The Road to the Top
My Road to the Top ( originally published 2007, edited 12/21/10)
It must be New Years resolutions and goal setting time because recently I have received more than a few Facebook messages asking how I got started. Rather than half-ass a quick post I thought I would take a moment to tell a story that might inspire a few of you. I have been lifting weights since around 1973 or 74. Like many my age I started with the York 110 pound set with the wall chart in the basement. My father was a teacher-coach and Hall of Fame football player in college and I was going to be just like him.
To cut to the chase my football career was ended by two serious problems that afflict far too many athletes. Lack of size and lack of talent were two things I just couldn’t overcome. What I did learn was that I had some fast twitch muscle fiber and liked lifting. Lifting kept me sane after giving up football and I pursued athletic training in college. In true Outliers fashion I was lucky enough to have a dorm director named Mike Woicek my first two years of college Mike, for those who don’t know, is the current New England Patriots strength and conditioning coach and the man with the most Super Bowl rings in the history of the NFL. What luck. Another guy at Springfield College at that time was Rusty Jones, current Chicago Bears strength and conditioning coach. Very early on I had great mentors and role models.
I left Springfield College after five years with a Masters degree and took a job at Boston University as an assistant athletic trainer. In the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to be a strength coach. It was 1982 and I was about 185 lbs, soaking wet. I didn’t look like a strength coach and still don’t. After six months of athletic training I took the plunge. I quit my full time, paid job as an athletic trainer and became the volunteer strength coach. I gave up a salary and benefits for a volunteer job and started my journey. Very few schools even had full-time strength and conditioning coaches at the time. I tended bar 4-5 nights a week to pay the bills and threw myself into the job.
I was a former football player and a competitive powerlifter but I became a “hockey expert” at the urging of the hockey coaches at BU. For those unfamiliar BU is to college hockey what Notre Dame or USC is to college football. I figured hockey out and also figured out that there was no one training professional hockey players in Boston. I had found my niche. I met a hockey agent and talked him into sending me a few minor league clients. I told him no NHL guys. I needed desperate guys that would listen to a “football guy” tell them how to make it to the NHL. I also started training some high school hockey players because, in truth, I needed the money. That may have been the smartest thing I ever did.
To make a long story shorter, some of my new minor league clients did make the NHL and the Boston Bruins offered me a part time job as their strength and conditioning coach. With a little money from BU and some from the Bruins, I gave up the bar business and was now a full time strength and conditioning coach with two jobs. I worked from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM with the Bruins and then drove to BU and opened up the weight room at 12. I coached every day at BU from 12-7 with some 6 AM football stuff thrown in during the winter before Bruins practice. I would then either go to a BU game or go back to the old Boston Garden at 7 PM and train the injured players or those who didn’t dress. After the game I would try to coerce a few players to work out. I’d get home about 11 PM. Not a bad day for an eight month season.
At the roughly the same time I began my speaking career by accepting the invitation to speak at everything but the opening of an envelope. Most of my “speaking engagements” were to middle school hockey players in groups of 10-12. Obviously an audience that foreshadowed things to come. Chris Poirier and Perform Better gave me a break when they began their Perform Better clinics. I was one of the first speakers and like any good job, I never left.
I did this for 10 seasons and at the same time found time to leave my full time job at BU and open Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. We were one of the first for-profit centers opened in the country. As Alwyn and Jason so aptly described in their article The Business, I was rapidly becoming an overnight success one twelve hour day at a time.
The rest is simple. I just kept doing what I was doing. I worked in my business. I put in my 10,000 hours. I coached athletes and I coached coaches. I think the big key is that I took chances and was willing to work long hours. It was not easy. Except for my brief athletic training job at BU ( six months) I did not have a full time job with health insurance until I was thirty years old. I read this quote in a book the other day.
“Most people give up right before the big break comes”
Don’t let that person be you. Keep moving forward. Remember, the big break might be around the corner.