This is the fourth installment in a series of stories tracking our writer Matt Crossman’s progress on improving his scores in the SAT for Sports … if he makes any (and that’s a 40-yard tall IF).
I swung my arms back and forth, once, twice, three times, trying to build momentum. As they swung forward the fourth time, I engaged my calves, hamstrings, thighs, hips and glutes and threw my body up and out, over the soccer field. I “soared” horizontally … three, four, five feet and more before my Asics sneakers finally succumbed to gravity and crashed back down to earth … at which point those same sneakers kept going.
The grass was wet, so like a plane taking off immediately after landing, my feet touched the ground and went right back into the air. As they did that, my butt, subject to the same immutable laws of gravity that had brought my feet down, headed toward the ground at 32 feet per second squared and landed there with a rattling thud.
My first thought after the earth stopped shaking was to take a pain inventory. I was relieved I had none … and let me tell you, dear reader, if I broke my tailbone falling on it doing a standing long jump … oh goodness, oh golly, oh gosh, my brothers and friends would never let me hear the end of it. They would spend 1.2 seconds feigning concern and the rest of my life ragging me.
My second thought was to look to see if any of my workout partners training for the SAT for Sports had seen that remarkable bit of grace. Nope. Social distancing prompted us to jump in different directions facing away from each other. Thank heaven for small favors.
I stood up as if nothing happened, dusted mud off my rear end and suggested we move the workout to the nearby parking lot to avoid that happening to anybody else. By now I was used to finding new places to work out in my attempt to become an average high school athlete at 48. The soccer field that now has my butt imprinted on it was Plan C; Plan A, a high school football field less than a mile from my house, closed after I used it once. Plan B, another soccer field, proved unacceptable because of uneven ground.
The constant change in location was just one obstacle in a project overrun with them. No assignment ever goes as I expect it to. But my training for the SAT for Sports has been a seemingly never-ending series of challenges.
This project was inspired by Mike Weinstein, an entrepreneur who owns a business called Zybek Sports. He created the “SAT for Sports,” comprising the 40-yard dash, standing broad jump, standing high jump and two agility drills. What if, I thought, I used downtime created by the coronavirus quarantine to “study” for that test? Could I become an average high school athlete 30 years after graduating? What could I learn by trying?
For the sake of this series, I define “average high school athlete” as broadly as possible. I figure someone in the 75th percentile and up is a great athlete, someone from 25 down is a lousy athlete, and someone in the middle is average.
The assignment sounded simple. Using data compiled by Weinstein in administering the test 20,800 times last year, I identified numbers at the 25th percentile in each test and set those as my goals. I planned to take the five parts of the test on Day 1 (March 26) to set my benchmarks. I would take the test as a mid-term after three weeks and again as a final after six weeks.
Literally none of that has happened. Man plans, God laughs, and He’s been cracking up for weeks.
The very first obstacle came on the very first portion of the test on the very first day. I torqued my hamstring running the 40-yard dash, skipped the other four parts of the test and couldn’t run for three weeks. A hellacious fight with insomnia forced me to stop early morning workouts. Rain has been a constant source of frustration, causing cancellation of training sessions and making conditions butt-crashingly miserable.
Gear has been another problem. My trainer, Ethan Lord of D1, suggested I wear cleats instead of sneakers for the running events. I dug my old Nike softball cleats out of my basement, laced them up, ran two steps … and the sole came right off of the body of the shoe. I trained so hard I ran my shoes into pieces. The next day, I wore holes in both of my sneakers. I originally budgeted this story to have zero expenses. Now I’ve spent $135.03 in shoes.
All of which is minor compared to what’s going on with my fellow solopreneurs in the six weeks (six? Eight? 12? What month is it anyway?) since the world changed.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned as I’ve looked for dry grass, altered my work schedule, and forked over cash for new cleats and sneakers is that while the challenges I face in training for the SAT for Sports might be unique, everybody, and I mean every single solitary person I know, is facing obstacles right now. Furloughs, unemployment, suddenly stingy clients, dried up markets—we are all facing something. Our shared struggles to overcome the challenges we can and endure the rest bind us together even while we remain physically apart.
Ryan Roth, the co-owner of D1 Training, has served as my Encourager-in-Chief throughout the training. When he and his business partner opened the gym, they crafted a mission statement in which they vowed to impact, serve and improve the community. When the coronavirus hit, they reached the startling conclusion that the mission statement required them to close the brick-and-mortar facility. The government would have forced them to anyway, but they did so before they were ordered to.
That’s a great example of putting others first, and I admire the hell out of them for it. Closing the gym did not mean closing the business, and they had to recreate their business on the fly. Roth and his partner quickly determined that the physical structure—the gym itself—is not what makes their business unique; it’s the people, trainers like Lord and Trey Adams, who have been doing the training and taking the test with me.
In its new incarnation, D1 leaned into the strength of its staff, focusing on live workouts instead of taped to use the staff best. Soon D1 was hosting free online workouts 29 times a week. When that first started, Roth told himself it was a 30-day challenge. After he made it through the first 30 days, he told himself, I already did 30, I can do 30 more.
Now as the St. Louis region slowly reopens, Roth has to figure out how D1 will adjust again when it returns to in-person workouts (tentatively slated to start later this month). Some of his clients will be there the second he unlocks the doors. Others will be slow to return, preferring instead to keep using D1’s virtual workouts.
What was once an obstacle is now a long-term facet of his business—D1 plans to keep administering virtual workouts. “Now it becomes less about how do we just suck it up, and more how do we continue to sharpen this tool in our tool box?” Roth says.
Whatever challenges await him when the gym reopens, Roth reminds himself he’s overcome adversity before, he can do it again. Well, there is one challenge that he has yet to overcome. “I’m a hugger,” he says, and yet he can’t throw his arms around anyone. “There’s no real substitute for that. Thirty-eight years’ worth of living that way isn’t broken in 30 days.”
Just as Roth has reminded himself he has overcome challenges before, I’ve told myself the same thing. I graduated from college and started my career as a journalist 26 years ago this week. On my first day, I covered a Tecumseh (Michigan) city council meeting literally the day I moved to town. The mayor asked me to introduce myself. I stood up and said, “I’ve been a resident of Tecumseh for,” and here I looked at my watch, “six hours.”
After the meeting ended, I spent three and a half hours writing the story. By the time I stopped covering city council meetings three years later, if I needed three and a half hours to write the story, it was because I took a three-hour nap.
At the beginning of the SAT for Sports, I felt like that greenhorn counting his experience in hours. Now I’m trying to apply what I learned as a writer to my training.
I got faster as a writer through experience, covering … gosh I couldn’t guess how many meetings. The most important factor was that I learned what was important and what wasn’t. That allowed me to write with confidence. Confident sentences are fast sentences.
I’m hoping the same will be true with training. The “final” is in two and a half weeks. I’m close in the 40, broad jump and high jump, but I’m struggling in the agility drills. Confident steps are fast steps. I just haven’t learned to take them yet.
Can I learn to take those confident steps in the time I have left? I don’t know. But I’m willing to try until I imprint my butt into every soccer field in St. Louis.
Photo by Melinda Nagy/Shutterstock.com