Coach Johnny Parker's Advice For Me

***Disclaimer: this post is not intended to appear like I'm bragging, but really to honor this man's time and investment in me by writing about it and helping to internalize it, to appreciate it, and to help hold me accountable.***

Yesterday, Coach Johnny Parker and I had a conversation about his book, The System: Soviet Periodization Adapted for the American Strength Coach.

Sam, who is Johnny Parker, you may ask?

Well, he is a LEGENDARY Hall of Fame strength and conditioning coach. He started coaching JV girls basketball in Mississippi in the 60s and through his love for his players, his desire to help them achieve, and his hard work, he only went up from there. Here are some of his accomplishments:

  • The first Big 10 strength and conditioning coach under Bobby Knight at Indiana

  • A pioneer for strength and conditioning in the NFL.

  • His teams win 3 Superbowls -- 2 with NY Giants under Bill Parcells and 1 with Tampa Bucaneers under Jon Gruden.

  • Coached at the San Francisco 49rs and New England Patriots (under Bill Parcells and Bill Belichek).

  • His coaching methods and aforementioned book is based on Coach Parker's crazy self travels to SOVIET BLOC RUSSIA to learn from their strength coaches; he also met with defectors here in the United States -- all to help his players achieve their best.

His coaching is driven by this philosophy -- “coaches have an opportunity to help kids believe in themselves, and that they can help kids' dreams come true.” As you'll see at the end of this post, he lives that through and through.

So, when I say LEGENDARY, I mean it.

Sam, HOW THE F DO YOU KNOW THIS GUY, you may ask? Because I took initiative. I first heard of Johnny Parker on a Zach Even-Esh Podcast in 2018. At the end of the podcast, Coach Parker said if anyone wanted to reach out to him, his phone is... So I gave him a call and he's been a mentor ever since. He calls me "Coach" in conversations -- and that means more than you can imagine.

Anyway, yesterday morning I text Coach Parker to chat, and he gives me a call. I told him about my move to Nashville and my goal to coach High School football, volleyball, soccer, and wrestling athletes in strength training. I tell him right now, though, I'm doing personal training to pay the bills.

He asks, "Well, Coach, what's your plan to coach High School athletes?" To be honest, I wasn't really prepared to answer that and stammer through a horrible answer.

He asks, "That's good coach, what high schools are near you?" And I'm thinking walking distance, so I stammer something about how I wasn't sure but there is a rec center near me.

"That's good coach, I hear Brentwood is a good high school in the area."

"Oh yes, sir!" I reply, "and my house is only two blocks from Interstate 65, so it'd be easy for those kids to get here or for me to travel with my gear to them!" Obviously I know of the suburbs of Brentwood and Franklin, but I was just thinking walking distance -- I swear I've thought this through more than this!

"Now that's what I'm talking about Coach! See, there you go, you are thinking right." He says as he encourages me toward my dream. "Now Coach," he continues, "it's always important to have a plan.

"You gotta have a plan for everything that way no matter what comes your way, you've thought how to succeed and keep moving toward your goal. What if your personal training doesn't pan out? What if you grow too big for your space? What if you actually start coaching high school athletes, how will you train them? You see, Coach Bryant" and I think he's talking about Bear Bryant, but I'm not sure, "always harped on having a plan. Plan. Plan. Plan."

This is advice from a strength coach with 60 YEARS EXPERIENCE AND 3 SUPER BOWL RINGS. How fricking awesome and humbling is that?

Needless to say, all this really got my wheels spinning and fired up to go kick some ass. I'm putting "pen to paper" as Coach Parker said about these plans: Getting my personal training business going, learning and absorbing more about how to coach high school athletes, and a marketing plan for high school athletes. Now I'm executing them a little bit everyday.

Coach Parker and I also had a bit of a conversation about strength training -- which was really awesome. We talked why and why not certain exercises, what kind of rep schemes are best for athletic development (hint, it's not 1 set of 21 or 21 sets of 1, but more like 7 sets of 3), he even told me a "killer squat workout" based on 1RM percentages. Coach Parker had me pull out his book and he told me to open to page 38 so I could make some changes on a graph -- how fricking awesome is that??

"Now Coach, I'm pulling for you. I'm really pulling for you, coach. You're going to do great. You call me with any other questions you have."

"I'm pulling for you, Coach." To have Coach Parker say in his ol' southern drawl that he is pulling for me, MEANS THE FRICKIN WORLD TO ME. "I'm pulling for you." This guy frickin BELIEVES IN ME. And he truly does: it's not some gimmick or platitude. If he believes I can do it, then I can believe in myself a little bit more, can push past doubt and insecurity a little bit more, and can ultimately help carry on Coach Parker's legacy of helping others believe in themselves, and, man, what an honor that is to carry!!

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