04 Feb The Next Journey: I’m Moving To Florida
Plot twist, I know.
Truth be told: this has been something that has been marinating for several years.
Although it seems like a decision as abrupt as Wall Street changing the rules with GameStop stock, it wasn’t.
For the longest time, I longed to make my exit out of Maryland. And though it’s my birth town that has been so good to me since day one, that has served me amazing football and crab cakes, humid summers, bone chilling winters with snowboarding, the country’s best public education system, home of my alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, and television filming of The Wire, I still daydreamed what awaited in new territory.
Mind you, these are just glossing over the tip of the iceberg, as Maryland is where my family resides, as well as my amazing youth athletes and their parents. Severing this connection has been the main thing holding me back from moving out of state, and admittedly, the toughest aspect of all of this.
Truth be told: I’ve cried a lot. My tear ducts have exhausted their ability to produce more fluid, and I’m totally sucked dry from the melancholy of the past week.
Breaking the news to the kids and families who have been so supportive, and so passionate and excited about training made my stomach twist and my heart sink. Reflecting back on 9 amazing years of private, small group and team performance coaching in Maryland has been a bittersweet process.
You’re probably wondering why I decided to take the leap and leave this all behind. An exciting opportunity arose that would allow me to grow in my career long-term, mind you, under the sun and palm trees.
I’ll share the details, but you’re going to have to read a blog that is all about me. Here we go.
How It Began
For those of you who aren’t familiar with my story, it started after I got back from a year living and coaching in Brazil. After I graduated college in 2012, I left the country to serve youth.
As soon as I got home to Maryland, I said to myself, “this is my mission and I’m going to go all in.” Of course the story is far more complex than this, and you can read the dramatic version of my “why” HERE.
After I decided to go all in with coaching, I went to the soccer store, bought some cones, a bag of balls, a ladder and created a training profile on CoachUp.com.
A few days later, I received a message in my inbox from a dad of a 13-year-old female soccer player who was looking for a private trainer. I remember being ecstatic at the time and grateful I had one person who wanted to work with me.
Side comment: for coaches getting started in the industry, get excited about your first client, and don’t be an entitled tool. Even if you work with only one kid for a year, you have the opportunity to create a lasting impression in a human’s life.
In fact, this was my mantra since day one: if I can impact one kid’s life, I’ve done my job.
And poof! Just like a magic, I got more clients, more teams, more referrals. Things began to balloon from there because of good old-fashioned coaching and hard work.
No, I didn’t have to hire a guru business coach who promised six figures, pina coladas on the beach, and “financial freedom” in the first year of training. If making the big bucks is why trainers get started in this industry, they’re in for a rude awakening and won’t last.
Mind you, I’m in year nine and feel I finally am getting the hang of this business thing-a-ma-jig.
Simply by working hard and being kind for years was the secret recipe. I found that the more I got one person results, then the next person, then the next, then the next, was the best business model out there.
Too, making kids smile and laugh was just as important as getting them performance results. After all, they’re stuck with me a few times a week, for several hours, so I best have witty jokes on-hand.
Allow Me To Brag
To say I feel like a mom of hundreds of kids is an understatement. And though I’m not an actual parent myself, I totally understand what it’s like for kids to accomplish amazing feats of strength and achieve their dreams. I totally feel the urge to jump up and down and get all giddy when they do something awesome. Shout out to all the parents out there, I understand now. ;-O
I’ve sent girls to Division I programs, including UNC, University of Maryland, Towson University, UNC Davidson, Rutgers, and to play internationally. You can check out my client accomplishments HERE.
I’ve sent girls to Division III programs, including Johns Hopkins, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon.
I’ve sent girls to pursue academics and become doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs.
I’ve armoured hundreds of girls against ACL injuries.
Of course, I’m not going to turn this into a dissertation on my athletes’ achievements, but wow. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in nine years.
Words can’t describe how joyful I get when I look back on how everyone has blossomed over time, and how I’ve been a huge part of setting the standard for training with the “adapt and be kind” and “work hard, be kind” culture.
I say “we’ve accomplished a lot” because this hasn’t been my work alone. It’s been a team effort of all of the key players – from the support of the parents, to the kids putting in the work and staying committed, and me facilitating these shenanigans.
The more years I am in coaching, the more I realize I’m just that: a facilitator.
It’s my job to show kids their strengths, bring out their work ethic, and be the catalyst for them to discover their values and passions.
I’m not a “ra-ra” coach who is extroverted and who screams and shouts and gets all hyped up. I’ve had my moments of being jovial, but overall, I’m more on the reserved, lead-by-example side and if someone screws up, I give them the stare that pierces their souls and lights a fire under their butt to do better.
Introverts for the win.
We’ve Had Failures, Too
While it looks like the past nine years have been all rainbows, butterflies, laughs and dumbbells, we’ve had our fair share of “oh crap!” moments, too.
I’ve had athletes come into my office in tears.
I’ve had athletes go through break-ups.
I’ve had athletes fail exams.
I’ve had athletes get rejection letters from colleges.
I’ve had athletes with nagging setbacks like ankle sprains, stress fractures, and concussions.
And when these all happened, not only did I feel for them, I questioned myself relentlessly. There’s been numerous occasions I’ve analyzed my training methods and had to re-commit myself to solving the puzzle of performance and injury reduction. I’ve re-taken certifications I’ve already acquired. I’ve re-read Sprinter’s Compendium ten times. I’ve read research studies, which you all know makes my eyeballs hurt.
Looking at my soft skills, there’s been sleepless nights of tossing turning and asking myself how I could’ve shown up better for everyone.
I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m far, far from it, but I truly believe the failures can be blessings in disguise, as well as learning curves on the path to mastery.
One of first athletes I worked with, Carly Wetzel is a shining example of what a massive failure can do for someone.
The shortened version of the story: she was late in the college recruiting process and was unable to play at UNC, her dream school. The only way she could be on the team was to get into the school as a walk-on, and even with impressive SAT scores and a soaring GPA, she got rejected.
After her she received her rejection letter, she called me and many tears were shed, and she questioned all of her hard work being a total waste. Self doubt crept in hard and she fell into a dark hole of despair for several weeks, and her back up plan was a small D3 school in Maryland – a great program with a stellar coach, but not her first pick.
Fast forward into her second year at this university, she gets accepted into UNC as a transfer and is now where she wants to be.
I’ll spare the long version, but if you want to listen to it as well as be insanely inspired, I had her on the Soccer Queens Podcast to share the details HERE:
Let me brag again: my athletes are awesome. They blow me away every session.
From the elementary school mini munchkins:
To the middle school munchkins:
To the high schoolers:
To my seniors:
To my college girls (I feel old):
Man, we’ve had some epic times beyond getting under the iron and running on the pitch.
Yeah, the exercise physiology, the training methods, the peer-reviewed science, the periodization, the evaluations and data, the growth and maturation considerations, the performance re-assessments, that stuff is cool and all, but nothing beats the belly laughs, the smiles and the memories we’ve had during training.
I’ll be honest: I don’t feel successful because of where my older athletes are playing now. I feel successful because I instilled in them a love for movement and a lifetime of taking care of their health.
Some of the best memories we’ve had over the years:
– Capture the Flag against the parents
– Taking ginger shots in the gym
– Boys soccer vs. boys lacrosse dodgeball as an off-season deload week
– Farmer’s Walk marathons and hand callouses coming in strong
– Sessions in the park and using the tree as equipment
– Heavy deadlifts
– Small sided soccer with a large ball
– Fitness board game (the girls made this up themselves!)
Tug of War
I could go on and on with the incredible times, but I’ll save those for my next book on building culture. ;-O
It’s hard to fathom how this all began with one athlete and evolved into such an inspiring community of kids who never knew each other before.
Many of them now are best friends and this has been the single best highlight of my coaching career: to see a group of strangers come together to train, be better, and motivate one another.
Why I’m Leaving This All Behind
Now you’re wondering, “wow, Erica, you have such a nice set-up in Maryland…why the heck are you leaving?”
One thing I always preach to my athletes is to never get too comfortable, and the moment you feel flat is the moment you need to seek out a new challenge and change your environment. Whether this is from exposing the body to a new stimulus in the gym, or pushing your threshold during a conditioning run, or switching to a higher level team with a new coach, the body and mind need discomfort to grow.
Though Maryland has been great to me, I reached a point in the past few years of feeling too comfy. I’ve accomplished a lot here. I’ve build a massive community. I’ve built athletes of all ages. I’ve taught elementary schoolers. I’ve watched them grow into college athletes. I’ve shown people how to be autonomous in their training.
Even with my older kids, I joke and tell them now, “you guys don’t even need me anymore.”
They can write their own workouts and I wholeheartedly trust them to execute this stuff on their own.
During the pandemic in 2020, it was a major “aha” moment that I could work remote, mentor coaches, and explore a vast menu of freelance opportunities that presented themselves during this chaotic time. And for that, I’m grateful. I’m forever grateful for the glimmer of hope that came from the darkness of this era.
Though in person training is what I live for, I’m willing to take the risk and rebuild down in Tampa, Florida, while also having these amazing coaching education ventures await, and being able to go all in with the Total Youth Female Athlete Fitness mentorship community.
The way I see it is, if I can help one coach, I can help a plethora of young female athletes. Moving into coach education has been an organic progression of my career after training young girls for all these years.
What Else Is Ahead
Sunshine and sand, duh.
I’m pumped to be somewhere where I can do year-round outdoor training, without worrying about snow field closures and the freezing winter months of Maryland. When I was toying with the idea of moving years ago, my eyes were always on somewhere warm.
Right now, I’m settled on a house, where I will train out of and run things my way. No more facility rules and restrictions, tip toeing around management, and being frustrated at my colleagues’ choice of music on the sound system.
It’s my music, my energy and my space I can call my own as well as home for my athletes. Yes, it will be an exuberant environment, but it will also be a calming one with plenty of meditation, salt lamps and yoga mats when we wind down after workouts.
I can’t wait to pour love into my own spot.
I’m one of those women who marches to the beat of her own drum, gets excited about being creative, and who wants to be totally self sufficient.
Oh! That’s another thing…I want to be somewhere tropical, with my own back yard, to yes, train, but also to grow my own food. Don’t ask.
Friendship and social life being other factors, as the majority of my squad is moved out of Maryland and resides in Florida.
A staple part of what I teach my athletes is making sure they have friendships that support their emotional well-being, and they stay connected with the people they love most.
Isolation is one of the worst things for mental health and one of the leading causes of depression and suicide. Personally, I have felt my mental health wane in the past year because I didn’t have a social life. I realized I needed to make this critical change for my happiness, otherwise it could’ve gone downhill real quick.
That’s another thing I preach to my kids: the moment you feel your mental health is off, you need to take action and find a solution ASAP.
Too, if I learned anything during the pandemic it’s that humans need each other. End of story.
Life Is An Adventure
Looking back on when I was a kid, everyone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I would say the usual “astronaut” or “doctor” or “fire fighter” or “Taylor Swift” and put everything in a cute little box because humans are obsessed with labels.
I don’t see life as having an end goal, a dream job, or a destination, but rather, it being a continuous adventure to be experienced in its fullness.
Yes, I’m beyond nervous for this leap, and it’s tremendously uncomfortable, but I’m also excited for a new opportunity where I can continue to grow as a coach, mentor and human, and spread my love for fitness with new youth athletes, parents and coaches.
I’ll wrap this article up with a quote from my favorite author Neale Donald Walsch:
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
See you in Tampa, Florida on the beach, ya’ll.
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To work with me for private, small group, and team soccer performance, speed, agility, and injury prevention training in Tampa, Florida, contact me HERE.