My Health/Fitness Tips for the New Year!

2020 has certainly been a trying year for just about everyone. I know it has been for me and my family as we’ve had many challenges face us this past year. That being said, one positive aspect 2020 brought for me personally was I was able to focus on my own health/fitness and am now in the best shape of my life!

What I’ve learned this past year may not make me an “expert” but I do feel it could benefit others who are wanting to make similar changes for 2021. Thus, below are my top 10 health/fitness tips to help anyone wanting to improve their health, their body, and their life perhaps starting this year!

1) Make Permanent Changes (Not Temporary Fixes)

  • Before beginning, I needed to ensure any change I made was manageable and permanent–not a drastic temporary fix. I’ve often seen people go on extreme diets only to get burned out and quickly return to their former ways. Therefore, if I wanted to make lasting progress, I had to make realistic, manageable changes I could maintain for life. To achieve this end, I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with a bunch of changes all at once. I needed to make one small change and once I mastered that, add more as necessary. The rest of my list includes many such changes but these were often realized weeks apart allowing me to manage my progress without getting frustrated, overwhelmed, and burned out…

2) Set a Goal

  • Prior to making any change, I first needed to identify my specific goal, which would then guide what specific changes I needed to make. This could’ve put me on a plethora of pursuits–from losing/gaining weight, to increasing performance on a certain athletic skill/exercise, to countless more. What I landed on was decreasing my body fat percentage to 15%. This would require I lose fat while also gaining muscle mass at the same time. It’d also require I find an effective way to measure my body fat percentage as it’s not a typical target you can measure with a simple scale. There’s lots of ways you can measure body fat percentage but I use (and recommend) an inBody H20N scale. These things are awesome and well worth the investment!

3) Track Your Progress

  • One big thing I’ve learned is the mirror can be deceiving. Therefore, it was ESSENTIAL whatever goal I made had to be measurable. As stated previously, my inBody scale would allow me to measure my body fat percentage effectively. Additionally, I needed to track my progress in the weight room for if I wanted to gain muscle (again, to decrease my body fat percentage), I’d need to be progressively increasing my strength/muscle mass via the weight room. Tracking my progress would allow me to ensure I was making improvements over time, make adjustments if I wasn’t, and help me stay motivated as I saw improvements. As a side note, I believe in the concept of evaluating progress over two week increments–that is to say you’ll feel progress in two weeks, others will notice your progress in four weeks, and you’ll be able to see progress for yourself at six weeks–so patience was a must!

4) Diet to Lose Fat, Workout to Gain Muscle

  • Much to my initial chagrin, I found the old saying is true–“you can’t out exercise a bad diet” when it comes to fat loss. From my research, a typical workout will burn about 300 calories–which is simply not very much when you look at food (for example, 300 calories is about one small peanut butter sandwich). Therefore, I didn’t begin to see real progress in regards to fat loss until I began controlling my diet. Conversely, if your goal is to gain muscle or to increase your athletic performance in a certain area, working out has to be your focus as it forces your body to adapt and improve depending on your training plan. Thus, diet and exercise both have their place depending on what your goals are. For me, I wanted to both lose fat and gain muscle, which meant I needed to focus on both areas to see the progress I wanted.

5) Control Your Calories (for fat loss)

  • Another old saying I’ve found to be accurate is that when it comes to fat loss, “calories are king.” I formerly believed the quality of your food mattered more than the quantity–leading me to eat an excessive amount of “healthy” food to eradicate the slightest signs of hunger. Sadly, this was simply not effective as I didn’t begin to meet my fat loss goals until I learned to control my calories. Some insights that have helped me master this endeavor:
    • Calculate the number of calories you should consume a day by taking your current body weight and multiplying by 15
    • Value your calories. Your caloric intake should be limited so make sure you enjoy the calories you do consume. Don’t waste your calories on food you don’t like, mindless snacking, or beverages
    • Make a plan. Find some “go-to” meals you enjoy, calculate the calories in each, and have those as your regular food/meals on typical days. For me, I have a combination of meat dishes, eggs, protein bars, Greek yogurt, and fruit just about everyday (adding up to about 2200 calories, 200 g of protein)
    • Stay hydrated. Drinking the proper amount of water has many benefits including increasing your metabolism and helping you feel fuller throughout the day. I recommend drinking water immediately upon waking each morning to get your day off to a positive start!
    • Intermittent Fasting has many benefits but it’s greatest is its ability to help you control your calories

6) Understand Hunger (for fat loss)

  • Another misconception I formerly believed was that if I was hungry at all, my body would go into “starvation mode” and would start storing fat rapidly. This was a misguided understanding of hunger. Now, do understand I firmly believe everyone should eat regularly every day; however, having temporary periods of hunger throughout the day is not a bad thing. In fact, I’d argue it’s a good thing if you’re wanting to lose fat. How can your body tap into its fat stores if it’s constantly using energy through a constant supply of food? Being hungry is certainly uncomfortable, but if you look at it as simply a temporary period where your body has the opportunity to eat some stored energy (fat), it can be useful. Again, long-term sustained hunger isn’t what I’m recommending here, but short-term, planned, temporary hunger with a purpose in mind.

7) Ditch the Intense Cardio (for fat loss)

  • This is a concept I wish I learned long ago, but you don’t need intense cardio for fat loss! In fact, unless you either enjoy intense cardio or are training for some sort of cardio-related endeavor (a race, a basketball team, etc), I don’t see much point in doing intense cardio at all. As stated earlier, if your goal is to lose weight, your diet plan is going to be far more efficient and effective for doing so. In my estimation, intense cardio is more likely to burn you out on achieving your goals than it is at burning all your unwanted calories. Did you know you burn about as many calories walking a mile than you do running one? Doing light cardio such as walking is much more enjoyable and sustainable for most people’s cardio needs.

8) Hit the Weight Room (for muscle gain)

  • If your goal is gaining strength/muscle mass, strength training via weights is a must. Again, create a plan that is realistic and sustainable. The quality of your workout shouldn’t be measured by how miserable it is–that is to say if you’re keeled over and exhausted after every workout, I believe you’re not being efficient, you’re overly focused on “cardio,” and you’re more than likely going to get burned out long-term. Upon mastering proper form, my recommendation is to focus on progressive overload (increasing weight, reps, and/or sets) on these main lifts: dead-lift, squat, bench press, pull ups, and push ups. Ample rest is also vital as your muscles can’t grow if they’re constantly being put to work. As a reference, I only workout 3-4 days a week and each workout only takes about 30-40 minutes a session.

9) Eat Ample Protein (for muscle gain)

  • It’s common knowledge that protein is the key macronutrient when it comes to building muscle. Aim for about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight if you want to reap the maximum benefits of your strength training plan. If you’re also trying to lose fat while gaining muscle, be sure to do so while staying under your daily caloric allowance (calories should be your priority over protein intake). Additionally, I’ve found creatine to be a useful, safe, and well-researched supplement to help increase muscle mass if you’re so inclined. Do note it’s simply an optional supplement.

10) Be Easy On Yourself

  • Perhaps the biggest tip I can give anyone is to be flexible and easy on yourself. An easier plan you can stick with for the long-term is FAR superior than an intense, super strict plan you won’t likely maintain. Treat yourself to 1-2 cheat meals a week. This allows you to continue enjoying the foods you love, indulge every now and then, and gives you something to look forward to. I purposely treat myself to one dessert a week (I love sweets for whatever reason) and have found I savor and appreciate the food more this way rather than when I was regularly stuffing my face with it at my leisure. Most importantly, whether it be with your diet or your workout plan, understand you won’t be perfect, you’ll at times give in to temptation, and you’ll slip up. But it’s okay! Recognize you slipped up, give yourself some grace, and promptly get back on your plan. You don’t need to punish yourself through temporary starvation or some intense crazy workout. Consistency is the key and you’ll be fine as long as you get back to your well-thought-out plan as soon as possible.

As I mentioned earlier, my initial goal for myself (when I weighed 210 pounds and was over 21% body fat) was to get to 15% body fat. After learning and incrementally making the changes described above, I’m now at 180 pounds, 12% body fat, and am in the best shape of my life!

Before 2020 / After 2020

Whatever your goal is, my recommendation is to pick one of the above changes to focus on, track your progress, and then if/when your progress plateaus to add a new change as needed. I would NOT recommend trying them all at once (again, that is not what I did and not what I see working for most).

However you proceed, my prayer is you stick with it and make 2021 the year you step into your best self–both physically, emotionally, and spirituality. I’m highly confident you can and won’t regret it!

*Please advise I’m no dietitian or personal trainer; these are simply steps I’ve taken that have worked for me. If you’re someone who has preexisting health concerns or are wanting to make drastic changes, please be sure to consult a doctor before proceeding.


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Kansas City’s Top 10 Parks!

Over the last few months, my daughter Emery and I have gone on a “park tour” of Kansas City–touring all the top-rated parks throughout the Kansas City Metro area. We are now ready to reveal our Top 10!

Each park is rated among 5 factors and each factor is given a ranking between 1 (poor), 2 (below average), 3 (average), 4 (above average), and 5 (outstanding). From there, we rank the best parks from 10 to 1.

Factor 1:  Special Feature

Factor 2:  Beauty

Factor 3:  Trail

Factor 4:  Playground

Factor 5:  Water

These decisions weren’t easy as there were many awesome parks to choose from and we recommend checking them all out for yourself as soon as you can!

With that being said let’s get to the list…

10. Charles David Hartman Memorial Park

Coming in at #10 on our list is Hartman Park in Lee’s Summit. Now don’t take this park being ranked at the bottom of our list as a slight against it. Again, we toured many parks around the metro and all parks making our list are awesome–including this one!

Hartman Park includes a really cool playground, beautiful trails, sports fields, and a really cool stream where you and your family can even jump in to cool off. Emery and I forgot our swim suits so we were unable to test the waters for ourselves this time, but we’ll be back!

9. Ironwoods Park

Ranking 9th on our list is Ironwoods Park over in Leawood, KS. Ironwoods Park has lots of cool features including a rope climbing course, cool event space, beautiful trails, informative wildlife displays, and even a one-room schoolhouse! The ropes course obviously costs some money and requires a reservation–goes without saying Emery and I will wait a few years before we venture out atop the course!

8. Leawood City Park

Also located in Leawood, KS, Leawood City Park is the 8th best park on our list. Leawood City Park has extensive and beautiful biking/hiking trails, a really cool water park, an elaborate playground, and sports fields. Emery and I definitely want to come back next summer to check out that water park!

7. Meadowbrook Park

The 7th best park on our list is Meadowbrook Park in Prairie Village, KS. This park had an amazing playground, cool shopping village (we got some tasty treats at The Market!), beautiful water features, and some pretty views. It also has a unique outdoor fitness area. Emery very much wanted to climb atop that sweet playground!

6. Shawnee Mission Park

A large, unique, and the 6th rated park on our list is Shawnee Mission Park in Shawnee Mission, KS. This park is based around Shawnee Mission Lake where you can boat, hang out on a “coastal-like” beach, fish, or just enjoy the beautiful scenery. There are also sports fields and playgrounds located around the lake. Emery and I really look forward to laying out on that beach (a really unique feature for the midwest) on a warmer day hopefully next summer!

5. Penguin Park

We’ve now reached the top 5 of our list and coming in at #5 is Penguin Park in Kansas City, MO. Penguin Park has perhaps the coolest playground of any park we went to–especially for young children. It’s also well kept, has a decent walking trail, and a pond you can fish on. Emery was so excited to check out the penguin, giraffe, and other animals featured at this cool park!

4. Swope Park

The 4th rated park on our list is Swope Park in Kansas City, MO. To be frank, outside of some major features, the park itself is below average with below average playgrounds, trails, and honestly isn’t overly well-kept. What boosts this park so high on our list are the cool organizations included within the park–namely the Kansas City Zoo and the Starlight Theatre. Emery and I were so impressed with the KC Zoo that we got a season pass for ourselves and have been back several times! The Starlight also hosts several world-class shows throughout the year (though not so much this year due to CO-VID). Emery and I will definitely be back to Swope Park again–not so much for the park but for the zoo and to hopefully check out a show at the Starlight!

3. Antioch Park

Starting off our TOP 3 at #3 is Antioch Park in Merriam, KS. This park was one of the most beautiful parks on our list with awesome trails, cool water features, a rose garden, and great scenery. The playground (also known as “Dodge Town”) was very unique including a fake town with shops and stores for the kids to play in. The park was well worth the trip for me and Emery and we will certainly be back again!

2. English Landing Park

The second best park in the Kansas City Metro is English Landing Park in Parkville, MO. This park was beautiful, unique, and fun! Located alongside the Missouri River, the beautiful scenery and epic views are numerous at this park! They also have sports fields, a cool amphitheater, and a playground. In addition to the Missouri River, English Landing is also right next to the historic downtown Parkville shopping area, which includes lots of unique specialty shops and even a miniature golf course!

  1. Jacob L Loose Memorial Park

The top-rated, #1 best park in the Kansas City Metro is Loose Park in Kansas City, MO! This historic park is located in downtown, Kansas City and has a ton of history including displays and information about the Battle of Westport, which occurred during the Civil War. It also has a beautiful botanical garden that is perhaps one of the prettiest park features in the midwest. Additionally, this park has tons of field space for families to play, a cool water exhibit featuring lots of different wildlife, a splash pad, playground, tennis courts, and is just a short walk away from the famous Plaza Shopping District in Kansas City! This park is certainly worthy of the top spot in our ranking and is also worthy of many more trips for me and Emery in the future!

This Kansas City Metro Park Tour has been a blast! These ten parks featured in our Top 10 are by no means an exhaustive list of all the great parks in Kansas City. Emery and I visited many more parks that were also very cool and worth a trip as well, but these ten were simply the best of the best!

Speaking of “best,” though getting to experience all these parks was definitely an unforgettable experience, the BEST part by far was getting to experience it with my daughter and travel buddy, Emery. The memories I got to make with this special two-year old these past few months are memories I’ll cherish forever. I can’t imagine a better person to get to explore Kansas City with!

We hope our experience has given you some information to hopefully make similar memories with you and yours at a Kansas City area park in the near future.

What parks did we miss? Do you agree with our rankings? Let us know in the comments below!


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My Journey in Health & Fitness

Anyone who knows me would tell you I’ve always been somewhat into health and fitness.  It wasn’t until about two years ago, however, I came to realize I wasn’t as healthy and fit as I thought I was.  Since then, I’ve learned a ton of new information I feel could benefit anyone wanting to make positive changes for the betterment of their health.  With that being said, let me start from the beginning of my journey with my first “epiphany”…

Epiphany #1: Measure What Matters

At the beginning of my journey, I was creeping up to the most I had ever weighed at about 210 pounds.  This development made me curious about my actual fitness level and prompted me to measure what my body fat percentage was.  Much to my chagrin, I soon discovered my increase in weight wasn’t simply an increase in muscle but also a substantial increase in fat as my body fat percentage was at about 21% (average level for my age bracket per the chart below).

Screenshot 2020-07-26 at 3.01.32 PM

Upon this discovery, I quickly decided it was time to make some changes.  The first change?  I needed to start tracking my progress through what really mattered–my body fat percentage (which takes into account weight in fat, muscle, and water) rather than just overall weight.

The best way I can explain this importance is through a real life example:  There’s a young lady I know who began working out for a period of time, worked extremely hard, but ended up gaining two pounds.  For someone measuring their progress through a simple scale, this type of discovery could have been devastating.  However, because this individual measured what mattered, she was thrilled to discover that though she had gained weight, she had actually lost 3 pounds of fat and gained 5 pounds of muscle!  Making a positive net of 8 pounds when it comes to body fat percentage.  Rather than being demoralized due to the small gain in weight, she became more motivated having discovered the numbers that mattered and is still consistently working out and improving her fitness to this day…

So that leads us to the question, how does one measure body fat percentage?  There’s a plethora of ways to do this, and unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as a basic scale.  However, I’ve found the most accurate way (without completely spending a fortune) is by purchasing an inBody scale.  This scale is amazing in that it not only tracks body fat percentage, but also gives you your weight in overall fat as well as muscle and allows you to see your progress through charts and other tools.  I cannot recommend this scale enough!

Ever since I began measuring my body fat percentage through an inBody scale, I’ve made significant progress as it allowed me to not only see improvements but also realize when I began to plateau and needed to make new adjustments to my lifestyle.

Epiphany #2:  Strength Train Regularly

(Fitness Level at the Start:  210 pounds, 21% body fat)

The next step I took after deciding I’d primarily concern myself with my body fat percentage was to begin strength training regularly.  Strength training would be most beneficial because it’d allow me to increase my muscle mass, which would have several benefits:

  1. Obviously being stronger and looking more muscular are common goals achieved through strength training
  2. Strength training burns a lot of calories through the workout itself
  3. Strength training also ignites the metabolism, allowing you to burn more fat throughout the day (muscle mass requires more caloric expenditure at rest)
  4. More muscle mass means more percentage of my weight will be muscle, making less percentage fat

As a school administrator and coach, I knew it’d be challenging to make myself strength train consistently, so to help motivate myself I joined a local CrossFit gym and attended every Saturday.  Additionally, I purchased a weight rack and installed it in my garage–allowing me to strength train at home semi-regularly as well.

Getting into the habit of exercising regularly was a huge benefit and allowed me to see progress almost immediately as I quickly dropped from 21% body fat, down to about 17% body fat in a matter of 3-4 months.  It was after those few months, however, that I met a plateau.  It was now time to look into other ways to improve my fitness…

Epiphany #3:  Limit Take Out

(Fitness Level:  195 pounds, 17% body fat)

For the longest time, I’d always believed as long as you worked out regularly, you could pretty much eat whatever you wanted as long as you didn’t go “overboard” and as long as you avoided the “unhealthy” fast food joints such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc.  Besides, my body would just use any excess calories to build more muscle as long as I was strength training regularly…or so I thought.

This philosophy worked fine to get where I was at, but if I really wanted to see more progress, I needed to start paying attention to what I was eating.  The first step for me was I had to start limiting my takeout.  Now this step may seem obvious but as a high school athletic director, I often found myself on the road supervising events multiple times throughout the week.  This made it convenient to simply get takeout on the regular.

In fact, through this process I quickly discovered it was no longer simply a convenience but a habit I’d developed as the temptation to pick up “take out” was crossing my mind almost any time I drove home from work.  So, to see if I could take the next steps in my progress, I decided to limit myself to only eating out twice a week.

Eating out twice a week might sound easy to a lot of folks, but for me this was groundbreaking.  And the results were also groundbreaking as I quickly dropped down within a matter of weeks to 16% (I’d struggled to get under 17% for a long period of time).  Not only could I see the number change on my inBody scale, but my workout partners at CrossFit actually began recognizing the changes, which was even more encouraging and motivating for me to keep with it!

Epiphany #4:  Intermittent Fasting

(Fitness Level:  190 pounds, 16% body fat)

Now, as anyone in fitness will tell you, the higher your fitness level becomes, the harder it becomes to see improvements.  Once I got to 16% body fat, I was really struggling to get much lower.  It was then one day, my brother Daniel haphazardly mentioned that he began intermittent fasting and no longer ate breakfast.  He found it had allowed him to meet some fitness goals of his own and recommended it.

Now, this philosophy was completely at odds with what I’d spent years believing…

  • You needed to eat multiple times (5-6 small meals) throughout the day to keep a strong metabolism
  • You needed to do all you could to avoid hunger–being hungry means your body will go into “starvation mode” and begin storing fat.  It’ll also cause you to overeat later
  • Breakfast was of the utmost importance as it’d give you needed energy and limit your hunger the rest of the day

Upon further research, I found all these beliefs to be misleading and began doing intermittent fasting.  Many of the great benefits of intermittent fasting are better explained in this article, but the most practical benefits I’ve personally experienced through the process are:

  • Easy and simple way to limit calories
  • Teaches you self-control and mindfulness especially when it comes to food
  • Takes some getting used to but is actually not that difficult once you train your body and mind to do it effectively
  • Saves loads of time and money!

Now there are several options when it comes to intermittent fasting but another great benefit is its flexibility in that you can tailor it to fit your needs/preferences.

For example, for me, I’m not a big morning person.  I generally hit snooze a few times until the absolute last moment in which I have to force myself out of bed.  I then get dressed, brush my teeth, and am out the door for work.  Taking time to make breakfast (or even lunch for that matter) is not something I’m a big fan of.

Plus, as a school administrator, my time at work was often very busy and hectic so finding time to actually eat breakfast or lunch was often not even practical.  Another thing about me is I enjoy eating at night–often with my family or relaxing in front of the television.

Thus, the best intermittent fasting schedule for me is the 16:8 option where I fast for 16 hours a day and am able to eat for 8.  For my daily schedule that means I eat from 2 pm to 10 pm each day.

Now, if you’re someone interested in intermittent fasting, I’d recommend starting with an even smaller fasting period (i.e. 12:12 or 14:16).  This will allow yourself to slowly work your way into it and then build your times up from there as needed.

Again, intermittent fasting has done wonders for me–not only in improving my fitness (I went down to 15%–which was the number I longed for when I started my journey) but also in money and time saved!

Epiphany #5:  Tracking Macros

(Fitness Level:  185 pounds, 15% body fat)

Now that I’d started intermittent fasting, I was able to get to 15% almost immediately.  15% was my original goal, but now I wanted to find a way to get into the 13% range if possible.  This would require a new step (I spent months trying to get below 15% at this point) that I’d heard about before but to be frank, I was simply too lazy to actually do the small amount of work it’d take to do it effectively–and that was tracking my macros (macronutrients–proteins, carbs, fats).

What drove me to finally sitting down and looking closely at the nutrition labels on my food was actually a school colleague of mine who told me that was what he did to get to the lower levels I desired.

Thus, I decided to sit down one day and actually measure and track out what I was eating consistently (at this point I was hardly eating takeout at all).

Upon further investigation into the numbers (see the chart I created below), I discovered the main food culprit of mine was actually something I’d eaten for years believing it was “healthy” and helping me to build muscle–peanut butter.

Peanut butter does have a good amount of protein but it also has a huge amount of calories and fat (albeit healthy fats) which was contributing to my inability to break under the 15% mark.  Peanut butter sandwiches was a staple in my diet and was something I ate at least once a day.  How could I ever give it up?

Well, thanks to my wife, we were able to find some good replacement foods that had much better nutritional value and were easy for a kitchen dummy like myself to cook.  Now, I get over 200 grams of protein in my system every day, along with less than 60 grams of carbs and less than 80 grams of fat.

Screenshot 2020-07-26 at 4.26.01 PM

What are some of the new staples in my diet?  Again, with any fitness/diet plan, you have to make it foods that work well for you, but for me I cook and eat the following just about every day:

  • Turkey Bowl (ground turkey, shredded cheese, guacamole)
  • Scrambled Eggs (with cheese)
  • Greek Yogurt (Oikos to be specific)
  • Fruit (generally apples or a fruit smoothie)
  • String Cheese
  • Dinner (made by my wife–generally a meat, vegetable, and carb)

These foods are simple and easy for me to make, tasty, and have outstanding nutritional content allowing me to continue progressing with my health and fitness goals.

Epiphany #6:  Be Flexible

(Fitness Level:  180 pounds, 13.7% body fat)

As I write this, I’m at the lowest body fat percentage I’ve ever been in my adult life (13.7 percent!).  And though my overall weight has never been a big concern of mine, I’ve actually lost about 30 pounds total (went from 210 to 180) and now weigh less than I did in high school!

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This journey has been eye-opening, challenging, and to be honest, a lot of fun, but I also want to mention one last epiphany I’ve learned throughout this process:  and that is to be flexible.

I still allow myself to eat out on occasion and even eat dessert about once every week or so (I love sweets!).  Having an occasional “cheat meal” is something most all fitness experts recommend and is something I believe to be vital if anyone is to stick with any plan for the long-term.

Going on a “diet” for the short-term is not good enough if you want to see lasting change.  It has to be something you stick with as a lifestyle change–and to be able to do that you have to be flexible and allow yourself some dietary treats on occasion.  This is a crucial step if you want to be healthy and fit for much longer than a momentary phase where you happen to be motivated.

That being said, my concluding recommendations for anyone wanting to make some positive changes in regards to health & fitness would be:

  • Measure your progress via body fat percentage (not overall weight!)
  • Strength train 2-3 times per week for 30-45 minutes a session (doesn’t have to be super long!)
  • Limit (but not fully restrict) take out and cheat meals
  • Intermittent fast in a way that fits you
  • Find a few consistent “go-to” meals you can eat everyday that have quality macro ratios
  • Be flexible and easy on yourself!

I hope a piece (or pieces) of what I’ve shared through my journey can be useful for you in your own journey.  Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or want more information.  I’m by no means an expert but am happy to share what I’ve learned.



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I’m Proud to be an American

It’s hard to believe this may be viewed as controversial for me to say, but I’m going to say it anyway:  I’m proud to be an American.

I’m proud to be from a country that values freedom, human rights, and equal opportunity before the law.  It’s easy for us to forget the ideals our country was founded on (such as individuals being endowed by their creator with equal, inalienable rights) were revolutionary concepts that have changed the course of human history for the better.

I’m proud of our country’s value for diversity–not only when it comes to race and ethnicities–but also in thought and beliefs.  This too was a revolutionary concept realized by our founders in that all have the right to say, believe, and practice our beliefs in how we deem appropriate.

I’m proud of our country’s past both for our revolutionary ideals that changed the course of mankind and our ability to overcome many evils that have plagued not only our country but much of human history.  The process still continues to this day.


I’m proud to be an American.

Now that’s not to say I’m proud of everything about America.  I’m not okay with the injustice, divisiveness, and the outright evil that’s been displayed throughout our country both in the past and the present.

Though our founding principles are about as ideal as any country’s principles could ever be, America isn’t perfect–never has been and never will be.  We aren’t short on atrocities that myself and most all Americans are ashamed of.  However, I’d argue there’s not one country, nation, or people group that doesn’t have atrocities they are and should be ashamed of.  

The difference with America is due to so many brave Americans who sought to make our revolutionary founding principles a reality, we’ve been able to overcome many of our great evils and atrocities.  And though we still battle injustices today, we’ve come a long way in improving not only our country but the entire world in a powerful way.

It’s been disheartening to see all the divisiveness that’s gone on recently.  I’ve seen my fellow citizens commit heinous crimes against one another, government officials not step up and do their duty protecting the rights of their people, and hateful rhetoric being dished out from both sides of the political aisle.  This is not the America I am proud to be a part of nor want to raise my family in.

It’d be easy for me to just sit back and say nothing, but I love this country too much to continue to sit on the sidelines and feel compelled to use my freedom of expression to share my thoughts on our country’s current status…

4th Hat

I truly believe a big issue we currently face in our country is the extreme polarization we’ve allowed politics to play in our lives.  Our political beliefs went from being our opinions on how we should improve our country to becoming–for many of us–our religious identities; and not only that, those with opposing beliefs have somehow also turned into our mortal enemies.  This new type of attitude has turned us into a divided people that refuses to listen and respect one another–as opposed to a united one working together with the best interests of our country at heart.

This is simply my two-cents and nothing more, but I believe we need to do the following if we’re to somehow find a common unity and love for our country again:

  1. Acknowledge that though our founding principles are about as ideal as any can be, America (like all of humanity) is made up of imperfect people who have different thoughts, opinions, and beliefs on how we go about achieving said principles.  Our right to have these differences in opinion, though at times frustrating, are a part of what makes our country so great.
  2. Recognize that though we all long for a perfect society (which I personally believe is a desire we’ve all been given from God), it’ll never be achieved this side of heaven.  Though striving to achieve this perfection is certainly a noble cause worth pursuing, our country is made up of imperfect people and evil will always exist–no matter how much we combat it.  The key is in how we go about empowering each other to do good and limit evil from happening as much as possible.
  3. Instead of always emphasizing our differences, I believe we need to be mindful of and focus more on American values that unite us.  There’s three in particular that standout to me:
  • The value of freedom
  • The value of equality
  • The value of family

The Value of Freedom

I think we too often forget and take for granted the revolutionary concept of people being free from government persecution and tyranny–that is that the government works for the people and is governed by the people.  This is a great blessing we all benefit from and has been achieved to a level never before seen in human history here in America.

All of us value freedom and we need to be sure no matter what our differences are that we continue to limit the government’s ability to impact our lives and infringe upon our rights as outlined in our Constitution.  These are rights our founding fathers recognized were endowed upon us from our creator and are rights we shouldn’t be willing to relent–no matter the argument.

The Value of Equality

Another revolutionary idea our founding fathers recognized was that all people were created equal.  Obviously we’ve been far from perfect in our ability to live up to this principle but it was an idea that was unheard of in it’s time and yet still rings true today.  

It’s our duty to make sure every person is valued as an individual uniquely created by their creator, that each individual has an equal opportunity before the law to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, and that each individual doesn’t have their rights unjustly infringed upon.  When such an infringement does occur due to an evil act of an individual(s), we need to hold the guilty party accountable and be sure we have the proper systems in place to help prevent such infringements from occurring again.

Now a big misunderstanding I feel many have in today’s America is the difference between equal opportunity and equal outcome.  In a free society, all should be afforded an equal opportunity before the law to pursue our lives to the fullest extent using our individual talents and abilities.  In a free society, however, demanding each individual have an equal outcome is impossible to achieve without infringing upon other’s freedoms.  In fact, I’d argue it’s impossible to achieve–period.

Therefore, to help individuals live a fuller life, we as a country need to start emphasizing the personal virtues of responsibility, hard work, respect, integrity, and determination.  These virtues will not guarantee us success but they’ll certainly empower us to use our freedoms to more adequately pursue our potential, be more likely to realize our goals, and make us more capable of helping those of less fortunate circumstance.  As opposed to what is required in pursuance of equal outcomes, which includes envy, entitlement, deflection of responsibility, governmental control, and the destruction of others.  

In regards to the law, equal opportunity must be our focus if we’re to truly live in a free and just society.

The Value of Family

Now when I speak of my opinions on freedom and equality, I recognize I speak from a place of privilege.  My privilege was a blessing given to me that I had no control over.  It was the privilege of being born into a quality family where both my parents loved and cared for me, taught me life skills and moral virtues I needed throughout my life, and worked hard to raise me in a more ideal circumstance than even what they had themselves.

This privilege did not shield me from hardship, injustice, misfortune, or disappointment but it did afford me the ability to pursue life in a positive way and work to overcome challenges without destroying myself or others.

This is the type of privilege I see less and less of in today’s society and is something we as Americans need to discuss and take more seriously.  As an educator, it breaks my heart to see all the kids out there who don’t have what I had.  Regardless of their race, beliefs, or economic status, a person who doesn’t have the privilege of coming from a loving and supportive family is going to be at a disadvantage–no matter what governmental rules and regulations we put in place.

Therefore, we need to take our responsibilities to our families more seriously.  If you were given the privilege (like I had) of growing up in a loving and caring family, we need to make sure we do everything in our power to pass along that privilege to our children–there is no greater gift we can give them or our country!

If you weren’t given that privilege (whether it was under your parents’ control or not), my heart feels for you and I recognize your journey is likely much harder than what mine has been.  But no matter where you are now or what you went through, you can give your kids something you never had.  It doesn’t require a certain income or even intelligence level.  All it requires is a commitment to love those closest to you in a sacrificial way that is becoming less and less prevalent in today’s society.

Emphasizing and valuing family, in my opinion, is where we need to focus more of our country’s attention if we want to see more productive lives being led by our people and less injustice throughout our land.  Our government was never meant to parent us with life skills and a moral foundation or guarantee us a successful or fulfilling life.  Our government was meant to protect us from those who wish to infringe upon our rights (including the government itself) so that we might freely pursue such things for ourselves.

4th of July

It’s up to us to take care of ourselves and our families, to raise our children in a way that empowers them to be quality people who can pursue their goals, and to pass along the privilege of a loving and caring family for our children to have as a foundation for both their lives and the life of our country.

Thanks to those Americans who came before us, each of us has the freedom to use our gifts and abilities to do this.  

Will proceeding with these ideas solve all our problems?  Of course not.  But I certainly believe it’s a great place to start.

I say we get to it…


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An Unexpected Path

When I last wrote about my decision to leave coaching, I meant it.  Through much prayer, reflection, and discussion, God’s will seemed clear that it was time to say goodbye to “Coach Hammond” and explore options outside of basketball.

From the point of that decision months ago until now has been quite the journey and much has transpired.  I’ve searched far and wide for what my next calling would be.  I’ve explored opportunities within the realm of education as well as into industries I’d never considered before.  I’ve looked within the Greater Kansas City area as well as into states many miles from here (stretching as far as the east coast).  And I’ve searched within what met my initial expectations as well as into opportunities exceeding what I dreamed possible.

As my search progressed, many other developments came about…

  • I learned a lot about myself and gained greater understanding of my journey and why God led me to this point
  • We’ve been blessed by my wife’s current position, which has progressed to levels we hadn’t expected while still allowing her to work primarily from home
  • My parents were able to pay us a surprise visit, which was very helpful in providing some additional clarity and insight
  • I was able to spend an unforeseen extended amount of time praying and worshipping before God, spending time with my family, and reflecting
  • And lastly, a passion I thought I was called to walk away from circled back around in an unexpected fashion

All that being said, I’m excited to announce I’ve accepted a position with Summit Christian Academy in Lee’s Summit, MO where I’ll be teaching Physical Education, serving as the Middle School Athletic Director, and coaching Varsity Boys Basketball.

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Like I said before, though I thought it was clear God wanted me to walk away from coaching, it’s now become just as clear that I didn’t see the whole picture.  Through this journey…

  • God forced me to be willing to walk away from what was obviously an idol in my life.  For so long, I’ve put “coaching basketball” at first priority devoting myself to it even at the expense of my relationships with God and my family.  I had to confront this reality over these past several months and was able to get to a place where I didn’t find my identity in coaching basketball anymore.  This is a liberating feeling.
  • God allowed me to explore other opportunities I never would’ve considered otherwise and learn about the journeys of others.  It was so interesting to meet so many passionate people working in so many different places and pursuits.  I learned about different school districts in Missouri as well as different states, I learned about different industries–some of which I never dreamed of considering, and I got to learn from different professionals and their journeys that look a lot different than mine.  None of this would’ve happened if I wasn’t willing to leave coaching.
  • I learned that though there are many great pursuits out there, God called me to coach basketball for a reason and He wasn’t completely done with “Coach Hammond” yet.  There were multiple times I felt I had narrowed in on a position outside of coaching, only to have God close the door in an unexpected way.  In perhaps the most surprising way, God brought this Summit Christian opportunity to my attention and was able to make it abundantly clear this was the path He wanted for my family.

There are many great aspects of Summit Christian I’m excited about…

  • The chance to share my Christian faith openly with my students through my passions for fitness, wellness, and basketball is truly a unique ministry opportunity that seems tailor-made for who I am.  This job will not only allow me to mentor young men but also openly disciple them to grow in their Christian faith.  Perhaps just as important, it’ll also be a blessing unto myself and force me to grow spiritually in a powerful way.
  • From everything I’ve learned both through my conversations with the quality people at SCA as well as my own research, the school district seems to be an awesome, Christ-centered place that should be a great fit for my family.
  • The opportunity is located in a great location in Lee’s Summit, MO.  Lee’s Summit is home to my in-laws, my two best friends, and is close enough to where we live now that we don’t have to move unless we feel so called.  Additionally, the location is convenient in relation to my wife’s current job, which again seems to be blossoming as of late.
  • Lastly and most importantly, God has made the decision an obvious one to make.  It’s clearly His will we take this next step, and I (along with my entire family) are taking the step confidently in faith and are excited to see what God brings in this next chapter of our lives.

I’ll never forget the spring of 2020.  I doubt there will ever be any season quite like it.  Much like the rest of the country, I never dreamed this terrible pandemic would’ve ever happened.  Uniquely to me, I also never dreamed I’d be willing to walk away and say goodbye to coaching only to have God circle it back around and say “not so fast.”

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I’m extremely excited to become a Summit Christian Eagle like my wife (SCA is her alma mater); I’m extremely grateful to not have to walk away from my love of coaching; and I’m extremely blessed to have another chance to pursue my earthly passion while keeping what matters most (my faith and my family) in the right perspective.

Perhaps the two greatest developments in all this…

1. I can finally relinquish control.  In the past, I’ve always preached to my teams to “control the controllables.”  Though this clever saying remains true, it only addresses the issue halfway.  The other side is “and have faith through the uncontrollables.”  In the past, I’ve always subconsciously believed I could achieve success through my own knowledge, work ethic, and sheer will.  Though these pursuits can certainly be noble, they don’t ultimately determine success.  Success is only defined by what you do on behalf of God and His kingdom and any success you might personally desire (i.e. winning) ultimately lies in His hands.  Therefore, yes continue to pursue knowledge, work extremely hard, and do all you can to “succeed.”  But God doesn’t want you to become prideful in your knowledge, work yourself into the ground, or trust in your own power.  In the end, you have to be willing to trust in Him and not only be willing to live with the outcome, but be thankful for it–no matter how good or bad it might look from your earthly perspective.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.”–Proverbs 3: 5-6

2.  I no longer have to live in fear.  In the past, the fear of having to leave coaching has always been a motivating factor for me.  Coaching has been such an idol that I never wanted to even consider giving it up.  As a result of this journey, the fear of having to leave coaching no longer exists because I know I can not only survive but thrive without it.  Again, this is a liberating feeling that will allow me to coach more confidently, more genuinely, and most importantly, more faithfully.

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love, and discipline.”–2 Timothy 1:7

I want to thank Summit Christian for the opportunity and trust they have granted me; my wife Alyssa for her love, patience, and support; my daughter Emery for her ability to make me smile no matter the circumstance; my family for their unrelenting guidance and direction; and most importantly my Lord Jesus Christ for forcing me to confront some ugly truths in my life, allowing me to grow in my faith, and making clear the next adventure for our family.

Now, it’s time to continue to pray, step out in faith, and go to work!


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Goodbye Coaching



What a privilege…  What an honor…

What a journey.

Where did it all begin?

Did it begin when I got that call the spring of my senior year in college?  I remember it vividly.  I was a student teacher at the time observing my host teacher, Mr. Keenoy.  I saw the call come in on my phone and stepped outside with great anticipation.  My dream had come true!  My first real job.  I was the new head basketball coach of the Windsor High School Greyhounds…


Or did it begin when I was contacted by my high school coach, Coach Roger Stirtz, earlier in my college career?  My alma mater was scheduled to play state-ranked Columbia Rock Bridge in an upcoming game.  Seeing that Rock Bridge was two hours from my hometown but only a short ten-minute drive from my dorm at the University of Missouri, Coach asked if I’d be willing to scout the Bruins on his behalf.  As soon as I sat down in those packed bleachers to scout that Friday night, I was hooked…

Rock Bridge

Or maybe it began the year before when Coach Stirtz called me into his office my senior year of high school?  It’d been a big dream of mine to be a starter for the Liberty Blue Jays—a program steeped in rich basketball history and tradition.  I’d worked so hard for so many years and was very nervous as I entered his office.  I knew Coach was meeting with each player to let us know the role we’d earned to begin the season.  I recall the moment he told me I’d be a starter for the Blue Jays.  I was overcome with feelings of pride and joy…


Or perhaps it began even earlier—at some point playing for my dad between when I made that first granny shot for my kindergarten team to when I hit those 4th quarter three’s as a teenager in that Kansas City AAU Tournament?  My dad spent countless time, energy, and resources coaching me throughout my childhood.  He’s the reason I developed such a love for the game…


After further reflection, I think I know the exact moment where it all began.  It’s my earliest basketball memory.  I’m not sure how old I was—maybe 3 or 4?  I was sitting on the stairs.  My mom had just finished tying my brand new, first pair of basketball shoes.  I had a ball in my hands and was staring at our front door with such excitement.  As soon as that door opened my dad would be walking in from work to take me…we were going to play basketball at the YMCA.  My dad and I.  Sharing a passion.  Together…


Like I said before…what a journey.

And regardless of where this beautiful journey began, it’s now time for me to announce with bittersweet emotion that I’m stepping away from coaching high school basketball.

This decision is not easy, but I know it’s right.

One thing I make a point of discussing with my team at the beginning of every season is the importance of priorities.  It’s my belief to be successful, we must have a good sense of recognizing and giving everything we can to what’s most important.  Part of this process requires us to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others.

Right now, as hard as it is to admit, I simply cannot continue saying “yes” to coaching high school basketball.

It’s a blessing really—having so many things in my life that are more important than my great passion for coaching.

My faith is more important.

My wife Alyssa and daughter Emery are more important.


My friends and family are more important.

And a new desire to narrow my career focus is now also more important.

I’ll never lose my love for the game of basketball, but God has made it clear the time has come to say “no” to coaching.

Ten lessons I’ve learned and want to share especially for my fellow coaches.  Some of these will sound cliché but I’ve found them to be true and wish I fully understood them when I first got into the profession…

  1. Though coaching is a great passion, never let it define you. If coaching is the most important thing in your life, it’s my belief your priorities are out of whack.  You’re more than just a coach and are measured by more than a win-loss record.
  2. Never make coaching about you. It should ALWAYS be about the kids.  Even in those difficult moments, conversations, and decisions—it’s about the kids.
  3. Always be yourself. You’ll hear a million different ways of doing things and a million different people saying you should do this and do that, but when it comes down to it…be true to yourself, who you are, and what you believe.
  4. Never stop learning. I remember when I accepted my first head coaching job at Windsor thinking I had coaching basketball all figured out.  I couldn’t have been more naïve.  Eleven years later and I still learn a significant amount every season.
  5. Control the “controllables.” There’s lots of things that affect winning outside of your control.  Don’t get overwhelmed and stress out unnecessarily worrying over them.  Give everything you have to controlling what you can and you’ll be able to live with the results.
  6. Coaching attitude and effort should ALWAYS be what you coach first. No matter how much basketball knowledge you have, it’s irrelevant if your kids aren’t giving winning attitude and effort.
  7. Stay steady and humble. Understand you’ll get too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when things are not.  Don’t overreact to either.
  8. Expect and accept criticism. Coaching is a very public profession with lots of people who have strong opinions (right or wrong) on how you should do it.  Understand criticism comes with the job.  Don’t take it personal.
  9. Be honest and accountable. When you see an issue, confront it.  When you make a mistake, own it.  If there’s anything our kids should learn from us it’s that nobody is perfect and making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growing—no matter who you are.
  10. Be grateful. There’s a lot of people out there who’d love to be in your shoes coaching this game we all cherish.  You’ve been given a great honor and privilege to do this.  Not everyone gets the opportunity.  Be grateful.

I remember thinking back when I was a high school player how awesome it’d be to someday have a job like Coach Simpson.  Coach Simpson was Coach Stirtz’s varsity assistant at Liberty.   I really looked up to him because he was such a cool guy who clearly had a love for basketball.  His passion allowed him to play in college and even have an opportunity to tryout for the NBA.  I remember thinking how amazing it’d be just to become an assistant like him but never thought I’d get the chance because I didn’t think I’d ever measure up…

Back at Liberty

As I reflect upon those thoughts and where my journey has led me, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude and thanks.  Coaching has been a great joy I never really thought I’d get to experience at such a high level.  I have no regrets and am so very grateful.

There are so many people to thank…

I want to first thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  There are no words I can say to adequately describe what You’ve done in allowing me to experience this journey coaching basketball—let alone all else You’ve given and done in my life.  Thank you Lord…for everything.

I want to thank my wife Alyssa.  People underestimate the sacrifice it takes to be married to a coach.  The time away, the emotional toll, and the distraction that coaching can take from a marriage can be very difficult.  Your sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed and I’m excited you no longer have to share me with basketball.  Thank you for your love and support through it all.  I love you!


I want to thank the original “Coach Hammond,” my dad Tommy.  As stated earlier, you’re the reason I have such a love for the game of basketball.  If you hadn’t advised I be true to myself and follow my passions when I was younger, none of this would’ve happened.  You are why I became “Coach Hammond.”  I love you!


I want to thank my mom Nancy.  It isn’t possible for someone to have a better mother than I have–so loving, so sacrificial, so truly wonderful in every way.  Wow.  What a blessing you are to me and our entire family.  I love you!


I want to thank my brothers—Daniel, Ben, Tyler, and Jackson.  Without having the privilege to “lead” you as your older brother, not to mention all the times we played ball in the driveway growing up, there’s no way I’d be who I am today.  I love and admire each of you.


I want to thank all my players (past and present).  Each of you have meant so much to me during my career.  Whether you agreed or disagreed with how I went about things, I hope each of you know I care deeply for you and am so thankful I got to work with you.  I can only hope you learned from me a percentage of what I learned from you.

I want to thank all the coaches I’ve worked with.  Whether I worked under you or had you on as my assistant, I really cherish the moments we got to experience together in what is without a doubt one of the most rewarding yet challenging professions there is.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey.

I want to thank my friend and mentor, Coach Roger Stirtz.  You’re a big reason I developed such a love for high school basketball and there’s no way I would’ve become a varsity-level coach without you.  Thank you Coach.  My admiration for you is immense.

I want to thank all the schools who trusted me with the honor and privilege of leading/helping lead their basketball programs (Rock Bridge, Windsor, Liberty, Smithville, and Belton).  I did not take the responsibility you entrusted me with lightly and gave everything I could to help our students be their best.  I’m forever grateful for the opportunities you gave me.

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I want to thank the principal of Belton High School, Mr. Phil Clark, for giving me the opportunity to become a school administrator and mentoring me these past three years.  I’ve never met someone who works harder at what he does and it comes from a sincere place of wanting to make a difference in kids’ lives.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your team.  I’m eternally grateful.

To all those who’ve helped me along the way who I haven’t mentioned—friends, family members, colleagues, and others—from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

And finally, I want to thank you “Coaching.”  What an incredible calling you are.  You brought me great love, joy, and excitement.  You also brought great humility, frustration, and tears.  You brought me great confidence yet also great doubt.  I’m thankful for it all and can’t imagine a greater experience in responsibility and leadership than what you’ve given.  I’m a better husband, father, and man because of you.  And though it’s become clear I’m now better off without you, you’ll always be a part of me and I’ll miss you more than words can say.

Thank you for the ride.


-Coach Hammond

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