No Man Is an Island: Recognizing Those Who Have Inspired Me

TAGS: Corinne Mann, Michael Yessis, Marybeth Brown, Steve Sayers, John Thyfault, Jerry Mayhew, Alex Waigandt, Robb Rogers, Pat Ivey, thankful, Rick Perry, scott caulfield, Bryan Mann, Yosef Johnson, Buddy Morris, Louie Simmons, tom myslinski, dave tate

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No person has gotten to where they are without the help of others. No man is an island. No matter how bad a person wants to be a self-made individual and pick themselves up by the bootstraps, there are people who have helped you along the way. There are so many people who have helped me get to where I am today, in roles as teachers and similar, and so many that I need to thank for the impact that they have had on my life.

Rick Perry

At one point, I was a student sitting on campus hungover and studying for a test in a sleeveless shirt. I happened to have a friend on the football team and he stopped to talk to me, and then Rick Perry walked up and started talking to my friend. He introduced me and said, “You’re kind of jacked, you know that?” Before I could say anything, my friend said, “Yeah, he’s a pretty big time powerlifter.” Rick said, “No shit, want a job? I can’t pay you anything, but I could use some help.” I closed my notes and went up to that weight room in Plaster Sports Complex and the rest is history. Rick encouraged me to think, to read, and to do things my own way. If he wouldn’t have been such a positive force in my life at that time, I wouldn’t be who I am in this field today. He paid for me to go to conferences, took me on trips to visit other weight rooms, and taught me how to network.


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Robb Rogers

This is the man who started it all. Some days I want to give him a hug and some days I want to punch him in the nuts. When I was 13 years old, there was a strength and conditioning clinic hosted at Southwest Missouri State University. I had already started lifting weights the previous year to get bigger and stronger to make people quit picking on me due to my birthmark. I had the nerve to go up to Robb Rogers during the clinic and ask if there were any books or other resources I could get to learn more about the science of training. The book that came to his mind was EJ “Doc” Kreis' book Speed-Strength Training for Football. I went to the local bookstore and had them order it for me (kids: there was no amazon, let alone online back in 1992) and devoured it. I was lit on fire by this man who had worked at Missouri, USC, the NHL, yet still took the time to talk to some 13-year-old punk kid about the profession.

Louie Simmons

Rick did some Westside Barbell style training, and when you want to learn something, you should always go to the innovator. For one spring break, we decided to make a trip over to Ohio to see Louie Simmons and then go up to the Cleveland Browns to meet with someone else. At this time I was heavy into powerlifting and was pretty strong. I’m writing this after a whirlwind tour of meeting with people and am just too fried out to remember what my numbers were 15 or more years ago, but I know that I was doing about three meets a year at this point.

We went into Westside, and trained with the guys both morning and afternoon and ate a lot of Bob Evans with Lou. He encouraged us, and thought it was great we were busting our ass. I was embarrassingly humbled by George Halbert on floor press. I didn’t make it to the weight that he started adding chains to go get his one-rep max for max effort that day. My max was the end of his warm-up, and I weighed a good 50 pounds more than him. Lou told us everything he knew, and gave us ideas. Some people love Louie; some hate him. I completely understand this, as he is a divisive person with his views on training, competition, and life choices. (A famous Louie statement is “Your morals are your morals, not mine.”) Louie has tried stuff with the strongest lifters on the planet, and any time you are forced with having people who are at the margins of what is humanly possible, you learn a lot. Louie has always been open with his information and open to me bouncing ideas off of him. I couldn’t thank him more for that.

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Buddy Morris and Tom Myslinski

On the same visit to Westside Barbell, Rick and I went up to Cleveland to meet with Buddy Morris and Tom Myslinski. We had heard that he had implemented some Westside Barbell techniques into his training and we wanted to come find out how he was applying it towards sport. Buddy was very innovative, and I believe they were already turned on to the OmegaWave during that trip. They examined training in a completely different manner and looked at training as stress, which was cumulative rather than being just the weight room stress. They looked at training multiple qualities that were complementary. They looked at using sprinting to develop the aerobic energy system and tempo work. They looked at medicine balls and jumping to develop power over Olympic lifts.

Tom and I started talking various books during that meeting, and he led me to some new ways of thinking. There is a story Buddy likes telling about me, in what has been known as “The Infamous Sky Bar Incident.” In 2005 at the CSCCa, Buddy was one of the featured speakers. I was at Missouri at this time and went to this conference and stuck in his hip pocket. Buddy and Tom were going to this place called the Sky Bar and invited me along. At the time I was a graduate assistant being invited to go sit with two NFL strength coaches, so of course I said yes. I thought that they may turn the conversation to training and I wanted to make sure to be able to take notes. I found a stack of napkins in my hotel before I left and brought them as well as the pen from my hotel room (my room mate took the note pad to take notes during the conference before you ask). As soon as the talk turned to training, I whipped out the napkins and pen and Buddy nearly shit a chicken laughing. He always says, “Do you know what this dude did? He brought in napkins to take notes and whipped them out and set them on the bar and went to writing.”

Buddy and Tom, I don’t know if you’re reading this, but I still have those notes. The napkin started to fall apart so I transcribed them on my home computer. They are still two men that I hold in high regard and call when I have a question.

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In 2003, I had to do an internship to graduate with my bachelor’s degree. I had family out in Phoenix, Arizona and my boss had gotten to visit with Joe Kenn, as they were both up for college strength coach of the year. Rick talked to him and House agreed to take me on as an intern. I was young, arrogant, brazen, and bold. As an undergraduate I already had an article published on elitefts. I spent every day that I was out there trying to soak up every piece of information I could from him, and tried to figure out how he did his programming. Any book he mentioned, if I hadn’t read it, I went to the bookstore and bought it. Any time I was around him, I kept my mouth shut and tried to listen and understand as much as I could. He was very good at putting me in my place, as anyone has worked for him can understand.

He said something that stuck with me when he asked what I thought about a certain method. I told him what Zatsiorsky and Kurtz said, he looked at me and said, “I don’t give a rip about what somebody said. I can read that for myself. I asked you what you think. If you can’t think and have original thought based on what you have taken in, you’re worthless.” These words cut through me like a knife and made me step back and examine things. Everything requires context. What is written in a book is specific to the context that it is presented in. It is the art of the coach to figure out what the context is, what was previously done, and what is the right thing to do next. House is someone I still contact, and thank God he still returns my texts and calls.

Pat Ivey

During that summer that I began interning at Arizona State, my father turned very ill and I needed to go back, as we thought it was the end for him. My advisors told me if I didn’t finish, I would have to pay for another semester of school and start over. Rick called everyone within four hours of Jay, Oklahoma in the college setting to see if they would give me a shot at interning half way through the summer. Few people called him back, and only one was willing to take me on for the final four weeks to allow me to graduate: Pat Ivey at the University of Tulsa. He agreed to interview me to allow me to possibly finish my internship. While I was there on my interview, a defensive lineman was attempting to break the squat record for the school. A small defensive back was a side spotter and I wasn’t comfortable with someone who was probably 180 pounds spotting someone who was going to be doing reps with 675 pounds, so I went over and pushed him out of the way and did the side spot.

Pat said he decided that moment that I was going to be there as an intern, but made me sweat out things on my interview. He agreed at the end of the day to take me and I started the following week. I went in there like a man on fire trying to make an impression. I came in late with that mindset of, "I don’t know the program, but by God I know I can coach." I had been doing that for several years already. If something needed to be done, I did it. I unfortunately didn’t learn the arrogance lesson, because I corrected the intern test that Josh Stoner gave. When Pat came to Mizzou, he ended up bringing me as a graduate assistant, and that started me on my way to my PhD and where I am today. Josh Stoner and Rusty Burney were both there as well. Josh showed me an intensity that I had never seen before, and Rusty showed a laid back approach that was great with relationships to the athletes.

Alex Waigandt

Alex was my advisor for my master’s and PhD. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He didn’t see someone who was just skating through a master’s program; he saw someone who thought differently about things and approached an old profession with a new view. He didn’t take no for an answer on me getting a PhD, and worked with me around the tremendous number of hours required by my job for this endeavor. He knew that while my interests weren’t in education, school, and counseling psychology, this could be a means to get me where I could go (sorry to disappoint those of you who assumed I was a PhD in exercise science). He allowed me to go the route of examining our programming and doing the APRE as an experiment for my dissertation.

Thank you note

Image credit:  Hewahatage Nalin © 123rf.com

John Thyfault

During my coursework, I came across someone named John Thyfault. If you are into fatty liver disease, it’s that John Thyfault. If you’re not, you have never heard of him. John is a genius and is someone else who encouraged me to get my PhD. He had a background in strength and conditioning and was someone who pushed, prodded, and supported me in my journey. For all of the times I thought about giving up, as my schedule was too hectic to satisfy all of my committee members, he wouldn’t let me. For every move that needed to be made, he was there to guide me along. He helped me write my first article, taught me how to look at things, and busted my balls from time to time. If it were not for John Thyfault, I would not have had the faith in myself that I could withstand the punishment of a PhD program. While I don’t keep in touch with him as well as I should have over the years, any time I am somewhere he is, I make it a point to get together with him and just talk about life. Everyone needs a John Thyfault in their life, and I thank God he was at Missouri when he was. He wasn’t on my committee and was not my advisor, but invested countless hours in my development. John, I can never repay what you did for me.

Jerry Mayhew

Jerry is another person who makes me, well me. Jerry met me at a Missouri State clinic when I was just a graduate assistant. He helps me translate from the language of coachese to academic. Jerry is also someone who has done countless things and thankless things for the field. For anyone who has read research on strength training and college athletes, you have read his name. I was never a student of his, but he will field my calls and help me translate any idea have into one that is doable. Most people tend to say no and call an off-the-wall idea stupid. Jerry sits and listens and helps you figure out how it can be done. Jerry has indulged every dumb idea that I have ever had, and either helped me figure out how to make it happen or just said, “You know, I hear what you’re saying and thinking, and where you’re going. I just don’t think it’s possible.” That one has only happened once, though. He’s a great man and someone I’m proud to call a friend and a mentor.

Steve Sayers and Marybeth Brown

These are two people in the physical therapy department who, well, quite frankly got me my position in that department after I graduated. I sought them out, had ideas of how to make some things happen, and followed through on them. Steve is someone else who helps translate my coachese language to academic, and is always around to be a sounding board. Marybeth Brown is another person who just makes you feel like you can do anything. She is the first woman physical therapist PhD in the world and was tremendously humble. She, much like me, struggled as an undergraduate and found some people that believed in her and enabled her to become what she is. She always made sure to pass that on to everyone around her. In my first years as a faculty member, I spent a lot of time in her office trying to figure out how to do things right. With her help and guidance, I was able to make the transition from coaching to academic.

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Cal Dietz

Cal is an innovator, deep thinker, and reader. I call him my brother from another mother. I joke with people who think Cal and I must go back 20 years and are floored to find out it’s only about four or five years. Yes, it has only been that short of time, but when we met it was like the spot lights came on and “This Magic Moment” was playing in the background. We think much the same way about things, and he is someone else who starts with wherever he is thinking in a conversation rather than the beginning — and we know what the line of thought was that got the other person there most of the time. Cal is an amazing coach and speaker. He is someone that I call to bounce ideas off of, and if I can’t figure out the answer to something he works through it with me. He is often giving me ideas of where to go next with things or sharing different perspectives of how to look at things. I specifically remember a time when I called him up and asked, “What’s up dude?” He responded, “Not much, just reading a book about cardiovascular and specifically heart function from 1964.” That, my friends, is why I love him. He is like me: if there is an answer written on the under side of a rock in the desert, he will find it.

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Dave Tate

Dave is someone I met on that first visit to Westside Barbell as he was just getting elitefts going. Several years ago he allowed me the platform to publish articles on whatever I wanted. He is the one that is allowing me to put this article up now. He lives his motto of Live, Learn, and Pass On, and is someone I greatly respect as a lifter, businessperson, man, and father. While I don’t get to talk to Dave or spend the time with him I wish I could, I greatly value each moment I get to sit down with him. Let’s be honest: if it wasn’t for Dave Tate being willing to publish what I write, no one would know who I am and I wouldn’t have ever been afforded the opportunities that I have been.

Scott Caulfield

Scott Caulfield and I have grown to be friends over the years, and he has brought me in on numerous projects and speaking engagements with the NSCA. We both have the desire to push the field forward, and I value his friendship and insight. He only wants what is best for this profession, and since he took over in his current role, the quality of the Coaches Conference has improved immensely. If not for his tireless effort, I don’t think I ever would have come back into the fold of the NSCA (I had given up on the organization several years before and I didn’t attend a Coaches Conference for about a decade). He is a great sounding board and is someone I check in with to see if I’m thinking rationally or with my red neck. I think I often serve as the same thing for him.

Yosef Johnson

Yosef is the man behind Ultimate Athlete Concepts. While his education is not in this area, nor has he ever served as a formal strength coach, he has one of the best insights into training around. He got hooked up with Michael Yessis decades ago in his attempt to be a better athlete and was able to get information directly from the source(s) of people like Yuri Verkhoshansky and his daughter Natalia, Henk Krajjenhoff, Anatoliy Bondarchuk, Vladimir Issurin, Rick Bruner, and the list goes on and on. Anytime he has a question, he just calls up the originator of the information. He has believed in me and the direction I’m headed for several years ago and attempts to aid me in any possible manner.

Michael Yessis

Doc Yessis is someone who has greatly impacted me in the past few years. He is someone who was one of the pioneers in the field and through Yosef I have gotten to know quite well. His work has changed the way I view training from just squats, bench press, and deadlift to looking at the transfer of training and how to select exercises that do this. His books are invaluable resources, and I’m sure he has forgotten more than I’ll ever know in this industry. His insight and wisdom have been tremendous influences in where I am currently at in my thought process and ideas on training.

Corinne Mann

Lastly, my wife, Corinne Mann. She is the mother of my children and the rock of my family. She keeps everything going and is what enables me to go be me — traveling the world and attempting to change the field. She doesn’t always understand what I’m trying to do, but she is supportive. She also is someone who reminds me to take value in myself and my time. She’s a tremendously strong person and does things I never thought possible (like two completely natural childbirths). She’s my rock.

No one gets anywhere alone, and these are just a few of the people that have influenced me on my way. I think that you never forget who you were, where you come from, and from whom you come. People helped you get where you are today and you owe it to them to do the same for the next generation. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have had an impact on me that I didn’t mention in this, and I hope they’re not angry. Quite frankly, my time to write is limited, and this article was written on a flight. I appreciate everyone who has helped, guided, aided, and challenged me along the way.

Every Training Method Is Useful

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