The inspiration for my business. The origin.
My business, Believe Elite Athletic Training, was founded on the life blessing of meeting a young man. In 2010, I was working for the Department of Homeland Security as a United States Federal Agent with the Immigration Customs Enforcement Agency. I was also pursuing my health and fitness goals and training at a local gym in my town of Monroe, New York. I saw a young boy working out with his father and not really knowing how to train properly. I went up to the father and son and gave the boy some pointers. The young boy, Vincent Vespa, was a 7th grader and a wrestler for the Monroe-Woodbury High School Varsity Team.
Vincent’s father, Vinny Sr., asked me if I could help him gain some muscle to wrestle at a higher level. Along with being a Federal Agent, I had been a certified Personal Trainer prior to working for the U.S. Government. I told his father I would help him as much as my work schedule would permit. Vincent and I started working together and my passion for teaching and coaching started to come to life. Vincent would be my student and together we would reach all of his fitness and athletic goals.
My passion for coaching started to come to life
Our time together at the gym became something that I loved. I would sit at work at my 9 to 5 job and be thinking about workouts that I could put this young boy through that would benefit him and educate him on how to train properly. I couldn’t train him the way I was training. He was too young. I started with the basics and everything I was taught through my certification through the International Sports Science Association (ISSA). My background as a former collegiate athlete gave me the insight and experience of working with another athlete but I had to motivate a boy. I did what any good coach would do, I told him he was going to be great and do great things. When I said it, I meant every bit of it.
Vincent believed me. I saw it in his intense look and the way he would shake his head and approach every workout. He was focused. He had big goals. He wanted to be the best wrestler in the state of New York. He wanted to be the best ever in Monroe-Woodbury history. I knew Vincent was a “rare breed.” I knew us working together was going to be special.
The hard work was paying off.
Our time went by fast and before I knew it he gained 20 pounds of lean muscle and was walking into his freshman year of high school as the Varsity starter and had made a name for himself in the region. His hard work was paying off and everyone was seeing it. His Monroe-Woodbury coaches saw his physical strength and gain of lean muscle and approached me about it. Along with training Vincent I was giving him nutritional guidance. I obtained another certification through the ISSA as a Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist through my time working with Vincent. I wanted to give him all the coaching and guidance I possibly could and emphasize the importance of eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle.
Vincent was excelling on the mats and doing well as a student-athlete. He was such a focused and driven young man. We were coming into Vincent’s sophomore year of school and there was a lot of buzz that he was one of the best wrestlers in the state. He had a productive off-season training and wrestling through the spring and summer and he was ready to accomplish his goal. The season started and Vincent was unstoppable. He was so strong for a 106-pound athlete. His strength was something you would have to see to believe when he was in the weight room or gym. His love for training showed in his confidence on the mats. He knew he was the strongest and if he didn’t I was in his corner always telling him, “Yes, you are to strong!”
Then the unexpected happened.
That was our motto, “To Strong!” We would say it if a workout was tough or a practice was pushing him. It was more of a mindset that we both developed. As I coached him our motto got me through my workdays as an Agent. Our relationship grew to that of brothers rather than trainer and client. I never looked at Vincent as a “client.” He was always someone who I cared for and knew I was a mentor to him. Vincent came off the mat after a match and was very winded. His mother, Lisa, and I didn’t know what was going on. He was young and physically in great conditioning. He was complaining about his throat and being itchy. His mother brought him to the doctor and gave him some medicine. He took a little time off from practice and rested to make sure he was good for the New York State wrestling tournament.
There is power in believing.
We trained while he was recovering and made sure that Vincent was eating well. The tournament was here and Vincent was matched up against the best wrestlers in the state. He worked so hard for this moment. The matches started and Vincent wasn’t himself. He came off the mats after his last match and literally was gasping for air. Something was not right and I was concerned. Once home from the tournament his mother brought him back to the doctor. The season was done so Vincent was now able to rest more and take care of being ill.
The Champion within.
His health was not getting better and Vincent qualified to wrestle at a National Tournament in Fargo, ND. His mother brought him to the doctor to make sure he would be ok to go. It turned out he would not be. The doctors found a 10cm mass in Vincent’s chest. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 4 as a 14-year-old boy. I got the news and broke down. I could not believe this was happening and that was the diagnosis. Vincent was my little brother and knowing how strong he was and how great of an athlete he was becoming I could not believe he could even get something like cancer. He was admitted to Westchester Medical and that was where the battle began. I was by his bedside as much as possible. He was not fighting alone. Vincent was scared and I was too. He never said anything but I knew. I remember being next to him before one of the tests and I grabbed his hand, looked him in the eyes with tears in them and told him to, “Believe that you will beat this and that you are to strong!” I wanted him to pray, pray for health and faith that he would be ok.
The Power of Goals.
Vincent fought and we still worked out when we were allowed. I tried to keep his mind on his goals and getting back to wrestling. There were some hard days, especially when the chemotherapy was really hitting him. He was bald and dealing with a disease that no young child should have to take on. Vincent smiled though; he smiled and kept his faith. He was still so strong and continued to work on his wrestling. Vincent beat cancer in 3 months. He went on to compete the next season and had an incredible season. He graduated high school in June 2015 and now is attending the Hofstra University on a Full Athletic Scholarship. He is wrestling for a Division 1 program.
Forever changed and inspired.
My life changed because of one young man. People close to us both say we changed each other’s lives. I know that is the truth. Vincent helped me to be strong, have courage, and work for what I truly wanted out of my own life. I left my career as a Federal Agent in December of 2014. I opened Believe Elite Athletic Training in a local storefront in my hometown of Monroe, NY. I studied to receive another certification through the ISSA as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. I start to volunteer as the Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Monroe-Woodbury Wrestling program (4 years now). I have the opportunity to work with 100’s of young athletes on a weekly basis. My business has given me the chance to impact lives, build relationships, and create an atmosphere where young kids can learn about living a healthy life. My goal is to expand Believe Elite and positively influence more youth and families in my community.
“Working with John has prepared me to compete in the highest levels of my sport, but most importantly the confidence to strive to reach the highest goals I set for myself.”
~ Vincent Vespa