Tonight I was watching the NBA Playoffs and thinking back to my first year as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach with the San Antonio Spurs. Today is Memorial Day and Steve Kerr,(a former Spurs player) is coaching the Warriors and that is what's gotten me thinking way back to 1999. ,We were doing well in the playoffs.....in Western Conference Championships after only dropping 1 game to the Timberwolves in the first round and SWEEPING the Lakersout of the second round while closing the Great Western Forum....yeah I'd say we were doing just damn fine!!! We are up 1-0 on the Blazers and fighting our asses off in Game 2 and we finally take the lead on an unbelievable shot from #32 Sean Elliott with 9.0 seconds left in game and the shot will forever be known as the Memorial Day Miracle!!!
It's been 16 years and it still gives me chills to watch and I remember it like it was yesterday but to me that was only part of the miracle. What not too many knew,was that Sean was in the battle of his life against kidney failure and only a short time after we would go on win our first NBA Championship Sean's brother would donate a kidney to his brother's life.
I could tell you stories about being in the locker room before, during and after games....on the floor and in the weightroom everyday during practices....and of course sitting right behind Coach Popovich,for every game but I don't want to take away from the story of perseverance ,and toughness that is Sean Elliott or a message I'd really like to SCREAM from the rooftops.....ORGAN DONATION.
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
watch all the way to the end and you'll see a good looking dude who's goatee isn't so 'blonde' back then
Over that past few weeks I've added several new faces to the gym and it seems that the my Old Strong Guys Rule training idea is taking off. My young athletes and their parents never really ask me much other than the 'who' and 'where' I have coached but for some reason the adults that come to train with me want to know more like, 'how the hell I started doing what I do'? Most can't imagine what it was like to coach at the highest level in sports nor can they ever imagine leaving that level to own a private facility. They step into my office and look at the walls that are filled with pictures, trophies and plaques of my personal championships and records along with championships that I have been a part of as a coach. They see my diplomas from University of Texas at San Antonio and Baylor University, coaching certifications from around the world, and of course my Honorable Discharge from the Army.
Now the questions start ...'HOW and WHY' and 'WHAT'
So what did get me into coaching and more importantly becoming a Strength and Conditioning Coach? Ever since I was about 15 years old I have known and I let everyone know that being a Strength Coach was my #1 Goal in life. What you have to understand is that this was back in the mid 70's and there sure as hell weren't many strength and conditioning coaches out there and in fact most sport coaches frowned on lifting weights since you know it made you 'muscle bound' whatever in the hell that means!!! Of course you tell your teachers, coaches or even your buddies this and I can guarantee that you will be mocked and made fun of I even had a teacher tell me that with dreams (not goal a dream) like this I would amount to nothing in life and trust me it sure as hell wasn't any better at home!!
Where did I get such a notion that one could be a Strength Coach and make an athlete better by lifting weights. Strength and Health magazine was the 'shits' back then and it covered weightlifting (notice I didn't say Olympic weightlifting), powerlifting and a little bit of bodybuilding. One day I got a copy and there it was my motivation in a big old dude standing in the doorway of the weight room at St. Bodaventure University in New York. I can still see the picture of him standing there all 70's Big and the article that went with pictures of that weight room created in a boiler room the article talked about how he had coached with the Buffalo Bills in the AFL and worked as a lifeguard at Jones Beach in New York and how he had brought the idea of training with weights to improve athletes performance to St. Bonaventure where he was also the Cross Country Coach. WHAT?? Did you say a guy that likes to run long distances though the woods also advocates strength training for athletes!! NO WAY that doesn't work I'm gonna have to take your Strength Coach's card away from you!!! Well now there are a few people out there promoting this very thing and promoting it like it's something new and just discovered by them sorry boys that shit was thought of long before you came on the scene!!!
Anyways, I promptly tore the pages out and put them the wall in my bedroom right by my Farrah Fawcett Majors poster that every boy in America had back then!!! Later, as my life took me from Northern Michigan all over the world and finally dropped me in South Texas and I am telling this story to the Head of the Kinesiology at UTSA as I finally begin to work towards my degree. He listens to my story as he roots though his desk and then produces the very Strength and Health magazine I had been talking about and turns to the page and asks me if this was the article? Hell YES it is and then I look...the man I am standing in front of the Head of the Kinesiology Department and now my Advisor Dr. George Colfer...that Strength/Cross Country Coach in the magazine that started this wonderful journey of mine is George Colfer one in the same.
So when people ask me 'why I do what it is I do' I simply smile at them and tell them that this is myCalling in Life it is what I was destined to do.
The other week I decided to tag along with Sally to Austin so I could get a nice undisturbed workout in at Hyde Park Gym. Lately, we've been spending a lot of talking about my career in competitive Strength Athletics. It seems since my recovery from the heart issues I have been much more driven towards returning to competing both on the platform and in the field. So as we drove towards Bastrop and I talked about my first ever powerlifting meet and according to Sally she could not only hear but she could feel the passion and love for a sport that she just hadn't seen before in me. Sure I'm like most 'Old Strong Guys' in I love telling stories about my past glory and exploits in the Iron Game hell just ask some of the kids I train but for some reason this time was different. Not only could I remember so much more of the path I took to my first time to walk onto a powerlifting platform but I could feel it so deep inside of me that it almost brought me to tears. So we stopped at Buc-ee's for some food and coffee and there on this beautiful Texas morning I told her and if you don't mind I'll tell you....what the hell it's my blog....Let me tell you a story.........
April 1985 my training partners and I are headed down the back roads of Texas on our way from Corpus Christi towards Austin to a little town (not so little anymore) of Bastrop, Texas. I'll tell you what it didn't take long for Rodney and Dan to figure out that I was indeed a city boy from Detroit (or a Yankee as Rick Gaugler our coach calls me still to this day) when I yelled from the backseat of the car.... STOP!!! There was something that I had never seen before....a damn steer with a big ole set of horns grazing by the barbed wire fence and I just had to have a picture!!!!
Great start to the trip for sure because I doubt we were very far out of Corpus Christi.
I was headed to compete in the Region 9 Championships in the 198 pound class!!!
It's Saturday morning and I'm enjoying breakfast when Rick comes to the table and scolds the hell out of me because I still had to weigh in and I was too close to making weight to be eating and well breakfast proved to be a bad idea because when I stepped on the scale I was 4 pounds over so its off to the car to bundle up, turn on the heater and chew some sour gum so I can spit off the 4 pounds and I've only got 2 hours to do it!! Yeah back then you not only had weigh-in 2 hours before the competition but you had to have all of your gear inspected and marked not like the shit is now!! Since I'm out in the car trying to make weight the 'story telling' side of me will get a bit off track....1985 they are no bench press shirts, there was 1 guy in the USA making powerlifting belts so you ordered it and waited for Bob Morris to send it to you and wrist wraps was an ACE bandage (1 1/2" wide) that was cut in half...well to be honest we never cut the thing we'd stretch it out on a weight tree and beat a 2 1/2 pound plate on it until it was cut in half and our knee wraps were nice and soft (you can see mine in the picture and they are still the office at my gym).
Well I finally made weight and got warmed up but I guess I was in the wrong area but because I never heard them call my name to tell me where in the lifting order I was but what I do remember is Rick coming and grabbing me by the hair and shoving me in a chair and he wrapped one knee, Stan wrapped the other and with a slap on my back and a shove towards the correct platform my opener of 551 pounds was waiting for me. I had a great day in the squat hitting my goal of 606.5 pounds (275kg) but the sqaut is my favorite lift and now we move on to my least favorite the damn bench press!! I did get a nice 352.75 (160kg) and we finally eat some lunch a traditional Texas Powerlifting lunch... its Whataburger time!!! Shit I think Whataburger should be sponsoring powerlifting the way we seem to eat it every meet!! Well the meet ends with the deadlift and it's a lift that I was starting to love and because of that pathic bench press I had a few people closing in on me. I love the brutal mindset you have to possess to walk up to a heavy ass weight, snort an amonia cap and pull that damn thing off of the floor while gravity is fighting like mad to keep it on the ground. Well, I finish my day with a winning pull of 578.75 (262.5kg) and won my class with a total of 1528 pounds (697.5kg) and I am hooked on the sport of Powerlifting!!
Well the meet is over and now it's time to eat and drink a beer!!! We head out to find somewhere to buy some beer and we happen to drive by a couple of cops stopped so we pull up and ask them where....they looked at us like we were idiots and told us Austin!! Bastrop was a dry county and there was no beer sales....what the crap is that!!?? So we got some pizza and headed back to our motel room where Rodney and I decided we were sore and needed to soak in the hot tub WITH our pizza!! I can remember floating the pizza box back and forth to each other and why do I remember this....because we both got sick as dogs. Yeah it was a great trip home laying across the back seat of the car dying!!! I'll tell you honestly I would not change any part of this story for the world.
I must thank Rodney Serpa and Dan Deweese for inviting me onto the platform at Bradshaw's Gym to train with them, Rick Gaugler who coached and taught me the sport that I still love today, he also taught me how to be a man in this world and his friendship I cherish to this very day. Also Pete Alaniz who supplied me not only my gear but a friendship that has lasted since we met back in 1984. Pete owns Titan Support Systems the #1 company in the world for all of your gear.
What an awesome introduction to a sport that has taught me many lessons in competition, in life and now in coaching.