At a time like this, stuck in quarantine, I am reminded that people love stories. I wrote the following essay while going through a challenging transition from moving the gym from a small, outdated space in Wyckoff to our beautiful Franklin Lakes facility. If you're interested in how I became a business owner, and more importantly, WHY I did, give this a quick read.
I’ve loved sports, and any and all physical activity for as long as I can remember. I would watch ESPN instead of cartoons as a 5 year old, and sneak down to the basement to recreate what the elite athletes were doing on TV, in real life. I can’t relate to everyone in that way; I seem naturally inclined to constant motion. I am a bit lucky in that regard.
This led to a random occurrence, where I got to attend a trial class at the Parisi Speed School, to my best memory around the eighth grade. I was nervous and always a bit timid in group settings, but found the very track I walked on to be magical. This was where I belonged. In this space, you just got to work on being a better athlete all day, from coaches who knew more than my very aware, yet very untrained eye could notice on TV. It seemed like the epicenter of where I should be, but unfortunately, it wasn’t something that could continue.
After struggling to play competitively in high school partly because of my very frail frame (6’ tall, about 135 lbs) and partly because I didn’t quite have the self confidence in a structured setting, I was self-aware enough to recognize, after the fact, that what I was missing was coaching. No one told me that I should be lifting weights to gain muscle, or how to do it, until I was in college. Coaches poked and prodded, but never really instilled a strong sense of confidence in me. I knew, ultimately, that I wanted to be that coach for kids who otherwise may have never been given an opportunity to fulfill their passions.
Through high school and college, I always felt I would go work for Parisi’s someday, based on that one afternoon back in eighth grade. Personal training and athletic coaching wasn’t what I was going to school for, but I sure did my best to convince my very supportive parents that this was the right move for me. It was the only place I applied immediately after graduation, and sure enough, after a few phone calls and annoying some future mentors of mine, I became a coach.
Besides working with young athletes, I worked with adults as well. I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I knew it was something I had to do. That quickly changed into a passion. After spending some time watching my grandfather, in his mid-80s, struggle to walk, not due to any health problems or injuries, but simply due to an extreme lack of physical activity, I knew there must be people everywhere who would suffer a similar fate. If I could help adults in their 30s, 50s, 70s, even 90s, understand the importance exercise could have on enjoying their lives until the day they die, it would be incredible. That became a second calling for me.
Fast forward two years, and after working with hundreds of athletes and fifty or so adults, who became like family to me, an opportunity to take over the facility presented itself when I was just 25 years old. I dove right in, fully aware that it would take months, if I was lucky, to take home a few dollars. If I wasn’t lucky, it would hurt my family and my future. The opportunity to fulfill a dream was well worth it.
From that day, May 20th, 2013, I knew the most important aspects of a company like ours was the relationships we build on a day to day basis. I decided that if I didn’t genuinely care about the lives of the people we worked with, and didn’t do everything in my power to help them achieve their goal, that I should leave the business to someone else. Each day when I wake up, I am blessed to help people feel better about themselves and that is a life worth living.