Why am I a coach? Why do I have such a strong passion for training, fitness, health? For as long as I can remember I have been active and involved in sports. Of course, I had the fortune of growing up in a neighborhood and at a time when I could wake up in the morning, head out the door and only return to the house for lunch or when Mom or Dad called me for dinner. The rest of the time I was moving, playing tag, wrestling, climbing trees, or riding with my friends to the city pool.
Not to brag, but I hold the record for imaginary game winning home runs hit over the hedge that bordered my backyard, game winning touchdown passes I bounced off the garage to myself, and last minute shots to win the NBA Championships.
As I grew I became more involved with organized sports: baseball, soccer, basketball, jui jitsui, and fencing. My junior high and high school job was as caddie and bag room boy at Mayfield Country Club. And until I got my driver’s license, my bike was my primary method of transportation.
By the time I entered Miami University I eagerly took part in intramural sports and raced for the cycling team.
If all this activity planted the seed for health and fitness, my high school and undergraduate classes nurtured my interest. Nutrition, weight lifting, physics in sports, and exercise physiology were just some of my electives. Not to complete my major requirements, just classes I thought would be interesting.
As I moved into the working world I was still competing in cycling and soon became the answer guy at my company. Co-workers would ask me how to eat better, how to train for a half marathon, and our CEO even asked me if there were stretches or nutrition tips he could use to ease his nocturnal leg cramps. Weird but when the CEO asks, you respond.
The pull was too much, I finally listened to my heart and decided I had to make a career out of this passion. So I left the eBusiness and Marketing World and dove further into health and fitness. Now, after graduate school, coaching and training for over ten years, and lecturing across the country, I have found my voice as a teacher, sharing what I have discovered with others.
I definitely get that from my Father. A high school History and English teacher, his passion for knowledge is strong. He is always eagerly sharing facts, trivia, and experiences with me and my Brother. It is only natural that I love to do the same thing. Maybe this passion is genetic?
But it goes even deeper than just teaching. My Grandmother, was active her entire life often found playing golf and tennis, and swimming regularly until her death at 90 years of age in 2005. Similar with the rest of the family. My Aunt is a massage therapist and co-owner of a holistic health company.
My Grandmother’s younger brother, my Great-Uncle “Brud” Cleaveland was a national elite swimmer and diver at Ohio State University. In 1940 he was an Olympic hopeful. That hope was dashed of course when the World was thrust into war and the Olympic Games were cancelled. After graduating with a PhD in Physical Education, he joined the U.S. Navy and was immediately placed in a special program training sailors and troops. He served under boxing champ Gene Tunney.
After the war, he moved to California and was a swimming coach at UCLA and then Santa Monica College where he also taught physical education. He went on leave to teach and coach in Japan in 1964 so he could see the Olympics, getting free entry to the Olympic Village in Tokyo because he knew so many coaches. While there he also contributed to The Modern Gymnast Magazine and after his return to the United States, he spent some time with Dr. Kenneth Cooper (the “father of aerobics”) at his institute in Texas.
He has been active his entire life in gymnastics, track and field, ski racing, and of course diving and swimming, holding many U.S. and World Championships and has run a few marathons, completed several triathlons, and even climbed Mount McKinley. Although Uncle Brud is slowing down, he celebrated his 96th birthday last December and still completes daily exercises and volunteers at a local hospital in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Those are some big family shoes to fill.
There is something to this Cleaveland gene. My Great-Grandmother, Margaret W. Wardwell Cleaveland graduated from Sargents in Boston, taught at Mt. Holyoke College, and was Director of Physical Therapy at University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. Impressive for anyone, but especially so for a woman in the 19-teens and 1920s and mother of six!
There is no denying health and fitness is in my genes. Gaining this perspective, reflecting on my personal history and tracing my family history adds to my life as I continually try to understand my motivations and direction. So I strive to gain more knowledge and share it with others, to help them realize their own goals, and improve their health, fitness, and performance. After all, it’s in my blood, it’s who I am.