A Year in Review
Being days away from August in one of the fastest summers of my life, I’ve spent a good amount of time recently thinking about where I was this time last year. I had come home from my brief coaching stint at Virginia Tech in March of last year with no real idea of what was going to come next. The pandemic was in full swing so obviously there was a level of collective uncertainty for everyone. On top of that, I had no clue what I was going to do in terms of a career. I had some ideas though.
Marshall Fitness was in the very early stages of development in July of 2020. While I was at Virginia Tech, I would brainstorm ideas for what Marshall Fitness could be when I was in the office with nothing to do. I had been writing custom programs for people long before this point and one of my very first ideas for Marshall Fitness was to write a program that would only require bodyweight and resistance bands. I still think the irony of this idea is one of the weirdest things that’s happened to me. I came up with this idea in February of 2020 with the pandemic looming. I wrote the program and bought some bands from eBay. Next thing I know, I’m moving home because the spring is cancelled due to COVID and everyone is now stuck inside. So, the demand for any kind of workout equipment was sky high and everyone was coming to me because they knew I had some. It was successful but being a resistance band supplier wasn’t really what I was aiming for.
Around this time, I started reading The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. To anyone with a hint of entrepreneurial spirit, this book should be a staple. To anyone with no desire to work a regular 9-5, this book should be a staple. I can’t sit here and say I’m living a 4-hour work week because I’m most definitely not, but the essence of the book is something I continue to work at daily. It’s a dense book with a lot of info, but the one thing that came out of it for me was the idea of drop shipping. Drop shipping is an order fulfillment method. Businesses that drop ship do not have to keep products in stock. The store sells a product, then passes the order onto a third-party supplier who then ships directly to the customer. There are people out there making an absolute killing with Shopify stores who sell products and then pass their orders on to suppliers like Alibaba. They never even see the products.
In this weird period of time where everyone was stuck inside, lots of different services were offering lengthy free trials. Two in particular being Adobe and Shopify. I used Adobe to create the Marshall Fitness logo and I created a store on Shopify that came with a 90-day free trial. Right before all of this, I had ordered a shipment of 35 Marshall Fitness shirts from a local printer and sold them all within 3 weeks. I did all of the packaging and shipping myself and I was at the post office almost every day for 3 weeks. I knew there just had to be a way to keep selling shirts without the amount of work it was taking. This was when I started using my Shopify website to drop ship. All I had to do was upload my logo in a PNG file to an app within Shopify and all of the sudden I went from one shirt in black to multiple color options without ever having to keep any kind of stock. This came with a cost of less profit per shirt, but it was so worth not having to package them and go to the post office all the time.
On top of selling shirts and programs, I was also doing some in-person training. I had a couple clients I would work with out of my home gym a few times a week and I did a ton of 1on1 goalkeeper training as well which is something I’d been doing for years. By putting all of these sources of income together, I was doing pretty well considering the circumstances of the world, but there was always this looming thought of how sustainable can this be? I was creating my income solely by grinding. I was also living at home, so I didn’t have a ton of expenses. Being 24 and being one year out of college, I didn’t feel like I was falling way behind or anything, but with a business that, at a minimum, was a side hustle at the time, I had no idea what I was going to do when it came to a job, ya know that pays a salary. I always figured that I’d fall back on coaching soccer if I couldn’t figure out my “4-hour work week.” The problem was I had just spent 2 months coaching soccer at the highest level in college and I really didn’t enjoy it. I definitely did not enjoy being in Blacksburg, Virginia. It was just way too isolated for me with the closest city being in Tennessee.
In the mid-summer of 2020 when COVID restrictions eased, I started coaching again with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Academy. This allowed for a little more income, but I was an hourly employee, so it wasn’t anything significant. Somewhere in here, I got offered a part time position as goalkeeper coach with the men’s program at Mount St. Mary’s University. For the sake of transparency, the offer was $10,000 for the year. I would’ve found myself in a similar situation as Virginia Tech where I would’ve been coaching with a collegiate program and doing other types of coaching and personal training on the side to create a full-time salary. The idea of moving to a completely different place and basically restarted what I was already doing in the midst of the pandemic wasn’t something I really wanted to do, so I stayed here in Pittsburgh to keep grinding away.
If you happen to follow me on Instagram, it may be pretty obvious that I read a ton, or at least I try to. Towards the beginning of the fall of 2020, I read a book titled “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi. Now, I’m not someone who was ever concerned abount money in the sense of accumulating a lot of it. Even in high school, I always figured I just needed enough. It’s a very commonly recognized problem that the members of my generation were almost exclusively left in the dark when it comes to financial education. I couldn’t have told you the first thing about investing a year ago. This book is the perfect introduction to what it means to have your finances in order. It covers everything from credit card debt to Roth IRAs. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to get their money in order.
After a summer of lots of coaching (soccer and personal training), I came to the realization that even if I decided to make a run at personal training full time, I would eventually be limited by my time. There are only so many hours in the day where you can train people in person. Eight sessions a day back-to-back sounds like the most exhausting thing ever and to do it 5 days a week? I had always heard of this concept known as “online personal training.” I won’t get into the details of it because I already wrote a blog post about it sometime ago, but the idea is that you can take on basically unlimited clients (within reason) and manage these clients in an efficient way that doesn’t eat up all of your time.
I started taking online clients in the late fall of 2020 and right away I had 3 people. The growth of Marshall Fitness Online Training has fluctuated ever since its inception. I went from 3 up to 5 then back down to 3 then all the way up to 8. The pivot from in-person training to online has been massive. It’s so much easier to reach more people and make real money while not being a slave to my clients. And of course, not everyone sees good results from online training. Some people need to be in a gym and have someone there with them. Online training is best for people who are reasonably intrinsically motivated and have the means to get things done on their own with some support from afar.
So, we arrive at the winter of 2020 and I have Marshall Fitness Online Training, some apparel sales here and there, and some goalkeeper coaching. It seems like a lot, but I still had a lot of time in my day to fill. What could I do that would fit my current schedule? In November, I got a call from a coach I’d known from a few years prior who was going to be joining the new staff in charge of Robert Morris Men’s Soccer. He basically offered me their volunteer assistant position, the same role I was in at Virginia Tech. I was considering it and I was very close to accepting it when I got a call from the assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds first team. They were put in an interesting situation last season when their goalkeeper coach left midseason. My goalkeeper coach from Pitt filled in during that time while also working full time at Pitt. For this year, they were bringing back my GK coach from Pitt but they knew he wouldn’t be able to be there all the time or travel with the team. So, they wanted to hire me so we both could work with the first team GKs. It seemed like a no-brainer. It was a paid position to work with a professional team within a club I’d been working with for 6+ years. Needless to say, I joined the staff in April and things have been cruising ever since. It’s still crazy to me to think that I’m a on the staff of a professional soccer team after just 2 months in the college game. 3 and half months have felt like forever, but it’s been enjoyable none the less. I recently made the point to someone that I noticed when I’m out there on the field, I don’t think about anything. My mind is so quiet. And that’s a good thing. I think that’s what everyone is looking for.
All of this leads up to now. I moved out in June. I now balance Marshall Fitness, coaching academy and pro goalkeepers and a few other projects I’m involved in. Honestly, things couldn’t have worked out better. There is always more to do though. I am always looking to improve Marshall Fitness. I just enrolled in level 2 of the course I took to help me get online training off the ground. I want to think I’m progressing well in my first year as a pro GK coach as well. But where do things go from here? It could go any way really. Marshall Fitness could grow into something I do full time. Having an online business that provides a full-time salary allows for the freedom to work from anywhere. Following this year with the Hounds, I’ll have a year as a pro coach under my belt. There is no reason why I couldn’t continue to coach full time while running Marshall Fitness alongside.
So what’s the point of all of this? I guess the idea is that even with all of the uncertainty of the last year, I always knew that I could bet on myself. I make things happen. It’s what I’ve always done. Of course, I had my worries at times. I still have thoughts in the back of my head like “what if I drop to 0 clients.” Then I reassure myself that if that happens, it just means its time to go back to work. If I want something, I’ll go and get it. There is always a way to get something done. There might even be a ton of obstacles, but if you keep showing up and putting in the work, eventually things will fall into place.