It was a Saturday like any other, and we had just finished another soul-scorching workout. As George Alexandris, Phillip Bahn, and I relieved every lung-burning moment of the session, Phillip told us a story that still resonates with me to this day.
Phillip had arrived at Parisi Fair Lawn from Duesseldorf, Germany. He was a budding coach who had watched all the DVDs that founder Bill Parisi produced from 2000-2008 on training. Phillip thought it would be a good idea to make the pilgrimage to the Mecca of sports performance training and experience the magic in person. When Phillip arrived in the country, he was 5 blocks away and struggling to find the facility. He went from store to store on Broadway, asking the store owners, “Do you know where the building is?” To his shock and amazement, however, no one had heard of Parisi.
His first thought was that English is his second language, or maybe it had a different name in the US. It couldn’t be that no one knew of the iconic Parisi. He said, “I came from 5,000 miles away and now I’m 5 blocks away and no one knew what I was talking about! How can this be?” As disappointing as it was to hear this, it made sense to me, as no one has ever told the story of one of America’s great performance training centers from the lens of a parent, athlete, coach, and owner.
I happen to have worn all those hats at one time or another, so here’s how I watched every glorious moment unfold. From the athletes to the coaches, every event, the groundbreaking innovations, and the history that was set under one roof on an industrial street in New Jersey. Athletes from all around the country and from different parts of the world have graced our 13.5-millimeter Mondo track. So, here’s a brief walk (or sprint) down memory lane of the 32,000-square-foot building that, for the past 23 years, has paid homage to sports performance training and fitness – and what has and still makes it unique and legendary.
(1999 – Present) The Facility
The doors open with the centerpiece being the six-lane, 50-meter Mondo track. The facility has 5,000 square feet of turf, a cardio deck, two men’s and women’s locker rooms, and over 5,000 square feet of independent workout areas. There is something for everyone, from elite to novice, ages six to 60 – but it’s the facility’s layout that makes it special. The ability to shift from track to turf to gym in only a few strides makes it a coach’s dream to cover every possible modality.
Not sure if Bill Parisi ever would have imagined, in his wildest dreams, the impact that the Parisi Speed School would have on a generation of youth athletes. From ages six to 18 years, over the last 20 years, I don’t think any one place in America has trained more kids. From budding D1 athletes to those looking to make a professional team. It doesn’t matter the sport – they have trained here.
NFL Combine Group Training
Up to this point, most draft-eligible players trained at their schools or individually (see Mike Mamula). The brainchild of Training For Warriors Founder Martin Rooney and SportStars Founder Alan Herman, the vision was to bring together a large group of players and train them at one location. This would change the way athletes prepare for their most important job interview. In 2002, the program would produce its initial 1st round pick when Bryan Thomas was selected by the Jets. The program would have other first-rounders culminating with Chris Long, who was selected #2 overall in 2008. In all, 160 players have been drafted from the program.
If it’s Sinatra to the Copa or Springsteen to the Stony Pony, every landmark place has a legendary personality linked to it. We have been very fortunate to have Phil Simms; he is not only an amazing on-field performer but an amazing person who is incredibly gracious with his time, and he never says no to members’ requests for a photo or an opinion about their team. He can still be seen crushing the 105-pound dumbbells for reps.
(1999 – 2014) The UFC
Before it became a household name, UFC had many of its pioneering fighters train here, honing their fighting skills, conditioning, and strength training with weights. Martin Rooney used his Training For Warriors methodology to get these fighters Octagon-ready. Up to this point and time, most combatants focused primarily on honing their fighting skills.
(2018 – Present) Parisi Prep Academy
The Parisi Prep Academy is not a new idea, but an approach that’s unmatched in enrichment programs. Basically, it’s a gap year between 8th grade and freshman year of high school. The program prepares student-athletes for the academic, social, and athletic challenges they will face. This year’s program has 20 students and continues to grow from year to year.
Parisi Fair Lawn – The Quiz
- He’s the tallest athlete to ever train at the facility – some say he’s the tallest ever.
- Name the famous fathers who came in to watch their son train. Each is highly regarded in their profession. Sons’ names/Dads’ professions: Jessie/Entertainment Nick/Football TJ/Track and Field.
- Name the fighters who trained at the facility that have had more than 10 UFC fights (only UFC fights count).
- Two athletes have graced our facility who were their countries’ flag barriers for the Olympic Games. Name the athletes and bonus points if you can name the countries.
- Todd Hayes won Olympic silver as an athlete then later won gold as a coach. In what sport? Bonus: Name the country he coached. Hint: It wasn’t the US.
- This Hybrid athlete holds the world record for the Murphy Challenge.
- Before the 2015 draft, this Division 3 player had a private workout for teams at the facility. A month later he would get drafted in the 2nd round, becoming the highest D3 pick ever.
- This female soccer player won gold medals in 2 Olympic Games.
- Who is the highest-ranked tennis player (19th in the world) to ever train here? Hint: Tom Brady and her share the same agent.
- The facility is known for many things, but our deep history as being the first facility to provide group NFL Combine training sticks out. We’ve produced over 160 draft picks. In 2008 the program produced a draft pick in every round. Name a player from each round.