On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, the knowledge you are about to receive! That sounded pretty good for an amateur. Admit it, I know you were singing along. As we are getting nearer to Christmas, we start to think about life and big picture stuff, things we are thankful for, things we want to do, and the better person we want to become. In this article, I want to name the 12 things that I have learned or changed me for the better over the last 25 years as a strength coach. These are the things that have changed me and helped me on my path. Hope you enjoy…


1. My wife

As I tell my assistants all the time, make sure you marry the right one. This profession is not for anyone who wants an Instagram picture-perfect scene. This job has a ton of highs and lows with a lot of things out of your control that will also control your life. You can lose a job for losing, and you could lose a job for winning and everything in-between. You have to find someone who is strong enough to hold you and your family intact no matter what happens and will give you a break from all the bullshit we face on a daily basis. May not need it now – but you will.


2. My kids

The greatest thing in the world, not just for the joy they bring, but they help to keep you grounded. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to go John Wick on a player or head coach, and picturing my kids’ faces made me realize I can’t lose my job today. I have to be able to provide and care for them. Not today, John. Not today.

RECENT: The Difference Between Winning and Maintaining a Winning Team


3. The strength coaches who came before us

I cannot put into words the help, kindness, and guidance from people whom I did not know who helped me when I throughout my career. I still remember sending Brad Roll, who was the strength coach for the University of Miami when they were rolling a $10 check for their program when I was working at a high school. I can tell you that was the best $10 I ever spent. This and many others who took the time to help a nobody just because he was part of the brotherhood. Something we should all emulate and strive for. We are all in this together.


4. Energy in bottles or cans

Nothing’s better than cardio in a can, which is the reason I have not had to run in 20 years! And energy aminos. Energy drinks mixed with amino acids in various delicious flavors!? Ninety-five percent of the time, it works all the time. Science.


5. The players

To all the players I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 25 years, I salute you. You are the reason I have not truly worked a day in my life. I couldn’t care less how good or bad of a player you are or were; it’s the crazy in-between times outside of the weight room I will always remember. The crazy conversations on the sidelines, buses, or team meals are priceless. Best part of the job. Never take your players for granted – this is why you do what you do!


6. My strength coach

Ken Fantano was the most influential person in my life. He took a hard-headed 17-year-old kid and taught him that hard work, commitment, and attention to detail are great traits to have. It is OK to miss this or that if it gets in the way of a goal. If it is time to train, it is time to train. I will never forget we always squatted on Sundays, and on one Saturday, Ken was fishing all day and got sunburned really bad on his back and neck. Instead of waiting a few days, he just got under the bar and started squatting. Tears were coming out of his eyes because of the pain of the weight on his sunburn, but if we had to lift, we had to lift, and that’s the way it was. I could write a book on what he taught me. The best advice is to find a mentor and never take them for granted. Somewhere down your coaching road, you will be in a situation and will know exactly what to do because of what they taught you.


7. Training partners

The gift that keeps on giving. I can be completely honest: I would not have enjoyed the last 25 years in this profession without them. The ability to push each other was worth its weight in gold. If you felt like slacking or taking a day off – nope – not going to happen. Training partner feeling their oats – gotta show them what the top of the food chain is all about. Stronger than you – gotta find a way to beat them. The constant mind games, camaraderie, and competition made me a better lifter, person, and coach. Kept our sanity, gave us something to control in this crazy profession. Also, who the hell else is going to load all those plates? Thank you all.


8. Staff

I have learned from all of them, from interns all way up to my number one. All had different strengths and weaknesses, and some added to the situations while others took away. I learned that if you have staff members whom you trust and who will work their balls off for you, you’d better find a way to keep them and look out for them as much as you can. In this profession especially, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. Get and hold onto the good ones. Trust them to do their jobs, and reward them whenever you can. It is way too hard and boring to do it without them.

 MORE: How to Keep Clients Longer


9. iTunes and Spotify

I remember when you had to buy the whole album or wait while listening to the radio to tape your favorite song. Now it is press a button and go. Beautiful.


10. Coaches

I have worked with some good ones and some bad ones and have learned from them all.  From some, I have learned what to do; and others, what not to do. Your situation does not matter. You must always learn from whom you are working with or for. I remember seeing things as an assistant and saying to myself, “Why in the world is he doing that?” Then a few years later while running my own program, I’d find myself in that same situation and say, “Oh, that’s why he did that.” Live and learn.


11. Head Coaches/ADs

I want to thank them all for the opportunities they have given me to work with their programs. It takes an awful lot for a coach to find someone to trust and do the job, especially someone who does not know them very well. I want all of them to know I did my very best for them and their players. Thank you for the opportunity.


12. Friendly’s Jubilee Roll

A Christmas tradition like no other. Delicious.

Happy holidays!

Image credit:  Basheera Hassanali ©