Thursday, January 9, 2014

What I Learned in 2013

1) I Love My Job.  While it is considered a "job" by most standard definitions, it is really a vocation, a true life-long pursuit morphed into reality.  When ASF opened in 2006, it was typical to put in 12-14 hour days and not even think twice how exhausted I was.  I would catch myself just looking around at the empty building before I left each night thinking, "This is it.  I made it".  I still do that now :)
2) Mistakes Are A Good Thing.  I have made so many mistakes running a business, I should write a book.  But, if it weren't for those mistakes, there would be no ASF, and no fun in the learning process of recognizing and seizing opportunities.  I will make more today, tomorrow and next month, but the key is to capitalize on them before they become problems.  I absolutely think that kids should not only be allowed to make mistakes, but encouraged to embrace the process of screwing up, learning and growing.
3) A Great Staff Is Everything.  How many times do you tell the people in your life how important they are?  If you are like me, it is not often enough!  I have become better, but still have some work to do.  Caitlin, Brian and Dave mean the world to me and have allowed me to step away from coaching somewhat and do the boring business stuff.  They are not only a huge asset to ASF, but great friends as well.  I certainly can't forget the real "boss" of ASF, my wife Suzanne, who cooks the books!!
4) Glutamine.  The last few years, from October to February, I have been sick.  Last December I was out for 17 straight days.  I decided to start supplementing with Glutamine, an amino acid, to see if it would boost my immune system, one of its many properties.  So far, I have not been sick (rapping on my head aka "knocking on wood").  Is it a coincidence?  Maybe, but I am also not going to stop if it's working.  if you want a simple, inexpensive way to increase your immune system, give it a shot.
5) It's About You, Not Me.  The greatest part of coaching is making so many great, lasting relationships.  I have always thought of everyone at ASF as one extended family, who gets together to  sweat, laugh, cry and hang out together.  It is never about the coach, or the facility, for that matter, but how the coach can be the liaison that connects people to people.  So many trainers think it is about them, and how awesome they are.  While we know our sh*t, it is about YOU and what YOU want.  You deserve all the returns on your investment and we are happy to stand by your side, not in the front.
6) We Are Coaches, Not Trainers.  Coaches are teachers.  We live for educating and nurturing the process of learning.  There is a great Wooden saying:  "You haven't taught until they have learned."  It is written in our staff room.  Great coaches love the challenge of teaching anything and everything, from simple to complex.  Great coaches know the correct language to use, motivational tactics to employ and the fewest words necessary to get the point across.
7) It's About People, Not Just Results And Numbers.  Similar to #5, while results may start out as a number ("I want to lose 30 pounds" or "I want my vertical jump to increase 5 inches"), it comes down helping the person, not just the number.  At the end of the day, numbers will change, but true change happens within a person, not on a scale, a track, a barbell. 
8) My Backyard:  Pioneer Of ASF Training?  At the risk of sounding really old, backyard pick up games are an endangered species.  Everything I learned about speed, agility, strength, toughness, came from the backyard.  Being small necessitated I become fast, not getting tackled honed my cutting skills, and getting my face smashed when I was caught helped me to get tough.  Are (your) kids doing this on a regular basis?
9) Software And Hardware.  One of the great concepts in the book, The Sports Gene, is software and hardware of athletes, and really anyone.  To paraphrase, the hardware of your body - muscles, bones, tissue, etc - are the raw materials that you are dealt, with limited trainability.  The software - your brain, nervous system - can download new information all the time.  It is where the magic happens.  Some of it is intuitive (take your hand off a hot stove) while others take repeated efforts over time, say hitting a 90 mph fastball.  As coaches, what we disseminate to our kids and adults to download is where the true learning occurs, thus results can happen.
10) ASF Is A Training Facility, Not A Gym.  Gyms are everywhere.  There are a lot of great ones out there, serving a purpose.  For a monthly fee, you use their stuff and leave.  I like to think that ASF is more than "just" a place to train (like "Cheers" was not just another bar).  It can be daunting to compete with the $10/month clubs around town who have the latest sparkly new piece of equipment.  Our Core belief has been based around the big 3:  Relationships, Experience and Results.  If we can provide you a great Experience, build a powerful Relationship, Results are going to happen.  Does it always work that way?  No, but we will always make those principles a top priority.

Another year gone.  The more I learn about running a successful business, the more I realize I don't know anything!  Thank you for your support and for taking time to read this post.  I love you!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What the weight room taught me about life, and business

Three years ago, I wrote an article about how strength training has affected me since I started training almost 30 years ago (that is a good article to give some perspective on this one).   I received more feedback from that piece than any other article I have penned to date.  It seemed appropriate to dive into the same topic and list my top ten lessons that the weight room/lifting weights taught me:
  1. DISCIPLINE.  As a rebellious teen, I was searching for new ways to express my pent-up frustrations and lifting became my primary outlet.  I also was beginning to understand that true discipline means giving up things you enjoy so you can stay laser-focused on your Goals.
  2. STRUCTURE & ROUTINE.  There is nothing worse than going through each day (and life) without accomplishing matter how trivial.  Knowing that I had to train on a certain day meant that everything revolved around that hour:  eating, sleeping, preparing.  Without that structure, I would not have DISCIPLINE.
  3. SANCTUARY.  The sound of metal plates and barbells, loud music, obnoxious, human-like grunts and groans.  They are the sounds that I loved and made me feel at home.  No matter what was going on in the outside world, I knew that I was at peace in my own little corner of the gym.
  4. PERSEVERANCE.  No matter if I had a good or average training session, I was never content.  "The next time I train I will lift even more!"  Now that I look back, that may not have been the best mode of thinking but it is amazing how youth can influence your immortality.
  5. PHYSICAL IQ.  There are several forms of intellect - book smarts, street smarts, emotional, cognitive, etc. - and lifting weights can enhance those but it truly is a great way to increase your body awareness and physical expression.
  6. RELATIONSHIPS.  The meatheads in the gym were some of the most interesting characters I have ever met.  Some were guys who lifted, while others were immersed in the culture (drugs, supplements, competing, dysmorphia).  I loved all of them and we were a tribe of like-minded individuals who shared a common bond.  While I haven't trained for several years, I still keep in touch with many of them.
  7. INDIVIDUALISM. While this may seem to contradict #6, at the end of the day, lifting weights was a very solitary lifestyle, bordering on lonely.  Unless you were "one of us", it was viewed as abnormal, especially eating all the time!  While I like team sports, lifting/bodybuilding appealed  to my reclusive personality.  You are in control of 100% of your results and that accountability is hard to find in other training and team sports.
  8. GOAL SETTING/COMPETITION.  Every rep....Every minute of sleep....Every chicken breast.  They all mattered and moved you closer to a goal.  In my case, setting foot onstage in bodybuilding competitions.  Win or lose, it was a driving force that made all the Sacrifice worth it.
  9. RESPECT.  More often than not, I walked out of the gym with a mix of fatigue and accomplishment, but always respected the weights as if they were living things who had just "played" with me for an hour.  They were there for a purpose and I just was along for the ride.
  10. HUMILITY.  Similar to RESPECT, lifting weights can teach you a great deal about humility (if you remove your ego).  "So you want to deadlift 500?  How about you start with the 100 first?!"  It was always humbling to see others lift more than me.  Plus, I always remained humble no matter how much I was lifting or how well I placed in a competition.
There are probably more but these were the first ten that popped in my head.  The biggest message, however, is that all of the above have also helped shape my attitude toward owning a business.  I hope you enjoyed these and can apply some or all to your journey of lifting and training.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Youth Sports - by Mike Boyle

I have a favorite quote that is particularly applicable when it comes to training kids.

“prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child”

The reality is that you will not always be there to pave the way for your child, fix things, argue with coaches etc. etc. Kids will grow into adults and experience grumpy co-workers and mean bosses. Constantly insulating kids from difficult situations and consistently cleaning up the mess they create defeats the purpose of sport.

Sport is about learning to succeed and to fail, not just to succeed. Sports should primarily provide life lessons. If the life lesson learned from sport is that Mom and Dad can and will fix everything, later life will be difficult. If the lesson is that school is something you have to do but sports are what is really important than, be prepared for some really big problems down the road.

Youth sports has become all about success and scholarships instead of about learning and sportsmanship. I have some bad news for all the parents out there. Your child more than likely won’t get a scholarship. If he or she does get a scholarship, they probably won’t make the pros. I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, I’m just a realist.

I have more bad news. Those parents who consistently prepare the path for the child by confronting teachers and coaches, changing teams, changing leagues and changing schools are making life-long losers out of their children.

Remember the purpose of sport is to teach kids about success and about failure. The failure lessons may in fact be more important than the successes. Everyone wants their child to succeed, it’s universal, it’s part of being a parent. However, it is when we attempt to alter the normal path that we screw things up. Protecting your child from difficult situations only delays lessons that are very necessary. Failures experienced at twenty one are far more painful than those experienced at ten or twelve. You don’t do your child a service by protecting them, you do them a disservice.

Remember you are a parent. You are not a friend, a manager, or an agent. Your job is to help create a competent, capable adult, not a dysfunctional child.

My mother had a wonderful saying on our wall when I was a child. It said “Children learn What they Live”. The same one hangs in my kitchen now. If you consistently prepare the path for the child you postpone the inevitable. The key is value education. Teach your children what is really important. Teach hard work, commitment, loyalty and dedication.

The next time you make a decision involving your child’s sport or sports, ask yourself “Am I preparing the child for the path or the path for the child”. This simple step will guide your decision making every time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Archive Article - Why I Love My Job (October 2009)

Most of you reading this have been to ASF. You are an athlete, a coach, a parent, a boot camp killer. For those of you who have not, this still applies.
"Love what you do and you will never work another day in your life"....I forgot who originally said that, but it certainly holds true for me. Stick with me for a couple of minutes as I go over my personal reasons for doing what I may even agree with a couple that apply to your vocation.

1) I can't get it out of my system. The "it" I am referring to is athletics, sport, competition, physicality. I know the power of playing sports and the lessons that go along with it. Opening ASF allows me to give back to young athletes some of the same lessons that I learned growing up with sports as my platform.

2) I don't want to work for someone! Plain and simple. Call it any name: rebel, entrepreneur, leader, non-conformist. I want to do things the way I want to, when I want to and where I want to. It doesn't mean I will always do it right, but I am willing to learn from what I did wrong and correct it. I want to make mistakes because it empowers me to always do better. There is no worse way to go through life than to hate what you do and who you work for.

3) Kids make life interesting. Adults are pretty boring (sorry adults, but we are). Kids give me energy which I reciprocate. Kids make me think in new and creative ways.

4) I really, really want to make a difference in the lives of the people that I work with. It can be getting faster, stronger, quicker, but also more confident, more positive and mentally tough. I think that the initial reason that people come in isn't always the reason they continue.

5) When I wake up, I can't wait to get to work. When I am done, I don't want to leave. How many can say that?!
6) ASF has definitely taken on the personality of its owner…I am a little out there, as most of you have figured out. In order to survive as an island in a sea of mediocrity, I want ASF to be different and better.    I am pretty sure we are unlike any place in Greater Cincinnati, so we are definitely different.  I am always working on establishing ourselves as the best….that process never ends!

7) Every class I teach, every athlete I train, every Boot Camper I tortureJ, I also help myself in the process.  There is a symbiotic relationship with the giver and the receiver.  The more people that I help; the more people help me in return.  Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that, “You cannot help someone without also helping yourself in the process.”

8) Operating ASF has helped to satisfy my unyielding need to learn.  Some people are addicted to drugs, food, alcohol, etc., but my addiction is the attainment of knowledge.  Every thing I read, watch and listen to is directly shared with the athletes and adults at ASF.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why we play games at ASF

Games play a large role of what we do at ASF, so the staff compiled 13 reasons why we believe games are so important, for kids and adults. I am sure we missed some reasons so let us know what you would add...
  • Creates a fun and relaxed environment which builds a positive attitude, team building and excitement towards training.
  • Provides a dynamic warm-up; also wakes them up for a morning session!
  • Allows coaches to indirectly evaluate athletic performance of the athletes.
  • Breaks down barriers between coaches and athletes, as well as athletes to athletes.
  • Allows athletes to experience/practice various athletic skills without formal coaching.
  • Allows sport specific athletes to expand their overall athleticism.
  • Stresses fun and enjoyment (process) versus winning and losing (outcomes).
  •  Allows “free-range” playing versus structured playing; kids are in control rather than adults :)
  • Builds social skills, especially camaraderie, support systems, bonding and emotional coping skills.  Games are also a great way to introduce new kids into our program through unstructured play.  Who doesn’t need a few new friends in the process?!
  • Teaches problem-solving, strategy and nurturing an athlete’s “Physical IQ”.
  • “Organized chaos” can lead to long-term adaptations in other settings such as school and home life.
  • Kids can make the rules and thus, follow the rules; they start to find out their intrinsic value and leadership skills.
  • Experience the unadulterated joy of human movement.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

early specialization in sports by Mike Boyle

At some point a parent decided “why not just fast-track our kids right past Little League and Pop Warner and right into the Pros”. Parents in all sports felt they could follow the lead of Earl Woods ( Tiger’s dad)
or Richard Williams ( Venus and Serena’s dad) and just concentrate on one sport. I love to tell parent groups
that I speak to that for every Tiger Woods or Venus Williams there are probably 5000 kids who hate
sports and resent their parents for all the pressure. As a parent, ask yourself this question. Have you ever told
anyone “ I don’t push _(insert your child’s name)____ he/she really wants to do this?” The latest one to fuel the
early specialization fire is tennis star Maria Sharapova. The TV folks couldn’t wait to tell us at Wimbledon that
shehad been holed up in Fla since age 7.
Check out this quote from LA Lakers Coach Phil Jackson:
“40 million kids play sports, and most of them are between 7 and 12. By the time they are
13 more than 70 percent of them have stopped playing because it’s not fun anymore. All of a sudden when
kids get into junior high, we feel this need to have them become professionals, and the coaches
become professionals… The message I’d like to get out to them is to honor the game. The goal, or the victory
is important, but team sportsmanship, the athletic endeavor itself is just as important.”
One of the problems is that most team sports are what are called late specialization sports.This mean that
early concentration/ specialization has actually been shown to slow development rather than speed it up.
Historically the great players in team sports seem to hone their competitive instincts and develop their athleticism
in a number of sports and then begin to specialize in their teens. In addition early specialization
often leads to dysfunctional parent/ child relationships. The early search for the Holy Grail places undue pressure
on a young athlete who should be learning that sports are actually fun, not just about winning. Believe it or not,
kids play for fun and, will actually attempt to make the teams fair and encourage competition when
left to their own devices. Remember when you were a kid and the teams were uneven. You made trades to create
a competitive game. The thrill was competition, not winning. For many youth sport parents the idea
of fair teams is an anomaly. Stack the team. Get the best players. Annihilate the competition. Get a scholarship.
Make money. Lets look at the following examples:
Nomar Garciaparra ( Boston Red Sox)- played football, soccer and baseball in high school. He actually attempted to play football as a kicker while on a baseball scholarship at Georgia Tech
Mia Hamm ( All Time Leading scorer in US soccer history)-multi-sport star in high school
Kristine Lilly (Leads the World in International Soccer Appearances)-captained three sports at Wilton, Conn HS.
Brendan Shanhan ( Detroit Red Wings) outstanding Box Lacrosse player prior to entering the NHL.
Katie King- ( US Women’s Ice Hockey, two time Olympian, current Boston College Women’s Hockey head Coach) played both Ice Hockey and Softball at Brown University in Providence, R.I..
And the list could go on forever. Early specialization is a phenomenon created by self-interested and financially
motivated adults. It has little basis in fact and, the data seem to support the opposite. This is just
some parental food for thought. There is no evidence to support the theory that early specialization leads to
long-term success. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary as stated above. If you want your
child to be a great athlete, don’t focus on one sport, play a different sport each season. The people who
encourage early specialization are all people with a financial interest in your child playing
one sport year round. Those encouraging early specialization usually run the leagues, camps and skill
sessions and they fill the parents full of ideas that have no basis in fact. None of the
players mentioned above left home at 14 to go to prep school or, just played one sport from
age 6. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the result to change.
Maybe we should just try the way that worked in the first place?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Letter to my 13 year old self

It has been 30 years since I was a geeky, skinny 13 year old.  Here are 13 things I want him to know about life and sports…

·        It’s tough being a teenager; you will fail often and wonder, “Why me?” on a regular basis.  Those hard times will yield valuable lessons which will shape you, teach you, mold you, harden you into the adult you will become.
·        You will strike out a lot more than reach a base, miss more lay-ups than make, drop more passes than catch; you can fail, but you can’t give up.
·        You will likely try to fit in with others, to make them happy.  Guess what?  They need to fit in with you, not the other way around.  If those kids don’t like you for you, then hang out with kids who do.
·        Sports will teach you almost every lesson you need to know about life.  Books will fill in the gaps.
·        I get it:  Grown ups are weird and mean and dictators.  They are doing the best that they can, and care about you more than anyone else.
·        There will be moments - good and bad - on the field and court that you will never forget.  Cherish those.
·        You may not like your coaches and teachers, but the good ones will be remembered long after you are done playing for them.
·        Keep figuring out who you are all the time.  You will see different labels all over the school: Jock, geek, nerd, stoner, goth, bully.  Be your authentic self.  Forge your own path and never conform.
·        The cruelest kids are just as confused and helpless as everyone else, maybe more so.
·        The ironic twist is that you want to get older as fast as possible; that will reverse sooner than you think.  Have as much fun as possible.  Be. A. Kid.
·        You will do some stupid things in the next few years.  Actually you never stop doing stupid things.  You just become wiser and try to minimize the damage along the way.
·        Talent is overrated.  Some of the most talented kids will miss the rewards of hard work because everything comes easy to them.  You are talented, but that does not excuse you from working your butt off.
·        Believe in yourself.  In a few decades you will open a business where you will be working with a bunch of (you guessed it) 13 year olds teaching them how to be better athletes.  You will use the next 30 years worth of knowledge to “pay it forward”.  Maybe, just maybe, you can be a positive influence on a geeky, skinny 13 year old trying to figure stuff out.