Here is my story of how athletics, and the coaches I’ve had, shaped my passion for youth fitness and coaching. This passion has led to the development of a youth training and coaching business where our goal is to cultivate a passion for athletics and build healthier lifestyle habits for all the athletes that are a part of it. So here we go…
The great majority of my life has revolved around athletics. My athletic career has blessed me with experiences that I will never forget. To the highs of receiving a full scholarship to play football at West Virginia University, to the lows of missing an entire football season due to injury; they have all shaped me into the person I am today. As a child I was introduced to organized sports around the age of 5 or 6, where I began playing soccer. Most of my childhood friendships were developed through relationships built on the soccer field. Through these friendships I grew to love all sports and created a general habit of being active and outside. Through my elementary and middle school years I continued to play soccer, but also began playing baseball.
My little league baseball coach was, and still to this day, one of the greatest coaches I have ever had. He taught me most of all that playing this game was supposed to be fun, but also with the right attitude and dedication that I could be a pretty darn good player. And through his coaching I really was developing into a great baseball player. There was one little problem… the summer between my 7th and 8th grade year I started growing, a lot. I was by no means a small kid growing up. I was always one of the biggest kids on my sports teams. I was in fact too big to play youth football, so other than playing in the backyard and at recces I had no opportunities to play football. This is what kept me playing soccer as long as I did. My first experience with the sport of football came in 7th grade. I was miserable. I did not understand the game because I have never played before, and physically I was not ready for it. I was bruised from head to toe, but luckily I stuck with it.
My college playing career was a roller coaster to say the least. Injuries, coaching changes, changing my academic major all provided obstacles for me, but also have brought me to where I am today. There were plenty of high points as well. First, I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from WVU for free… if you can do it I highly recommend it. Next, I got my first start at Heinz Field against the University of Pittsburgh. As a kid from Pennsylvania, and a huge Steelers fan, this was an experience I will never forget. And of course, WVU won the game. And lastly, I got to play in three bowl games, the last of which was a turning point in my life.
It was January 1st, 2004 at about 4:00pm. I was in Jacksonville Florida at Alltel Stadium, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. WVU had just been defeated in the Gator Bowl to the University of Maryland. As I walked off of the field it finally occurred to me that this was the last time I would ever step on a football field as a player. There was a mix of emotions throughout my teammates. Some were saddened with the end of their playing careers; others were excited to pursue football at the next level. My feelings were a bit different; I was overcome with a feeling of appreciation for all those that helped and guided me to that point. I delayed going into the locker room, not because I didn’t want it to be over, but because there were so many memories entering my mind that had been instrumental up to that point. I thought mostly of my little league baseball coach (Coach Masterson), my high school football coach (Coach Wellek), and two of the strength & conditioning coaches that I had at WVU (Coach Johnson & Coach Barwis). These men taught me more than I could ever list, and probably more than they even realize. As I walked into the locker room I realized that my path in life would be to try and provide the same experiences and opportunities that these men provided to me. To sum it up I needed to pay it forward.
Eleven years later… I am the Owner of LEWIS Fitness & Performance, a sports performance center that was designed to provide athletes, ages 12 and up of all sports, an environment to develop their foundational athletic qualities. For the younger kids we have Erie Youth Conditioning & Performance specifically designed for the needs of kids ages 6-11. On the surface, both companies create programs to help athletes get stronger, faster, more explosive, and less prone to injury. On a deeper level it is our goal to instill lifelong qualities of success, not only in sports but in everyday life as well. We develop qualities such as self-confidence, work ethic, dedication to name a few. And through all of these aspects it all goes back to Coach Masterson on that Little League baseball field… and hopefully we have a little fun too.