The Next Chapter: Reflecting On 8 Years at Cressey Sports Performance

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FYI: this post is approximately 91% about me. Okay, 92%. Good news for those of you who’s favorite topic is Tony Gentilcore!

And good news for me, because I love writing about me.

In case you haven’t heard the news or have been out of the loop for the past week, I am no longer coaching at Cressey Sports Performance.

Contrary to typical fitness industry shenanigans when a co-founder and figure-head decides to part ways with a facility and institution he helped establish and build, the news comes with zero percent hard feelings, animosity, or any semblance of ill will.

In fact it comes with a degree of excitement.

Truth be told: it’s a decision – while not easy to make – has been slowly marinating for a few months (if not several months) on my end.

I reached a proverbial “tipping point” not too long ago when an opportunity arose that I couldn’t really pass up. No, I didn’t come to realization I was a boy wizard. No, I wasn’t asked to be the strength coach for team Victoria Secret. And no, I wasn’t hand selected by director Zack Snyder to play the next Superman.

Tony Superman

Legitimate guesses on your end though.

No, an opportunity came up in Boston that will allow me (and my wife) to plan a head for our future while at the same time allotting me a degree of autonomy I couldn’t pass up.

I’ll tell you the details, but you have to keep reading. A little written prose foreplay first.

When It All Started

Some of you reading know the back story of Cressey Sports Performance. For those that don’t it literally started with a phone call.

Things fell through where Eric was working as a coach (as an independent contractor) and he called Pete Dupuis and left a voice mail saying:

“Dude, it’s time. Want to open up a gym?”

It was a well timed and fortuitous call because Pete was, in fact, out playing a round of golf waiting to hear back on another job offer.

If Eric had waited 30 minutes, CSP would have been out of a co-founder and one of the best fitness business minds in the industry.

Yep, that guy. 

But just so you know that Pete doesn’t make a habit of living a “sun’s out guns out” lifestyle at the office all time, here he is all cleaned up and professional looking:

Pete once wore sweatpants to a roundtable event at his alma mater, Babson College, geared towards business students who were given the opportunity to pepper local, successful, entrepreneurs with questions.  Straight up boss. And he can kick Chuck Norris’s ass.

Eric and I were roommates at the time, and he didn’t even finish the sentence “hey dude, I’m starting a gym do you want to……” before I was tearing off my commercial gym shirt Hulk Hogan style and giving my two weeks notice.

And off we went. The three of us. To start a gym.

Two 25 year olds and a balding 30 year old, all of whom had zero business experience what-s0-ever. The odds of everything panning out where on par with the odds of Godzilla losing a fight to a building made out of wet spaghetti.

7 out of 10 new small businesses last at least 2 years, half at least 5 years.

We ended up finding space to rent inside an indoor batting cage facility in Hudson, MA. We set up shop in the corner with nothing more than a barbell, a few plates, a sled, and one of those forearm gripper thingamajigs that had a weight plate attached to a rope.

And this was what the first iteration of CSP looked like:

You can see the limited gym equipment piled in the middle, but we still managed to train people.

We eventually put up our own walls and office space and stuff – 2200 square ft in all – but our roots were minimal to say the least.

[Best piece of advice to ANYONE interested in starting their own facility: START SMALL!]

We already had a decent sized client roster of local high-school baseball players that Eric had been working with at his previous location, and I had a handful of clients follow me from my previous location as well.

And things ballooned from there.

We started getting some local college players and general fitness enthusiasts (thanks in part to mine and Eric’s growing web presence), and that parlayed into a few local New England based professional baseball players starting to make their way in.

Including Tim Collins.

Little did we know at the time that the quiet, scrawny, 135 lb left-hander from Worcester, MA who wasn’t recruited by any Division I,II, or III college, but was eventually spotted by JP Ricciardi (then the General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays) at a summer baseball game and signed to a professional contract, would grow into a bonafide Big League pitcher with the Kansas City Royals (not to mention an unofficial – but really official – CSP staff member).

I’m not going to wax poetic on every prospect or nook and cranny of growth we’ve ever accomplished in our history. But lets just say: we’re the shit holy cow I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.

Never in a million years would I have guessed as a teenager growing up in Central NY that I’d have the opportunity to work with hundreds of professional baseball players as a strength coach. Or that I’d get paid to do what I do on a daily basis, and wear sweat pants doing it.

What started as a 2200 square ft. facility which required a tetanus shot to even use the bathrooms (<– only a slight exaggeration) grew enough to warrant three expansions and a renowned reputation as one of the premier strength and conditioning facilities in the world.

Words can’t even begin to describe how grateful and proud I am to have been associated with not only the initial beginnings of CSP, but to have witnessed it’s growth and help foster it’s unique culture as well.

 

NOTE: sick bicep pose at 0:33. Just sayin….

  • We’ve worked with thousands of clients and athletes from all over the U.S and world. Name a sport we’ve (probably) worked with an athlete who plays it. Name an injury we’ve (probably) worked with an individual who’s succumbed to it.
  • We’ve had the opportunity to see 100s of interns and coaches walk through our doors – many of which have gone on to successful careers in their own right.
  • I’ve made Eric’s ears bleed innumerable times with all the amount of EDM (Electrical Dance Music) I’ve played.

It’s been an amazing ride with an abyss of PRs and laughs.

Did you know wearing CSP gear increases general level of badassery and sexiness by 717%?

Or that we don’t just test deadlift 1RMs?

And that during off-hours these sort of shenanigans take place?

Or that, contrary to popular belief, we don’t just train baseball players?

And, finally, that I can crush a finisher while listening to John Mayer?

 

All Kidding Aside

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to call Cressey Sports Performance my fitness “home” for the past eight years. I’d be remiss not to give credit where it’s due and concede that much of the success in my career has been because of CSP (and by extension, Eric).

Little do people know that Eric and I met on the internet. No lie.

And we didn’t meet at a time when that was just what people did either.

This was pre-Facebook. Pre-Tinder. Pre-text messaging. It was basically Creepy McCreepypants territory to say you met someone online; much less someone you’d inform your family that you’re going to quit your job in NY and move to CT to work and live with.

“Hey family, I’m moving to Connecticut to work with some dude named Eric. Oh, and we met on the internet. He’s totally not an ax-murderer, Mom. Promise!”

I think it’s safe to say that things turned out more than okay.

Eric’s been a major influence on me the past decade – both professionally and personally1– and I’m forever indebted to him for helping to “catapult” my career.

As it happened, it was through him why I pursued writing in the first place. Eric served as my first editor in fact.

It was via Eric that I was able to leave my comfort zone. I never would have left NY if it weren’t for him.

I mean, who knows where I’d be today?

Still a personal trainer at Bally Total Fitness in Syracuse, NY? Maybe a strength coach for a local high school near my home town? Most likely a professional grizzly bear arm wrestler.

Point is: it’s hard to fathom not being where I am today without having crossed paths with Eric.

I could make the case I never would have met my wife, Lisa.

Wedding Picture Dock

All Of This To Say

I’m nervous to be leaving Cressey Sports Performance. Without sounding overly dramatic, a part of me feels naked and vulnerable to say I won’t be there on a day-t0-day basis anymore.

I know I’ve worked hard and performed the bulk of grunt work to build my own brand and make a name for myself in the industry, but it’s hard to picture myself not coaching with the #CSPFamily insignia hovering over my shoulder.

I’m nervous. Nervous as balls. Whatever that means.

It may sound silly, but a portion of me feels I’m losing a sense of prestige in stepping away.

But it’s that sense or nervousness and uncharted waters that will help propel me to continue to work hard and succeed in turning the page in my life.

I’ll miss a lot of things.

What I’ll miss most, though, is being around the other coaches. I am not kidding when I say I’ve been incredibly lucky to coach alongside some of the best coaches out there: Chris Howard, Greg Robins, Andrew Zomberg, George Kalantzis, Tony Bonvechio, Matt Blake, and Miguel Aragoncillo[/footnote]Chingeda. Sorry, inside joke[/footnote] (in addition to the un-sung hero of CSP, office manager, Stacie Leary).

All of them have kept me sharp as a coach and I was/am always amazed at how passionate, in-tune, and willing they were/are to always strive to get better.

TO ALL OF YOU (as well as past coaches/staff: Brian St. Pierre, George Abele, Michelle Elwell, Brittany Morgan): Here’s hoping I can continue to live up to the high standard of professionalism, integrity, and expectations you all have helped me mold and strive to attain.

I know I will. But thank you nonetheless.

Too, THANK YOU to the endless array of athletes and clients (some of which have become close friends) whom I’ve had the privilege to work with over the last several years.

It’s been a more than rewarding ride for me and I wish you all well.

So, What Now?

  • Cry? Did that.
  • Binge watch a new television show? Yep, Narcos.
  • Hang out with my cat, Dagny? Come on…of course.

What about starting my own “gig” in Boston?

Hell to the yes!

I’ve spent the better part of the past few days purchasing and collecting equipment – plates, barbells, matting, power rack, life size replica of He-Man, you know the important stuff – to outfit a small studio space in Brookline about a mile and half from my apartment2

Loading up car with weights

Boston plates

For now I’ll be sub-leasing space at an already existing studio and blocking off times to train people in a semi-private format (groups of 2-4). I’m still in the throes of figuring out my schedule, but for now here’s what I envision happening:

Techno, techno, techno, AND MORE TECHNO.3

No shirt Saturdays. Kidding.4[

And lots of deadlifts.

My goal is to start this shindig towards the middle-end of October, and of course I have an open client roster.

Soooooooo, [cue bashful pose kicking dirt with feet] call or email me if interested? Please. I’ll be your BFF.

In all seriousness, if you’re interested in hearing more about what I’ll be offering shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to fill you in on the deets.

And on that note

Thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you. I have more great memories than I could have ever possibly asked for.

The only way to appropriately summarize what I have to say is to defer to Boyz II Men.

Thanks again Cressey Sports Performance. I will miss you.

 

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  1. I learned what work ethic really means through him. When he and I lived together I’d be in the living room like a tool watching Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth millionth time – YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!! – while he was in his room writing books. Literally. And, he’s always been someone I’ve tried to emulate with regards to character, professionalism and overall level of awesome.

  2. Not gonna lie, the 90 minutes per day I spent in my car traveling back and forth to Hudson from Boston was a grind at times. With the new studio so close there’s so much more time for activities.

  3. Subject to bribery to play less of it.

  4. Or am I?

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