The Origins of Penance Athletics

Growing up

I was a very skinny kid… like Ichabod Crane could’ve been my beefy cousin. And I regularly received comments regarding my body or weight, whether I wanted to hear them or not.  From coaches informing me that I needed to add 20lbs to my frame, family friends telling me that I needed to eat more or I “was going to blow away”, or even a very “helpful” upper-classman that informed me that I really “needed to have muscles before” I wore that sleeveless shirt.

8th (I think) and 9th grade years.

I’d make a smart-assed remark and laugh it off, but it always made me feel uncomfortable in my own skin. To say that those years left a mark on me would be an understatement. As a grown man in his 30’s, I still cringe if someone refers to me as “skinny.”

As a high school freshman

I was almost literally dragged into my school’s weight room by an upper-classman who took me under his wing. This was a 30’ by 30’ room with 3 windows, rusted weights laying everywhere, whiteboard on the wall, and rock music blaring from someone’s burned CD. I’m fairly certain that my immune system is stronger today due to how grungy it was.

I was the weakest person in that room, and I was aware of it. Fortunately the guy that brought me was well respected, and he vouched for me, which was good enough. 

I fell in love with it. All of it!

The struggle (mental and physical), the soreness, the grind to do more today than I did yesterday. From that experience I learned patience and perseverance. Those have been invaluable lessons that have helped me through building a business and raising a family. There’s an abundance of wisdom to be gained from struggle, and unfortunately we miss those lessons as most of our lives are almost devoid of adversity.

Without guidance, I placed too much focus on the wrong qualities – heavy weights with isolation movements (bicep curls, leg extension, etc) or whatever workouts were in Muscle & Fitness that month. I put on the weight that everyone was so concerned with, but it was essentially useless. And now that I was weighed down by body-building type muscle, my speed & agility (thereby my overall athleticism) suffered greatly.

Going into my Senior year-

Our summer-league team was coached by my older brother. After one particularly sh*tty performance on my part (I basically fouled out of a game because I was too slow to get out of someone’s way, three times in as many minutes), he was done being polite about what he was seeing. He called me out while in the team huddle, still in the middle of the game, “those muscles don’t mean sh*t if you’re having to sit on the bench because you’re too slow to move your f*****g feet!”

The rest of the summer was spent running bleachers in our hotbox of a gym and I managed to drop enough weight to be a viable basketball player again, but I definitely was not the athlete that I should have been. Without knowing better, I had been training like a body-builder, not an athlete… I’d been doing a lot of stationary exercises. You know, the exercises that you can list the muscles used with just a few words (back and bi’s, etc). I had plenty of strength in the weight room, but not on the court, which made it worthless! Athletes need training that develops the body as a complete unit and trains it as a whole, as the body is so much more than just the sum of its parts.

I did not truly realize that I had wasted all that time in my highschool weight room until a few years later when I started learning from guys that were much smarter than I who had already been training athletes for decades! I learned as much as I could from different strength and performance coaches, and asked questions to fill in the gaps in my education. It was nothing short of stupefying to find out how backward I had been, and how backward many still are. I knew how crucial it was to pass this knowledge on.

Teaching young athletes how to jump (and land) reduces their risk of injury later

In February of 2010, I jumped in head-first and began training middle-school, high-school, and collegiate athletes.

I wanted to do better for them than I had done for myself and I knew I could make a difference for them. I wanted to help them excel at sport, and life. To carry themselves with capability on the field/court, and confidence off of it. To help them to learn what they are truly capable of and teach them that they can do the hard things that others are not willing to do. A lesson that I know will pay dividends over their lives! 

Sled work is critical for athletes!

Are you starting to wonder how this could benefit your child?

If you’ve read this far, hopefully, you’re interested in learning more about why supplemental training outside of the school training facility is so important to the health and well-being of your child. A few things for you to consider:

  1. Team Sport Coaches are exactly that, coaches of that sport. They absolutely excel in the X’s and O’s of their sport, it’s what they love! Unfortunately when they are put under pressure from their employer (school) to perform better, they feel the need to attempt to develop training programs for their players as well. And for the most part, they do not feel comfortable doing this. By the way, this is not an assumption, this is direct information from very qualified Sport Coaches. On the flip side- creating superior athletes is where we shine. I geek out on the process of taking someone to the next level of their capability!
  2. Devastating injuries in teens have continuously risen over the years. While tweaks are impossible to avoid if you’re truly pushing your strength and athletic potential, the risk of serious injury is minimized with proper strength training, mobility, and coaching. We start with a Joint-by-Joint Assessment to determine the potential risk of these injuries in our athletes, and then address those issues.
    1. Lower back injuries in Football players are becoming a common occurrence in high school weight rooms. This is usually due to a combination of poor technique with some of the more complex barbell strength movements and lack of trunk (core) strength.
    2. With female athletes we are seeing a different issue entirely. Since female athletes are usually not encouraged to do any more weight/strength training, the number of cases for ACL reconstructive surgeries continue to rise. Without a doubt there are some anatomical causes here, but most of these injuries are avoidable with proper strength training.

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