my exams and class time. We also had to make sure that it worked with their commitments and scheduling. Even a one hour session can be tedious at times due to how involved some of these athletes can be. Initially the growth was extremely slow, but you know what they say: Slow and steady wins the race.
A coach in the area bought in to what I was all about and got fully behind what I was doing. His referrals and recommendations were essentially the floodgates opening for my potential outreach and ceiling. Pretty soon I was getting not only high school athletes, but high level collegiate athletes as well. Once I began working with these athletes, they got results, they enjoyed the experience, and came back with friends. Football dads were talking with one another and more athletes came. Coaches and athletic directors from several local high schools were messaging me about working with this athlete, that athlete, etc. It got to the point that other facilities were hearing the athletes rave about their speed training experience and they started to inquire about potential partnerships, employment opportunities, and things beyond what I had ever envisioned for year two in St. Louis. Somehow, a kid with no business experience outside of Rollercoaster Tycoon was able to go from being a nobody to at least a rumored name in various parts of the football community. I was totally floored by each opportunity that arose and was not sure what to say other than a quote that I’ve stuck true to for most of my life and a quote a local coach engrains in all of his athletes “KEEP WORKING, YOU AIN’T DONE NOTHING BUT YOUR JOB”. It helps me stay humble, stay hungry, and continue to attack each day because there is always the next step in what I can do. Started out with high schoolers, have had great success with several collegians, and it has always been a dream of mine to help professional athletes. Since my athletic career has been hampered by injuries and I never had the opportunity to go pro, I would like to make my mark on professional athletics another way and I feel that my speed training will eventually take me there. When the XFL team comes to St. Louis I will be making my case as to why I’m fit to work with them, and if I get that opportunity, there is no telling where things will go.
Here are the big messages I want you to take away from this installment:
Similar to last week, if you found this helpful or an enjoyable read, please like, share, retweet, etc. I enjoy reading your feedback so feel free to leave comments as well so that I can continue to put out high quality content in the future. Thank you for your time and thank you for reading,