There’s some sad news from my hometown of Rome, New York, as Coach Tom Myslinski Sr. has passed away after a battle with cancer. Myslinski had served for many years as Rome Free Academy’s offensive line and strength and conditioning coach, during the glory days when RFA football won many Section Three championships.
His son, Tom Jr., and I were classmates, and he was a standout center at the University of Tennessee—snapping the ball to and blocking for quarterback Peyton Manning. He went on to a distinguished career in the NFL, playing for the Cowboys, Steelers, Browns, and other teams. He’s currently an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the New York Jets.
In the summer of 1984, between my ninth and tenth-grade years, I participated in a summer weightlifting program supervised by Coach Myz. He was a trailblazer in terms of using resistance training to improve athletic performance. He encouraged (or maybe required) most of his players to lift weights over the summer in preparation for the season.
At the time, I stood about four feet eight inches tall and weighed about eighty pounds with a still-undiagnosed pituitary tumor growing inside my head. I had no business training in the same weight room as the massive jocks who benched over 300 pounds and grunted as they completed their lifts and tossed around metal plates in a basement gym at RFA ripe with body odor and buzzing fluorescent lights.
But Coach Myz treated me no differently than any other student, and I remember his beefy forearms, booming voice, and calm, patient demeanor.
Coach Myz gave me his time and attention, never looking down on me even though I was a pipsqueak who could barely bench the 45-pound bar and my work would never benefit the Rome Free Academy football team.
And he conveyed two lessons I have carried with me throughout my life.
The first is practice proper form. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something like: “Don’t worry about lifting heavy weights. Just use proper form and build your strength.” This mantra can be applied to many aspects of life. Don’t go through the motions. Use proper form. Start light and build up.
The other is simple—discipline and effort produce results. Show up and do the work. It takes discipline, but the exertion pays off. And I did gain strength through the summer training program—strength that I believe helped me to recover from my brain surgery in December of 1984.
Coach Myz was a man of character whose powerful presence belied his inherent kindness, and his instruction and direction—both in and out of the weight room—helped countless kids in Rome make the transition to adulthood.