How to Become a Great Athlete
Elite, sports trainer, David Mariani, takes us through his life story until finding the work of training revolutionary, Ben Patrick
How do I get better?
Growing up not too far from Chicago, the Bulls last 3-peat sparked my love for the game of basketball.
I wanted to be a great basketball player like MJ, Scottie, and Rodman, BUT I had no clue how to get there.
I did know that I had a lot of work to do, so I headed outside to work on my game. Every day I got shots up and worked on my handles. The sun going down was the only thing that prevented me from being on the court all night. Working on my game for 6 hours in a single day was common for me. My parents led the example of working hard, but neither of them played basketball, so it was on me to find the answers on how to improve.
I didn’t know at the time, but 6 hours a day is a great way to overtrain and prevent yourself from improving at a fast rate. It did build mental strength, which is why I was able to get honors in high school for basketball, but it came at the expense of my athleticism. My collegiate coach called me “the most unathletic player he coached in 40 years,” and he wasn’t mean. It was very accurate. I shouldn’t have even played in college, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I outworked everyone to build trust from my team and coaches.
College was when I started to lift weights to build strength and put on size for my 6’4 150 lb frame. I had no clue what I was doing, and my college didn’t have a strength program, so I spent hours researching how to get better. If I wasn’t on the court, I was studying and studying the greats. I even obtained my exercise science degree and CSCS cert. If someone said they were getting results, then I did everything in my power to learn from them. Not only was I very un-athletic, but I was also constantly getting injured. Spraining my ankles every week, shin splints, torn meniscus, Osgood Schlatter’s and patellar tendonitis, as well as a lower back fracture, was my reality upon graduating college. I tried to play lower-level pro, but I was too slow and too hurt to make any impact. After two years, I decided to use what I learned to help others, and I transitioned to training athletes full-time.
I always trained like I was still playing pro ball because I wanted to experience what I was telling my athletes to do. My athletes kept getting excellent results, but my injuries never fully healed. At one point, I had to take over a year off from playing basketball, even just shooting around. It was one of the most challenging times of my life. I told myself that I would do everything I could so no one would have to experience the pain and suffering I went through.
The darkest dark is proper before the light.
I was depressed, injured, and lonely in my quest to find the best ways to improve fast and safely. That was when I stumbled upon my brother Ben’s Instagram @kneesovertoesguy.
The truth was Ben was training his knees over his toes, something that my education told me not to do. I knew he was onto something by how he moved on the court after all of his injuries. I wasted no time and messaged him on Instagram, asking for his help.
This is something I’ve come to learn: if someone has real answers that can help others, they will gladly help you if you are respectful and show that you are willing to put in the work. I did exactly what Ben suggested. Within the first week of doing his ATG online program, Knee Ability, the pain started to go away. It was an unreal experience. I had gone the majority of my life moving with pain and had completely forgotten what it was like to move pain-free. I started using ATG methods with my athletes and despite them already getting good results, the results have never been. I even had an athlete go from a 20″ vertical to a 32″ in one off-season!
I might be the oldest athlete to get their first in-game dunk at the young age of 33! I always had the belief, and even though sometimes doubt would creep in, it never stopped me from relentlessly pursuing.
Now, I’m entirely pain-free and helping athletes around the world get pain-free themselves. “Pain-free sets the gains free” is something Ben has said that I’ve seen not only in myself but all the athletes we’ve trained.
YOUR POWER IS GREATER THAN EVEN YOU MAY REALIZE
Addressing the Future of Baseball in 2021
QnA with 50 Year MLB Coach and Scouting Veteran, Jerry Weinstein.
This week I caught up with Jerry Weinstein, a long-time baseball buff, to say the very least. Jerry began his coaching career back in 1966 as a freshman coach at UCLA, and today, after an unprecedented coaching run that found him atop leading Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, he now finds himself a part of The Colorado Rockies Player Development System as a Scouting Special Assistant.
With fifty-plus years of experience in the game of baseball at the highest level, I thank Jerry for answering our audience’s question amidst a time of significant adjustment for the game of baseball. Upon receiving this great opportunity, I wanted to hear from our audience and have their questions answered by Jerry. Dictated by your questions, this was the extent of our conversation:
What behavioral issues do you run into with players at the professional level, and what can we do as coaches when we have these players younger to foster better habits or character?
“We have fewer behavioral issues at the pro level because there is so much internal competition & there are really no fallback options. The organization has the leverage. With that being said, it’s all about choices & owning those choices realizing that there are consequences for poor choices. Transfer of blame is not an option. The key is establishing standards of behavior & consistently holding the athletes to those standards.”
What are we doing now in the industry that is hurting participation and the retention of good athletes in the game of baseball? As we witness, athletes to the likes of Kyler Murray choose not to pursue baseball professionally.
“Retention-Make it fun. Connect with the players as people & not just players. Be positive. Know what you are doing. Allow for individual differences. Be organized & have enough help to keep players moving in small groups. Short-tempo practices & games. Make it competitive. Player-centric environment. It’s more about them than the scoreboard. It’s a collaborative effort between players, coaches & parents.”
What are your thoughts on the game of baseball missing out on talented players with the shortened draft and college rosters overflowing? With 1,525 draft selections in 2010 and only 160 in 2020…
Professional baseball does not miss very often. Maybe they don’t get slotted the way they end up, but good players do not go unseen. If they are playing somewhere, they will be seen. It may be in an Indy League where many late bloomers & players from lower-profile programs thrive. If they have tools or are playing up to professional standards, they will be seen. The problem lies in the fact that we are losing a lot of the better athletes to other sports. We need to do a better job of attracting those athletes & retaining them. MLB is making a real effort in that area in the inner cities with its RBI program. I’m concerned that the current Travel Team movement has priced a lot of the economically challenged families out.
I want to once again thank Jerry for his priceless insight and wisdom. His generosity in answering these questions I know will go a long way for our audience memebers. The game of baseball, perhaps having always faced unprecedented times, now faces reconstruction and rebranding efforts post pandemic. With the universal designated hitter (DH) now active in both the American and Nation League, the game of baseball now looks to another evolution in rules for greater growth amongst fan bases and most imporantly, youth. Baseball’s ability to keep promising athletes in the sport will set the horizon the future of baseball is destined for.
The Life of a Cheerleader – Grounded in Friendship
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my cheer career is that teammates are the most important part of cheerleading.
When I’m on the floor, what gets me through the routine is my teammates yelling, we got this; we’re almost done, keep going. When you put in the work for yourself and your teammates, the team’s success fills you with indescribable pride.
I’ve met some of my closest friends through cheer, and my teammates make even the most challenging practices enjoyable even when my body wants to give up.
My teammates are my family.
My base Abby who’s been with me for eight years is practically my sister; I can always count on my best friend since elementary school, Meghan, to do whatever it takes to make the stunt work; I love cracking jokes with my Backspot Zora and my flyer Presley, and my friend Emma I can always count on to get me through a challenging practice. Teammates make not only cheer but sports what they are.
Our teammates drive us.
When you spend the majority of your time with just these people, you create bonds that will last forever. Especially nowadays, where the headlines rarely include more than one, it is essential to remember how instrumental teammates are in our success and life. Make sure you make known how much you appreciate those around you that you go to the war and back with. Chances are, wherever you are today, a teammate or many teammates have helped support that success.
How to Survive College Baseball
Everyone needs to have that perspective; it shouldn’t take quitting to see it.
I came in as a freshman at Shippensburg University, a Division II school in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. I thought I was perfect. I thought I was going to play immediately.
I thought I was a DI guy. Quickly it became apparent that I had much growing up to do.
I was playing against 22-year-old men who were more talented than I was. Instead of recognizing this and changing my behavior to grow, I self-destructed and went in the wrong direction. By November of my sophomore year, I had run myself off the team.
I then spent six months away from the game, trying new things around campus. This time was crucial; it completely changed my perspective of the student-athlete. From the outside looking in, I could see that the average athlete was ungrateful and didn’t appreciate how lucky they were to be playing at such a high level. I was the definition of that athlete.
Through some unique encounters and chain of events, I decided to dedicate myself to come back. My attitude was different, and the killer instinct was there. I wasn’t coming back to have fun; I was coming back to prove to myself and my peers that I could be a better teammate.
All of my boys that I came into Ship with were entering their senior years, and so was I. These were still my best friends. A comeback would prove to change our relationship forever. Instead of being labeled as a quitter, I needed my legacy to be different.
So many walk away from college athletics for various reasons. Pressure is too great, love for the game diminishes; that’s how I felt. Leaving the game makes you fearless. You have nothing to lose. .
Whatever you are doing to prepare yourself, know that it’s not enough. Someone out there is hitting frozen baseballs in the snow at 11 pm on a Friday. Someone out there is taking swings until their hands bleed. I don’t know if these actions are essential in becoming a better baseball player, but they sure will give you the edge in the battle that is life. Stare down the pitcher and know you’ve outworked him in every way, and you have no choice but to win the fight.
There is always something to do to improve yourself, and it doesn’t have to be physically related. There are books to read about the mental side of the game. Ninety Percent Mental, by Bob Tewksbury, changed my career. I will always say that his remarks transformed me from an average HS player into an everyday PSAC player.
I had already played the game before it happened. You have to see it and feel it before you do it. If you don’t, you will be surprised, anxious, and caught off guard. You know what’s going to happen. You know what you want to happen. Make it happen. No task is too great. Lead with your actions.
Please reach out to me if you are having trouble with your HS or college baseball experience. I would love to help any ballplayers out there. I can be reached through Instagram Zackzoller15.
It Takes What it Takes!