Before I get into my vision for the field of exercise science, I want to first tell all of you how excited I am for the future.
A dream of beginning a new university program is finally coming to fruition after 7 years. In the fall of 2020, I will begin my position as Head Coach of the Lenoir-Rhyne University Weightlifting Team. Recently I took my team to see the facilities and to check out campus. We even had the chance to train in our new home, and I think that I speak for all of us when I say we loved it. It felt like an Olympic Training Center, which is exactly what I am going for.
I want the athletes on my team to have everything they need to succeed. However there is much more that I want for them. I want them to leave Lenoir-Rhyne with a degree and a future. I am also beginning the long process of working toward my PhD. Guys, I haven’t been in school in over 25 years. Luckily, Mash Elite Performance has kept my nose buried in research, learning, and writing of course. I definitely feel more prepared than when I first graced Appalachian State University with my presence. All I cared about back then was football, lifting weights, and girls. Now I want to make a difference in as big a way as possible.
The staff at LR is incredibly progressive and forward thinking. When I am around Dr. Alex Koch and Dr. Keith Leiting, I feel like the possibilities are endless. I’m excited about the research we will be capable of performing with elite weightlifters under our roof. However there is something that intrigues me even more. I want to make sure our exercise science students have futures in their chosen field.
BUSINESS AND BRAND
The buzz around the world lately is that college isn’t as important as we once thought. People are either taking up a trade, starting work right away, or skipping school to start their own business. With my goal of becoming a professor, I want to be a part of the solution. Exercise Science is comprised of students who are intrigued with health and fitness, and most of them simply want to help others. To me this is an admirable major filled with good people, and I want to help the students at Lenoir-Rhyne put their passion to work.
My dream is to integrate major specific business skills within the exercise science curriculum. I want to teach our students:
How to brand themselves with social media
How to create content to help others via podcasts, blogs, or vlogs
Entrepreneurial skills to develop their own businesses online or brick and mortar
The actual job search itself
One thing I have learned listening to Gary Vaynerchuk is that brand is just about everything when it comes to one’s career. I am not just talking about entrepreneurs. I’m also talking about those want a job as a strength and conditioning coach or even as a personal trainer. In a competitive field, you have got to do something that sets you apart, and then you have to let the rest of the world know about it.
If a student begins the process during their freshman year, they will be able to build quite the brand by the time they are seniors. If they want to focus more on their futures than partying, we all know there is plenty of time to grow a brand and a following. I am not talking about four years of posting pics with your friends. I mean four years of sharing all that you are learning or sharing nutrition and exercise tips. The goal is that you graduate being known as that guy – with that guy being whoever you want to become in this noble field.
If you desire to help people with the knowledge you are gaining in your studies, you don’t have to wait until you graduate. You can start creating content on your favorite aspects of exercise science right now. The key is discovering your favorite way to produce content – whether it be podcasting, writing, or vlogging. Of course you don’t want to write about something that you don’t totally understand. Stick to the truths that you are learning along the way. The goal is to focus on the niche you enjoy and the particular aspect of exercise science you know the best (nutrition, speed training, athletic performance, etc.). Remember the goal is to become that guy or that gal in the field.
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Weightlifting - Powerlifting - Super Total
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Here’s the truth regarding how one gets most jobs in the exercise science world: it’s whom you know. It might not be the right thing, but it’s a harsh reality. But there is an art to networking. Way too many people who are trying to network come across as annoying and desperate. It has to be a natural thing. The best people to network with are people you jive with. Then there is a high probability that your new acquaintance will introduce you to other likeminded people – and the next thing you know you will have a circle of folks that you love. There’s more to it, but you get the idea. We just need to make sure that our talented students get the idea.
And let’s not forget that many students can create their own jobs. Most college students simply don’t understand they aren’t held hostage by the hopes of someone hiring them anymore. This is the age of the young entrepreneur. However, it’s also the age of the broke entrepreneur. These young folks need guidance and someone who can be brutally honest because everyone isn’t cut out for entrepreneurship. If you’re lazy, you’re doomed to fail. If you aren’t self-motivated, you are doomed to fail. If you don’t have thick skin, you’re doomed to fail because everyone is going to tell you that you’re crazy.
The job will be to assess the students and see who is and who isn’t cut out for entrepreneurship. If they are, the next job would be to see what ideas they might have, and then give them direction. The key will be to get this going as soon as possible, so they can use their time in college to brand their future business. For example, maybe they love working with weight loss clients. They should spend their extra time writing and/or creating video of the dangers of obesity and making wise choices at the grocery store. Then they will graduate having created a solid following that they can begin to market to.
The most obvious place that these graduates need help is finding actual jobs. Most of them have no idea about the opportunities that are afforded them. For example, they could look for something in the strength and conditioning field, personal trainer, corporate wellness, physical therapist assistant, chiropractic assistant, personal trainer on a cruise ship (this is a real thing), or in cardiac rehab. The list goes on, but the key is informing the students and helping them map out a path toward their goal job.
The good thing is that Dr. Alex Koch and I have already been throwing around ideas. Since he helped me start this whole new program, I guess we believe anything is possible at this point. If you are looking for a school right now, you might want to consider what kind of job placement record they have as a school. I can promise we are going to make some changes you will all be reading about very soon. I want all of our students leaving Lenoir-Rhyne University ready to attack their chosen field and confident they made the right choice in a university.
If you are interested in our new University Weightlifting Program at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC, message me on here or shoot an email to email@example.com. I will have a Lenoir-Rhyne email within days, which will be Travis.Mash@LR.com.
It’s not really a surprise that Peter Kenn is pursuing a strength coach career.
After all, his father is my friend Coach Joe Kenn of the Carolina Panthers. And Peter joins us today to talk about what it was like growing up as the son of a great strength coach.
But Peter is a skilled athlete in his own right, and he is determined to make his own way in the world as a strength coach. I think he’s going places – and as you’ll hear about in this podcast, he has some strengths that might even make him a better strength coach than his father.
We talk about all of that – and we also get to Peter’s plans for breaking into the strength coach industry… and what has already brought him tremendous benefit.
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Scott Paltos has come highly recommended as a guest for this podcast – apparently we have tons of mutual friends.
And I can see why after this podcast. Scott has seen so much in the strength game, and he has a lot of wisdom to share.
We talk all about his experience in several different sports, owning a gym, training kids, and some advanced thoughts on speed work. I could talk to Scott all day.
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2019 has been a roller coaster of a year for my team and for me personally. There have been some extreme highs and lows, which unfortunately seem to go hand-in-hand.
My business has noticed steady growth – something I am extremely thankful for. My baby girl, Magnolia Taylor Mash, was born in February – which was the highlight of the year. But this is not a year in review, this is more of my thought process heading into 2020 based on the happenings of 2019. I think a lot of you will be able to take this process and apply it to your own life.
Highlights… and mistakes
If I listed all of our successes this year at Mash Elite, it would appear we’ve had the best year of any gym in the world. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:
Two gold medalists at Junior Nationals
Two athletes at Youth Worlds
Two bronze medals at Youth Worlds
Silver medalist at Senior Pan American Championships
Best male and female lifter at the Senior National Championships
Two athletes at the Youth Pan American Championships
One gold medalist at Youth Pan Ams and Best Male Lifter
Great year for Tommy Bohanon in his final year in the NFL (maybe his final year)
Two athletes at the Pan American Games
Two athletes at the Junior Pan American Championships with two medalists as well even though both were still Youth Athletes.
Multiple American and Pan American records
Winning the team championships at Youth Nationals including multiple gold medal performances
Best overall male athlete at Youth Nationals
Qualifying four American, two Danish, and one Irish athlete for the Senior Worlds
Visiting Jamaica twice with Stronger Experts to help their track athletes
Tate Carney compiled 2,000 yards of offense as a sophomore in high school
Tate and his teammate Cam Beck were nominated all-conference
Cade Carney played his last season of Division I Football for Wake Forest University
Creating the newest University Weightlifting Program in the country at Lenoir-Rhyne University
Youth Athlete Ryan Grimsland won the 67kg class at the Senior American Open.
Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2020...
These are just a few of the highlights. If you look at this list, you’d think I had a great year. I would be omitting a lot of the bad things that happened, but it would make me look awesome. But that would be a lie, and it wouldn’t help any of you. So I want to talk about the biggest issue I ran into this year, and I want to explain some of the steps I plan on taking to counter this snag.
Culture, Capacity, and Commitment
Our culture took a dive at the end of the year. We lost several top athletes. Of course some needed to go, and some I will miss forever. The questions are:
How do we avoid this happening again?
The biggest mistake I made was bringing on too many top athletes in a year that would require them traveling all over the world. Most coaches have at most one elite athlete, which is easy to handle. Even the ones who have multiple elites normally have seniors, juniors, or youth. This year we had multiple of each age category. We had four youth qualifying for international trips, including Youth Worlds and Youth Pan Ams. We had two junior athletes qualifying for Junior Worlds and Junior Pan Ams. We had four seniors qualifying for Senior Pan Ams, Senior Pan American Games, and Senior Worlds. This doesn’t even cover the international athletes we coach – and we had youth, junior, and senior international athletes qualifying for meets all around the world.
Does this sound like a lot? Well, it doesn’t even cover our powerlifters and athletic performance athletes. Oh yeah, I’m a husband and father to four children who need my attention, and I run multiple businesses. This is not an excuse. I am simply setting up the mistake that I made. I simply didn’t consider my capacity as a coach, and it bit me in the butt.
Pretty much all of the problems originated from the fact I was too busy – causing me to ignore issues, to communicate ineffectively, and to allow things to slip through the cracks. A big part of the problem was bringing on athletes simply because they were awesome, without considering if they fit the culture of my team or me as a coach. All of this combined has caused me to think deeply about how I do things. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, an extreme trial normally precedes extreme growth.
Considerations moving forward
So what do I plan on doing about it? That’s the real question. All of us have bumps in the road, but it’s how we respond that makes us who we are. The first thing I plan on doing is figuring exactly what the values of our team are. I am not basing this 100% on what I think. I am taking into consideration what my athletes and coaches think as well – so the set of values that decides how our team will be conducted is developed from our team as a whole. I want the entire team to take 100% ownership in our set of values moving forward.
I am also having each team member hand me his or her personal goals. I am going to help them develop these goals into a macro and micro set of goals they can check off almost weekly. This will govern the way I expect them to act.
For example, if an athlete tells me he or she wants to make an Olympic team someday, then I will expect their actions to match their goals. If they are staying up all night playing video games and demonstrating terrible nutritional habits, then I am not going to take them seriously. At that point, we will either:
Change their behavior
Alter their goals
Ask them to change or train somewhere else
These same goals and values will follow us to Lenoir-Rhyne University and will help govern our team there as well. Each new crop of athletes will give their input – making the set of values a living document. So far I love what our team has evolved into. Everyone is working hard, focused on their goals, and ready to take on 2020. We still have multiple senior, junior, and youth athletes here in America and around the world who will be traveling to multiple international competitions. We are looking to smash American, Danish, Australian, and New Zealand records along with some world records next year.
One thing I am doing as a university weightlifting coach is allowing current coaches to remain the coach of record, so they will do the traveling with the athletes they have developed. I also plan on working closely with the coaches in regard to programming and technical cues. This will help cut down on my travel time and will help keep me focused on the training of each athlete.
I’m excited that all of this happened now – causing me to think hard about the way I plan on growing our program at Lenoir-Rhyne University. I want to develop a program we can all be proud of. More importantly, I want to form a culture that will allow the incoming athletes to have the best collegiate experience possible during their tenure at LR.
I hope all of this helps you guys as you grow your own clubs. More importantly, I hope all of you can learn from my mistakes, so you don’t have to go through a season like I just did. Twelve countries in one year was a bit too much for me.
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The word “culture” has become such buzzword over the last decade. The word is used in businesses, churches, and gyms.
Culture is an important part of our facilities and an important part of our teams.
So what is gym culture?
Here’s my definition of gym culture:
“Culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors of the members within a gym or team that affect training atmosphere, each other’s view of the mundane tasks required to be great, each other’s view of reality, and the interaction of members with each other inside and outside the training facility.”
Culture should be defined by the owner and cultivated by the coach. Normally the owner and coach are one and the same, as in my case. However, it’s probably optimal for the roles to be separate. In a perfect world, someone can be working on the business while someone is inside the business coaching the athletes. Both are full-time positions, but it’s tough to find good fits for each.
There was a time I thought “culture” was simply a buzzword with little to no value. I thought I would fill my gym with athletes, coach them up, and they would be great. Luckily I have the ability to draw athletes, so I did it. I started a gym in Advance, NC, and within a year or two we were filled with over two hundred young athletes – mostly high-school-aged. If you’ve never heard of Advance, NC, don’t sweat it because that’s my point.
However, filling a gym with athletes is one thing, while keeping those athletes and forming an optimal environment is another. The first thing I want to do is to define the real benefits of forming a solid culture as it relates to the bottom line and creating amazing athletes. If you understand the benefits of a great culture, you might be more inclined to work hard at developing the culture which fits your goals.
Benefits of a good culture:
Produces enthusiastic results
Cultivates lasting relationships
Creates an entity that takes on a life of its own and people want to be a part of it
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In 2017 I had a massive team. At the 2017 National Championships, I had more athletes than any other coach. I thought I had a great team, but all I had was a lot of good athletes. There’s a big difference! I had collected a lot of talented athletes with no consideration for culture. I hadn’t even considered the kind of culture I wanted to nurture. Therefore I nurtured a culture of chaos. It was a lesson I will not soon forget.
It was Sean Waxman who brought this to my attention. It’s funny he could see my gym imploding all the way in California. Luckily I have a friend like him who’s not afraid to tell me the truth. He told me I was going to have to make some really tough decisions, or my entire gym was going to fall apart. It wasn’t long before I could see the exact thing he was talking about.
I found myself hating the gym and hating coaching for the first time in my life. For the first time in my life, driving to the gym was like driving to work – and that’s never what I want the gym to feel like.
To make a long story short, I decided to define my culture, to eliminate the athletes who didn’t fit, and to continue to nurture my desired outcome. Most coaches wait their entire careers for just one Team USA athlete, and I needed to get rid of several. This was the hardest task of my life.
Building a good culture
But when I defined our culture and cut some people, things improved. Our culture is now one where people strive to be their absolute best, and their actions match their goals. We have an atmosphere where everyone gets along, and there is absolutely zero drama tolerated. We have produced way more Team USA athletes with way fewer top ranked athletes. Most importantly, I love the gym again – and I love my athletes again.
You don’t have to be a Team USA athlete to train at our gym, but you do have to want to be the best you can possibly be. Last year in 2018 we had four athletes at the World Championships. In 2019, we have eight including our international athletes. We have cultivated an environment where people succeed. We don’t tolerate excuses anymore for anything. If you miss a lift, it was no one’s fault but your own.
For all of you trying to run a business, this environment is one people want to be a part of. It means more members – and more importantly, it means more happy members. It’s in this environment that relationships can be cultivated because we are all on the same path. I am not saying everyone is trying to make the Olympics. I’m saying everyone is trying to become the absolute best version of themselves, and that is relatable among all my members.
Courtney Haldeman is one of my newer lifters. She’s also in nurse practitioner school. She might not end up in the Olympics like Hunter aims to be, but they both come in and give it their absolute best. The common goal is something they both can rally around. It’s in this culture they have become the best of friends. It’s all I ask of any of our members – to give all they have to give. I want them to learn lessons which will carry over in life way after sport is no longer a part of their personal lives.
When people are in an environment that fits their personality, with all the necessary tools to help them reach their goals (coaching, equipment, and team support), they will tell others. Those people will be their friends and coworkers who are like-minded, so now your gym/team will grow with people who are more likely to fit your culture.
Of course you will need to continuously remind your team/members exactly what the culture is, and sometimes you will have to coach your team members up on the culture – helping them grow into better athletes and people. It’s the biggest part of coaching in my opinion. People will always make mistakes. A good coach sees mistakes as opportunities for growth.
A defined culture filled with members referred by team members will grow a gym filled with people who feel at home. It’s in this environment very few people will ever quit. Therefore retention rates will be high, which is where most gyms fail. If we would only focus half as hard on keeping members, there would come a time in all of our gyms where new members would no longer be needed. If we would all focus on the culture of our gyms, we wouldn’t have to put as much effort into marketing and advertising. We could focus on what we love, which is coaching up our athletes to be better men and women.
Part of Something Special
My main point is the most important thing I want you to take away today – if you want to create something special which people will want to be part of, you have to focus on the culture of your gym. At this World Championships, I have eight athletes – four from the United States, one from Great Britain, two from Denmark, and one from Ireland. I’ve had three international athletes from Australia, one from New Zealand, and several from Canada. My point is we have created something special at Mash that people from around the world want to be a part of.
This has been a dream of mine since I started Mash Elite. I want to positively affect people from around the world with my love of the barbell. I want them to experience the same growth I have as a human. I want them to set big goals, focus on reaching those goal, exceed those goals, and them apply what they’ve learned to life.
Culture can help you create something much bigger than a gym. Westside Barbell is no longer a gym. It’s a way of life. I don’t share their same values, but I definitely desire to leave an impact on the world much like Louie Simmons has done. My favorite compliment ever was by Coach Joe Kenn, when he said I was becoming the Westside Barbell of weightlifting. Those are some big shoes to fill, but I definitely hope to influence the world outside of my gym’s four walls. I want the world to see the beauty of the barbell. I want the world to see all the lessons that can be learned from the piece of steel in their hands.
MASH ELITE CLINIC SUPER SERIES
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If you want to create something special, you better start focusing on the culture of your gym today. I am going to tell you just like Coach Waxman told me. If you want to build a place that is sustainable for athletes, you better pay attention to what’s going on. Athletes will come and go as they get older or lose interest, but you are there to stay. You better like what you have created, or nothing will last very long. I hope all of you will create entities that will last several generations after all of us are gone from this earth. That’s the real test.