Hear from Graham Wilkerson, owner and trainer at Genesis Sports Performance, on how he built a business out of his passion, and the challenges he has overcome both as a trainer and an entrepreneur. With numerous years of training experience as a player and coach, Graham attended Bishop Chatard High school where he was an All-State football player and went on to play at DePauw University. Graham received his masters degree from Ball State University in Athletic Coaching Education.
You can read an overview of the interview with Graham Wilkerson or listen to the podcast below for the full interview.
Q: Could you give us some background on Genesis Sports Performance and what you're working on at the moment?
A: I started Genesis two years ago, actually to around this date, I started out of with around 1500 square feet and after a year I expanded to another 1500 square feet. So now we have a full size weight room and then a turf room for speed. Currently, I'm about to gear up for my off season here with all these football players. I'm expecting anywhere from like 70 to 80 kids this off season. So my busiest time here is from December to August. In addition to, that I’m partnering with another one of my friends and we’re putting together an online program type business, so I’m making that as well.
Q: Have you seen a lot of demand for an online program?
A: Definitely, I’ve seen a lot of like the bigger name strength coaches in the industry, they offer some type of online programming. I think as you grow, as you learn, as you get more experience, it’s just a good thing to do to get your name out there...
Q: What were your methods for getting the word out about Genesis Sports Performance when you were getting started?
A: I do a lot of social media, Instagram is where I mainly post a lot of things. Just because, you can see the video of the kids training, so I think that’s huge. Plus, a lot of my clients are high school clients, so if you’re training high school client’s you’ve gotta be where they’re at, so Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook a little bit… So doing that and then in addition, I’m the Strength coach at Chatard High School so that immediately puts me in front of just a huge pool of clients. I was lucky enough to do train Zack Martin who plays for the Cowboys, his younger brother Nick Martin, who plays for the Texans, and then Ted Karras, who plays for the Patriots. They’re all Indy guys and they started coming in here every off season to workout, so I think that helped me gain a little traction as well.
Q: Tell us a story about one of your proudest moments since you started working at Genesis Sports?
A: I think what I get the most joy from, and what I’m proud of is now that I’ve been doing this for a little bit, there are kids that I've been working since they were like freshman or sophomores, and now they're seniors or they're in college so seeing them really transform from just like little kids to getting College scholarships and watching them play Varsity football, and just the little text I get every now and again. I had a guy, I’d been training him since he was a Sophomore, he’s play at DePauw and he just made the travel team so getting that text from him and his mom, that means a lot to me. That makes me proud.
Q: Who has been your biggest inspiration in your coaching/sporting career? Could you tell us a story about how they had an impact on your life.
A: You know I don't necessarily have a specific coach that is my mentor or role model, but I do lean on my mom. My mom has always been kind of like my most, my biggest role model. She's actually overcome breast cancer twice and she’s literally the most positive, unshakable person I know. So her example is kind of what I lean on. Going through starting a business, entrepreneurship, it’s not easy, so I use her for strength.
Q: Tell us a story about some of the challenges you faced in your coaching/athletic career and how you overcame them, or maybe you still are?
A: You know entrepreneurship, starting a business, it's glorified a little bit, but when you get down to it, it’s not super easy. So when I started this, I think I had next four clients, four friends. I opened the doors for the gym and I didn't even know how I was going to pay the first months rent. So I continued to get clients and I was always able to pay rent, and continued to grow and grow and grow, but that being said you have to sacrifice a lot… But I actually heard a guys say this once, it was “think about what you’re asking for when you’re trying to start a business and you’re trying to be an entrepreneur. You are asking to live the exact way that you want for your entire life, and think about the percentage of the population that can do that”... So I think about that a lot and that kind of drives me to continue...
Q: What do you think has been the key to your success that other coaches could learn from?
A: I think really being big on the education portion, the research of training. It’s a science. Like there's so many people in this industry that just, they like to work out so they throw stuff up and call themselves trainers. It’s not regulated unfortunately. So you know having the accountability yourself to like go get the certifications. I did my masters. I have four certifications. Not that that’s everything, but just continuing to everyday - I’m looking at something, trying to make sure that what I'm doing in here with these kids is increasing their potential on the field, preventing injuries, and I know if you could take one, definitely that’s huge...
Q: How do you think technology is changing the way you work and coach?
A: I started this two years ago…. I don’t even know if I had internet in here. I was taking checks. I made my website just by myself - it probably looked horrible. Now I have obviously this Upper Hand software, I had someone redo my website for me, I moved to the modern age… And I think you’ve got to have everything automated really. People are just always on their phones. They want to be able to go to your website, look at what you’re doing, buy it, sign up, do it right then and there. They don’t want to have to email you. Stop in. Write a check. It’s just too much work for you and you’ll lose clients that way.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring coaches who are just starting out?
A: Definitely do your own research... Define exactly what your training style is. How you want to go about it. Pick other people in the industries brains if they’ve been successful. And then you kind of just have to develop a blind faith in yourself. And just know that it’s going to be hard but you’re going to make it. That’s my best advice.
Q: What is your favorite "success" quote?
A: It’s actually painted on the wall. It’s “Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing, unless it means effort, pain and difficulty.” That’s a quote from Teddy Roosevelt … That quote just kind of goes to show you that anything that you’re going to do that’s worth while, that’s going to impact people, it’s never going to be easy...