My first memory of athletics was when I was a toddler playing volleyball with a balloon and the couch in the living room used as a net. I continued to play volleyball my whole life. As a child I played soccer, baseball, basketball, track, golf, volleyball, and periodically did tennis and martial arts. I started strength training at a very early age. We were an athletic family and usually were involved in multiple seasonal sports at once. I started strength training at a very early age. We had a weight machine that used air compression for resistance. In addition I did lots of pushups, pullups, gymnastics, jumping, and dumbbell work in my basement or at the park. Most of it I did by myself, which is why I always enjoyed individual sports such as Olympic weightlifting, track and field, and gymnastics over team sports.
I was a 3 sport athlete in highschool with football, basketball, and volleyball. Volleyball was the sport I excelled at the most receiving most valuable, all-tournament, and regional awards. The first time I walked into the highschool weight room I was in love. I had been lifting weights at the junior high but to do it the track and volleyball coach literally had to drag them out of a closet onto the gym floor. I got as good at the clean and half push press as I did with the squat because I had no squat rack and had to lift it over my head before I could squat with it.
The highschool weight room was newly renovated at about a million dollars, so you can imagine how many toys they had. The first time I ever did squats out of a rack I weighed about 140 pounds and did 185 for 10. There were 3 things I knew that I was good at in life and that was jumping, running, and squats. In addition I started training at the powerhouse gym down the street and got a weight set for my bedroom for when I got home from practice. My bodyweight quickly went from 140 my freshmen year to 180 my sophomore year to 205 my senior year. I knew I was destined to be a big boy, the only thing that held me back was I usually lost a lot of weight during season. I learned everything I could about strength training from books, which led me to Olympic Lifting. I was doing power cleans for football and eventually boasted a 130 kilo clean without much understanding of technique. I got a book about Olympic lifting and with some direction from an article by Mike Gattone starting doing it exclusively. I trained at 530 am every morning and then went to practice after school.
When I was 16 I found Frank Eksten just across the border in Northwest Indiana. Frank had been the strength coach for Indiana University basketball for 10 years and moved to Schererville Indiana to open his own facility.
The facility was huge with a competition platform, 11 training platforms, a 30m track from the 1996 Olympics, boxes, stall bars, and all kinds of testing equipment. When the national team weightlifting coach at the time Dragomir Cirosilan came to visit the first time he walked in and said "this is better than the Olympic training center". I literally lived there spending about 6 hours a day. By my 3rd year there I probably knew Frank's brain better than he did. He worked with athletes from 8 years old up to professional basketball and football players. The facility boasted about 120 athletes a week and I probably watched about 90% of what they did between my own sets.
Frank convinced me to pursue weightlifting in College instead of volleyball. I went to Junior Nationals and with very little experience took 3rd overall and 1st the the C&J with a 110 Kilo snatch and a 160 kilo Clean and Jerk. I weighed about 90 kilos. The next year at the American Open I weighed 112 and the year after that at University Nationals I weighed about 125. After 6 years of training I had medaled at junior nationals, the American Open, I had won the 23-under championships (no longer exists), and won Collegiate Nationals. I had been going to the gym at 10am and staying there till 5 or 6 every day for 6 years. I was coaching weightlifting and strength training at Kaeler Middle School and the gym. Then I went to class at night. Over the years Frank had slowly reduced the amount of coaching he did and spent more time doing administrative work. It came to a climax one day when he walked out of his office and told me that I was going to Northern Michigan University for grad school and my training partner Jake Johnson was going to Colorado Springs. Jake opted to go to Shreveport instead. And that was it, Frank was retired from Olympic weightlifting and very bitterly left the USA weightlifting organization behind in his life. He had taught me everything he knew and was basically my second father.
Along with Frank I had the privilege of being looked after by great coaches such as Andy Tysz, Dragomir Cirosilan, Lynne Jones, Roger Nielson, Lance Vermiel, Grant Gardis, Leo Totten, Dave Miller, and Victor Delega.
Andy Tysz asked me to become his assistant coach and I started individualizing training. I also started working at AdvantEdge sports training , NMU track, and swimming because I was only given room and board for the assistant coaching position.
Bobsled was something that I wanted to do for a while. I was big and was a natural runner. I dropped about 60 pounds and started training with the Ladies track team. Coach Barnes made me a sprint and weights coach and I went to track school with Boo Schexneyder who produced 7 Olympic Medalists. I scored well at the combine and pushed sleds at Park City, Lake Placid, and Calgary Canada and have the bruises to prove it. I also have the distinction of training at every Olympic Training Site in North America with the exception of Chula Vista.
Comes the Head Coaching Position
In 2012 I took over the head coaching position on NMU weightlifting so that ended my athletic career. I work 60 to 80 hours a week and all my time is now devoted to my 30+ athletes. I still find time to train because I want to continue to live the lifestyle of my athletes. But now I either do things I think are fun like gymnastics conditioning or I experiment with things and try and learn from different training programs.