Shut Up. And Do the Work.

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My Junior College baseball coach, Joe Antonio, was a hard ass.

I played for him at Onondaga Community College (located in Syracuse, NY) from 1995-1997, and can honestly say it was two of the best years of my life.

OCC Baseball Pic

Coach Antonio is #11 pictured above. Can you spot me?, taken during my first spring trip to Florida, circa 1996? Hint: I’m the pasty white guy.1

Coming out of high-school I was a good baseball player. I was a Varsity player for three seasons, earning All-Conference honors both my Junior and Senior years as a right-handed pitcher.

I was good, but I was also untested. I was a big fish in a small pond (graduating class of 55) coming from a very rural part of the state, a town devoid of any traffic lights and fast food joints, surrounded by dairy farms and corn fields, and wrapped in its own bubble of blissful naivete.

For the record: Yes, I did grow up with electricity, and running water. And no, even with a graduating class of 55 people my Senior year I wasn’t nominated for any “Best…” or “Most Likely To…” quips in the yearbook.

Not even “Best Biceps” or “Most Likely to Have Hair For All of Eternity2” or anything like that.

Pffffft, whatever.

High-School Senior Pic, 1995. Such a boss.

So anyways, off I went to Syracuse to play for Coach Antonio. Syracuse isn’t a huge city by any stretch. But when you hail from a town who’s highest building is three stories (if that), your options for “fine dining” aren’t limited to the rotating hot-dog rack in the local gas station, and you have access to, like, stuff, like, Old Navy and Applebees, it’s a pretty big deal.

Going to college in a somewhat big city immersed me in an environment where the lights blocked out the night sky, cars zoomed everywhere, there was stuff to do, and people stayed up past 11 PM.

On top of that, my coach, Coach Antonio, as a I noted above, was a hard ass. The complete, polar opposite of my high-school coach who was as laid back and easy-going as could be.

Coach Antonio’s style rubbed a lot of players the wrong way. I don’t know why, it just did. OCC was a very successful baseball program back then and every Fall dozens and dozens of guys would show up for tryouts (on top of the ones who were recruited by Coach, like myself).

He yelled, he cussed (not AT players), he held his players accountable, he was a perfectionist. There was a certain way he wanted everything done, and if you didn’t follow through he’d let you know…even during warm-ups.

Within the first week of tryouts many guys, some of whom were All-Conference (and in some cases All-State), from much larger schools than myself, started dropping out and quitting. I can only guess as to what their reasons were. But if I had to guess it was because most of them were coddled, maybe slightly entitled. and/or weren’t willing to put in the work.

Many expected to make the team based of their accolades alone.

Coach was tough, but to me, he wasn’t that tough. In my mind, if you did what you were told, worked hard, and didn’t slack, he’d be the guy in your corner and championing your praises once Division I,II, and III schools started contacting him for players.

And that’s exactly what I did. I showed up on time, did what I was told, put in the work, kept my mouth shut, and was often the guy (along with several other teammates), who would stay after practice to lift and do sprints.

All of this isn’t to insinuate I wasn’t ever chewed out. Boy was I ever! But I never took Coach chewing me out as an attack or some stroke against my manhood. He was trying to teach me and to better prepare me for what lied ahead in my baseball career (and life).

He made me a better baseball player (I ended up receiving several scholarship offers, and ended up at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA). But he unquestionably made me a better, stronger, more resilient man. Attributes I feel, to this day, helped shape my career as a fitness professional.

What’s My Point?

Sometimes I want to tell young (sometimes old), upcoming (sometimes veteran) fitness professionals to shut up.

There’s a phrase that myself (and Eric Cressey) use quite often:

“You have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. Use them in that order.”

Listen, watch, learn…shut up.

I was having a chat not long ago with a student who was a year or two away from graduating. In the ten minutes or so we were conversing I couldn’t help but notice all he was doing was railing on this and that professor; that “this guy (ex. phys. professor) was an idiot,” and that “this one (Sport Development and Human Movement) had no idea what she was talking about,” and blah blah blah.

I wanted to be like, “dude, shut the eff up. You haven’t done anything. Just because you read T-Nation and publish a podcast on the side that four people listen to doesn’t mean you’re God’s gift to wannabe strength coaches.”

Sure, are some of the things we learn in school out-dated and archaic? Absolutely. And when discussing higher education, I’d like to think there’s open discourse between professor-student and that, sometimes, questions DO need to be asked and conventional ways of thinking DO need to be challenged.

However, there’s a fine line between that and being a know-it-all-dick.

It’s analogous to the the personal trainer who’s been working for three months and starts worrying about building his or her “brand.” They can’t fathom why their self-published e-book isn’t making them six-figures yet, or why is it the only people who’ve signed up for their newsletter is themselves, their mom, second cousin, ex-girlfriend, and their kitchen toaster. Don’t ask.

Things aren’t just going to happen without earning it and putting in the work…over the long haul.

No, you’re not going to sip pina coladas while you swim in a pool of passive income. No, you’re not going to work with professional athletes on Day #1. And no, you’re not going switch on the lights to a brand spankin new 10,000 square foot facility tomorrow and people are going to be knocking down the doors. Nor will it happen next week. Or next month.

Could those things happen? Yep.

But not until you shut up and do the work.

[Drops mic, exit stage right]

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  1. Top row, far right.

  2. Well, I guess my classmates knew something I didn’t back then.

Comments for This Entry

  • Kyle Schuant

    The untold story of our industry is just how many failed trainers there are. I see them when I go to seminars. "So, you work for a big gym, or...?" "I'm self-employed." "Got a bit of gear in your garage?" "Um, yeah." "What sort of people do you train?" "Um, all sorts." "What's your training style?" "Oh, um, I like to mix it up." Self-employed, or unemployed? I tell new trainers, don't try to start your own business, go work in a big gym somewhere. As much as we can make fun of all the curlbros and the managers with their KPI reports, at a big commercial or community gym you just get to deal with a lot of people. In 4-5 years, my personal goal was every day I'd teach someone to squat or deadlift, and later to clean or snatch. A lot of people I taught two or more lifts to, so it's about 500 different people I taught a barbell movement to. And then there were the initial appointments new members got, at least two a week - another 500 people. Altogether that's more than 1,000 people who I talked to about their background and goals, and taught some movement. I learned some things. Had I just stayed in my garage it might have been 100 by now, at most. Now, I'm not claiming to be a brilliant trainer, but I'm a lot BETTER trainer after dealing with 1,000 people than I would have been after 100. I still haven't sold an ebook, though...

    July 2, 2015 at 8:14 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Rachel

    Just what I needed to read after a long day working at a commercial gym in the morning and then working an internship at a performance-based facility all afternoon/evening. Starting a career takes so much patience. But it'll pay off eventually!

    July 2, 2015 at 9:02 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Exactly Rachel. It can be a grind (<- I hate using that word, and hate even more people who use it as some badge of honor), but if you accept it as something you KNOW will help you grow and get better....it's worth it in the long run.

      July 3, 2015 at 7:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • Nathan Clay Rogers

    I am afraid I may have been one of those kids coming out of Uni. I thought I knew it all and that I was entitled to everything, I wasnt, but as my mentor says 'Its soon as you know everything that you learn you know very little'.

    July 3, 2015 at 5:59 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Wise words indeed.

      July 3, 2015 at 7:06 am | Reply to this comment

    • Kyle Schuant

      I was talking to someone the other day about this strength stuff, and why we like barbells for newbies. Basically, in 3 months of coming 3 times a week, every healthy woman under 50 can squat 60, bench 40 and deadlift 80kg, and the men 100/75/120. Some do more, the only ones who do less are those who show up less than 2/3 the time or who have a month-long holiday in the middle, that sort of thing. And these numbers really are about 50% as far as most of them are ever likely to go - given that people are doing this as a hobby, few women would ever go beyond squatting 120, or the men 200kg. And it took 3 sessions a week for 3 months... about 40 hours in all. 40 hours to get to 50% of your potential. That's remarkable, really. I mean, how good is someone after 40 hours of gymnastics training? 40hr of driving lessons? 40hr of foreign language learning? Or 40hr of study for being a fitness instructor? But they might imagine they're pretty good... it's that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" again, I supppose.

      July 3, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Erica Kristin

    I needed to see this post! Thank you so much. I have been working in S&C for two years now and it is definitely a journey of evolving as a coach and human being. There is no ultimate goal, but even if there is, it will not happen overnight. I've definitely learned to reach out to mentors and allow them to do the talking. Thanks, Tony!

    July 6, 2015 at 9:45 am | Reply to this comment

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    July 8, 2015 at 9:04 am | Reply to this comment

  • Why I Turned Down a Division I Scholarship

    […] NOTE: you can read more about my experiences there (and why Coach Antonio was huge influence on me with regards to work ethic HERE). […]

    December 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm | Reply to this comment

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