SIMPLE SATURDAY– One of our kids who hopped into our program in winter called me via Facebook last night. His message: “Hello Mo, I used to go to your sessions on Fri, Sat and Sun. I haven’t been coming because of lacrosse. Also an incident happened with my family and I need basketball, and your program helped me stay out of trouble. I was wondering if you had one spot for me. I want to come and play and train again. Right now all I need is basketball and I told my dad I’d play basketball, and I feel like it’s all I have right now…If you get this message can you call or text me. Thank you.”
We spoke briefly today. I didn’t ask for details of what happened because another boy was walking with us. (I will get more details soon.) I did say that our gym time is cut back to nothing but outside in July and August, but if he works hard enough, he can find a team or two with our help or even on his own. More importantly, there are fitness gyms in Harlem and in the Bronx who encourage teenagers to attend and give them discounted rates. I said he’ll feel so much better about himself if he has a place to go and sweat every day. I said if he found out info on his local Planet Fitness and let me know the details, we could meet again to discuss how to lay out his summer. He can do our 250 Club, he can get a job, he can play hoops, and he can find extra classes to work on academics.
We lived too far away from a gym, and we didn’t really have gyms like we do now because of the fitness wave that started in the 1990s. My gym was in the basement. My brother, who did not know it at the time, was my weight coach. After getting beat in sectionals my sophomore year, I came home from that loss against Albany High, and I went downstairs. I realized on my own that I’d gotten knocked around too much that night, and I needed to do something about it. I wrote DRIVEN on the ceiling in our basement. I lay down on the bench and that is the word I saw every time I bench-pressed any weight. I watched what my brother did. My uncle gave me some tips. I went to Northwestern and felt more than comfortable in the weight room. I wanted to thrive in that environment, even with so many more-powerful athletes around me. That is where I needed to be to stay motivated, humble, hungry.
If you have a teenage son or daughter or know of a friend of your teenage daughter or son, consider the gift of a summer gym membership. Maybe pay for three months or alternate where the kid has to pay until he proves he’s going consistently. (I think the NYSC rate for teens ages 14 or 15 and up last summer was $40 sign-up fee and $20 a month.) Skip buying another pair of sneakers and put that money toward a membership where they can be around hard-working folks 4-7 times a week on their own time. Or else they may end up somewhere else you don’t want them to be, all of the time.
Too many high school boys in the workout I just left a few hours ago had been cut by their high school teams. It did not deter them from showing up, from working hard, from wanting to feel like they were part of something special. I talked to them about signing up for our Mo’ Motion 250 Club to get their fitness and hoops hours in this summer regardless of whether they make the team. Effort, intent, discipline, all go a lot further than wherever your high school team finishes.
If the kids need basic training on how to work out, go with them and teach them basic reps, set, and form with light weights the way my brother taught me, or the way I learned from him because he was very good on form. If the kids commit, bump it up to maybe a visit with a trainer who can teach them a little more. Make them do the work the trainer says, then offer another perk to work with the trainer if they put in the time.
I talked to the boys today about how many high school kids go on to play college ball. They all had their numbers right. They knew only 1-3 percent of the top high school players go next level. I said, “What percentage of kids do you have to fall in to be a good high school player? That’s important in life. To look back and know you gave it your best.” They said you’d want to beat out 50-60-80 percent of your competition via skill work, work ethic, IQ. That felt more realistic.
And we ended on this note: “How many of you guys just want game?”
They all raised their hands. They love the game. They want to work at it. Rally around that passion and desire, dangle in some perks, and watch it carryover into everything they do. That is what sports does for kids.
Encourage them to participate in proper doses that include trips to the gym where they are around people who appreciate the habits of discipline, wellness and fitness.
Maureen Holohan is a former All-Big Ten player, published author and journalist. She runs momotion.com in Manhattan.