virtual children by Scott Warnock

Personal trainers I wish I had known

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If you have talented, dedicated, interested older children, I recognize the value of getting them to someone who knows things about sports that you and/or their coaches don’t. But it strikes me that there is an epidemic of personal trainers out there, a horde of people charging parents for drilling little kids in one-on-one practice sessions. Many of the little kids would rather be, well, doing something else, and this explosion of personal trainers is another sign of our era of sports-obsessed parenting.

Once you get a trainer involved for eight-year-old Chris, the days of sports as primarily fun are over — if not for little Chris, then certainly for you. How can you bear to watch Chris have an eight-year-old moment on the field on Saturday — “Look at that plane!” — when on Wednesday you paid someone $50 for a half-hour to work on the science of footwork?

Maybe I’m just jealous, because I kind of wish I had had a personal trainer or two growing up. If I had, maybe I could have followed through on a secret dream I’ve never before revealed in public: I so wish I could have been an NFL quarterback. I would have loved to sling a football around the gridiron in the pros. Now, if I had a trainer who would have made me taller, faster, and tougher; increased my bodily-kinesthetic intelligence exponentially; and helped me build a much, much, much stronger throwing arm, I know I could have had a shot at this now not-so-secret dream.

Aw, playing in the NFL is too high a bar, but when I think back on it, there are other trainers I wish I had known:

  • Trouble teacher who shows you how to pop the pop-o-matic to make a six come up and uses a detailed decision tree to help you decide when to move a peg home or bring out a new one.
  • Tree climbing tutor, possibly from from the organization “Don’t Look Down,” a title that also summarizes the primary piece of advice offered by its flora-scaling gurus.
  • D&D advisor who instructs you how to increase your chances of rolling a 20 on the 20-sided die, how to con other players out of magic items, and how to negotiate with your DM so you can introduce all of those game-unbalancing new abilities and henchmen into the campaign.
  • Oreo separator guide. I imagine I don’t need to defend this talent nor the need for its perfection.
  • Cafeteria speed coach. How many times did you wish you could have eaten your sandwich and apple faster so you could rush outside to recess?
  • Kick-the-can clinician who improves your ability to rotate your head around to spot hiders and uses plyometrics to increase your can-launching distance by several feet.
  • Jarts teacher who helps you put the Jart in the circle and not in your parents’ brand-new gutter.*
  • Red light/green light one-on-one mentor who runs you through an intense series of drills to teach the fundamentals (red=stop) as well as how to transition quickly from high-speed clomping to motionlessness.
  • Wiffle Ball coach who shows you how to throw a nine-foot curve and catch a ball bouncing off a roof at a weird angle.
  • Expert in how to cut out eyes from magazines and put them in glasses so you can sleep in class but look awake. The ones I made always were too big and were never straight. I was snagged instantly. (I did not improve on this at my first job either, by the way.)

Ah, imagine the kid I would have been if I had had all of these personal trainers. Granted, I might not have had much time for the actual activities themselves, what with this manic schedule of personal development and improvement, but aside from the possibility of Wiffle Ball scholarships, when I played some Trouble, people would know who was boss.

*Alas, this really did happen, thanks to my good friend Pete, who I should point out did not have a Jarts trainer.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.
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7 Responses to “Personal trainers I wish I had known”

  1. I love this one…maybe my favorite. I wish I had a relationship counselor who guided me through tumultuous teenage relationships and offered advice like…spend more time with your friends, less with the boyfriend.

  2. That damn Jart! Not like I destroyed a sliding glass door with a rock…oh.

    I agree. It’s all about priorities. Even though I wish some of the kids on my soccer team would set aside some time for extra training, I like the idea that they are trying a new sport on their own. The effort is there and that is really all that matters at their level. They still get to be a kid and be involved in sports at the same time, even though watching my goalie play spiderman half way through the second quarter makes my blood boil.

    By the way, I’ve decided to become a Wiffleball advisor…so sign up soon. Training sessions are filling up fast.

  3. I loved your cut-out eyes behind the glasses at work! I think the fact that they were huge, round toddler eyes reduced the realism tremendously. But they sure were creepy!!! (And sure to scare away any weird colleagues with impulse-control issues)

  4. Ah, this one really made me chuckle. Scott, you still have that great sense of humor and outlook on life. Always an enjoyable read!

  5. Why is the kid always named “Chris”?

  6. I do believe parents who seek and employ personal trainers are misguided. I also blame the “trainers”. I could’ve made a lot of money in the past 20 years doing individual soccer instruction, but it’s not relevant or effective training for the particular sport, so I always declined. They often asked to be referred to a coach who would be interested, so I guess I failed to educate twice in those instances.

    It also might depend on the activity. I always criticized soccer coaches for doing this training, but my 10 year old played baseball this past summer. He loved it. His coach offered up his son, a high school baseball star, to work with my son in the batting cage. Although we’ve yet to take him up on it, the offer sounded good. My son was very excited about it, and I can’t help him hit a baseball.

    Not sure if I’m just one of those parents, and I didn’t know it. But I agree…want your kid to “get better”; tell him to get out there, then leave him alone.

  7. Scotty boy, well done as always. (Sorry I’m just getting to this. I guess I need an organization tutor)

    Strange,we have driving instructors and yet so many are horrible drivers. There are marriage counselors and yet the divorce rate still hovers around 50%, right?

    Our generation had all these fabulous athletes that had no such special treatment and yet turned out just great. Those destined for success in sports ended up successful for the most part.

    Perhaps if we just left them alone and said “go out and play – what the heck, have FUN even – the natural order of things will take care of the rest?

    Preaching to the choir my friend.

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