Website – https://thefitlabusa.com/
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @fitlabusa
Tristan Smith is the Founder of Fit Lab USA in Mansfield, Texas. Fit Lab USA provides athletic development training for athletes in multiple sports and at all levels. Tristan is a former college & pro basketball player who grew up in Amityville, New York.
Tristan played his high school basketball for Jack Agostino at Amityville (NY) High School where he was a two-time New York Public School State Champion, a McDonald’s Top 100 High School All-American, and the Suffolk County Player of the Year in 2001.
Smith played his first two seasons of college basketball at St. John’s before transferring to St. Francis College where he finished his career. Tristan later played professional basketball in Uruguay, the ABA, and the USBL.
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Take some notes while you listen to this episode with Tristan Smith, Founder of Fit Lab USA in Mansfield, Texas.
What We Discuss with Tristan Smith
- Growing up in New York playing all sports in the neighborhood
- Today we have a more complete athlete, but a more sensitive athlete
- Developing toughness on the playground
- Tell the truth in love
- Build, breakdown, build
- Involving athletes in the decision making process
- Using film to help athletes and not just telling them what they want to hear
- Communication and effort are the two things he needs from his athletes
- Advice on building relationships with athletes
- “I try to keep my ego low.”
- Working with athletes in all sports, not just the ones he played
- Reducing the risk of injury, improving performance and improving recovery
- How he began building Fit Lab USA in Texas after growing up in New York
- Surviving COVID as a business owner
- The importance of being professional
- The impact of social media in today’s athletic world
- His experiences as a high school player at Amityville (NY) High School playing for Coach Jack Agostino
- His process for getting better when he was a high school player
- Having an inner drive to guide you as an athlete
- Basketball as a business
- The impact of the transfer portal on college basketball
- Choosing to attend St. John’s
- His thoughts on adjusting to college basketball and trying to figure out your role
- Transferring to St. Francis College and difference in budgets between St. John’s and St. Francis
- His craziest stories playing pro basketball in Urugauy and minor leagues in the USA
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THANKS, TRISTAN SMITH
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TRANSCRIPT FOR TRISTAN SMITH – FOUNDER OF FIT LAB USA & FORMER COLLEGE/PRO PLAYER- EPISODE 587
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod, Tristan Smith, Tristan. Welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
[00:00:13] Tristan Smith: Thank you so much. Happy nNew Year, and thank you for sharing your platform with me. I appreciate it.
[00:00:19] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. We are excited to have you on, you have had quite a journey in the game of basketball and you are now coaching and impacting athletes of all ages from young kids all the way through those of us who are adults that are still trying to be athletes. So let’s go back in time to when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about growing up and what your first experiences were like with the game of basketball.
[00:00:46] Tristan Smith: Yeah, so my father was, was a big time athlete and that in our area. So early on, it was actually the game of baseball that really I gravitated to. He was on the, on the circuit heavily in long island with softball. So I was one of those guys that was pretty much his wing man. So I was there with the bat and ball and everything, watching the Mets, do all of those things.
So I knew all of the players, the 80 16. So it was baseball early on. Who was your guy? Probably Darryl Strawberry on the field.
[00:01:28] Mike Klinzing: He didn’t want to emulate his off-field antics on the field for sure.
[00:01:29] Tristan Smith: Yeah, he was big top. So always was a sports guy. But in the neighborhood you played pretty much everything.
So we played sports all year round. So basketball was something that we did in when, when it started getting around that time, you’re watching NBA and you go out and emulate New York Knicks of the team. So you out there and you shoveling snow and you’re playing at an early age, but it was just recreational.
The first, the first league is our, it was kind of like a street league actually for a summer. It was called make it stay in school at our, at our legendary park bolding mat. So that’s the one that I have the earliest memory. So I’m probably around Probably about fourth grade. And that was when it’s a combination of the real basketball guys and the real guys that were tough.
You know what I mean? We got guys that try to steal bikes and they out there playing against, so it developed a level of toughness in the neighborhood early on. So from those elementary days, basketball was a part and just overall being an athlete was apart. For sure.
[00:02:42] Mike Klinzing: How do you look at the game today and the way kids come up through sort of the summer circuit versus the way that you learned the game, which I’m guessing primarily you were outside playing out, plant a lot of basketball, outdoors, which kids today just don’t do anymore.
How much of that basketball playground culture do you credit with a developing your love for the game? And then. Making you a better player because you had to play against guys that were a lot older than you, a lot bigger than you, a lot stronger than you. I really think that that’s something that has gone away and we’ve talked about that before on the podcast, but I just think there’s a, there’s such a, a difference in the way kids come up through the system stay versus the way that we used to do in the old days.
[00:03:34] Tristan Smith: Yeah, absolutely. I agree. A hundred percent. I think there’s pros and cons to both concepts, for sure. Both, both environments. There’s a level of, there’s a level of edge and toughness that comes with play with guys that just came from the side. They got two on the jeans and you’re playing against them and you know, but you get, you get that, that credibility they, they, they might bloody your mouth and lip and everything like that, but, but it develops a level of toughness that you can carry with you on and off the court.
And it gives you. Life lessons early on for now. There’s a lot more resources than ever before you you have YouTube videos, you have online trainers, you can do stuff through zoom and you have a lot of people that are considering themselves trainers everywhere. So you can get hands on help more so than ever before.
But one thing is those cones don’t move, so they don’t move. So it’s, it’s, it’s a fine balance that you want to keep. And I will recommend that the support system recognize those things, that if it doesn’t really translate over to, to the court you really don’t need that much of it. What, I mean, there’s a lot of stuff going on for the social media world.
So you get in that element to where guys are, they’re almost immune or they’re very, very uncomfortable with healthy criticism because of it. And you, you, you get a more complete athlete at an early age, but also a more sensitive athlete as well. I think it it’s, it’s, it’s a unique balance that you’re trying to keep.
Cause I’m on the other side now, as far as training these guys especially a lot to strip training, so you have to kind of work your way in massage and then certain information. We might lose that kid where, where we grew up it was tough. Love.
[00:05:23] Mike Klinzing: It absolutely was a lot different than it is today when you’re dealing with today’s athlete.
What are some ways that you go about putting that constructive criticism in front of them so that they know what they need to improve on and you tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. And as you sort of indicated, not everybody does that. A lot of times we look at kids today and everybody just is telling them how great they are and Hey, you’re this and you’re that.
Or you should be. And then when they finally do run into somebody who tells them the truth of, Hey, you got some holes in your game or, Hey, here’s what you got to work on. Or, Hey, you’re not as good as you think, or you’re not a division one player. Maybe you’re a division three player. A lot of times players and especially parents today who, as you know, are far more involved in their kids’ athletic lives than they were back 15 or 20 years ago.
So how do you go about as somebody who works with young athletes, how do you go about making sure that they hear what they need to hear so that they can improve and get better? What’s your philosophy or thoughts on that?
[00:06:33] Tristan Smith: It’s really no, there’s, there’s really no textbook on it. I think every individual has to be themselves.
So for me, I like to just try to tell the truth in love. So the first and most important thing is I first look at it in a build breakdown, build type of the situation. So I’ll give them something that they do well, then I’ll give them something that they can improve upon. And then I’ll finish up with giving them something that they do well.
So I kind of sandwich in the thing that they need the most inside of two things that they do well, so they can try to receive it. And at the same time, I try to involve them into decision-making a little bit more than we will involve them in decision-making. So I’ll ask them what did you see?
What do you feel? So a lot of times I’ll film it. So that way they’ll give me their feedback. So if they’re not honest with themselves, we just show it to them. So, so w so in a sense, I’ll put in them in front of the mirror, you know what I mean? It’s not coming from me. And I always make sure early on that inside of my facility, or if you’re around me, it’s going to be, I’m going to treat you like family, and, and you may not like it.
So you have the option of, of going elsewhere and, and being a part of somebody else’s family. But I’m going to give it, I’m going to give you the real, because I care about. I’m not going to just tell you what you’re trying to hear. And that’s what a lot of people are surrounding themselves with.
And like you said, it’s going to come from somewhere in there in their fitness journey, in their athletic career to where you can’t hide. My job is to try to help you to not be exposed that the job of the opponent is to expose you. So why don’t we look at these things and highlight the areas of opportunity so that we can expose them before the opponent or school.
So I try to take that approach, give them something that they’re good at. Give them something that they’re not good at. That’s my focus sandwiched in between some things that they’re good at
[00:08:33] Mike Klinzing: When you first meet somebody who comes into your facility, and they’re talking about wanting to work with you to improve as an athlete.
What’s your process for bringing somebody on board, getting to know them, getting to know what kind of athlete they are. What some of the things are that they need, that you want to improve on. How do you put together a plan when an athlete walks through your door? And that’s, I know you’re working with a large variety of age groups, so let’s say it’s a high school athlete.
What’s that process look like?
[00:09:02] Tristan Smith: One of the first things is what are you trying to get out of this? Because I’m done, I’m a renovation guy. Right? So I can’t want it more than you. You know what I mean? I got other people, I got my own family and everything to work, worry about saying, I need to know how much I’m invested into you.
And I’m always going to give you a hundred percent, but I just need to know how much time I need to put into, you know what I mean? If you’re looking to do X, Y, or Z, then I’m there to help you do X, Y, or Z. That’s a verbal commitment that you give in. And sometimes we’ll put it on paper. So we’ll start with that.
And then from there, I’ll ask the parent to see if it like. I didn’t put them well, we’ll start with like some basic assessments to kind of see what the overall athleticism looks like. And then we’ll take it from there. And one thing that I tell them, part of my verbal contract is if we’re going to do this, all I need from you is communication and effort.
Like that should go with you. Like the skin on your body. You can’t leave this skin at home. So your communication and your efforts should never leave. I mean, it should never leave your side, just like the skin on your body. So if we can do those things, then we can do,
[00:10:18] Mike Klinzing: What do you think when you look back on your sporting life and you think about the different coaches that you played for, what’s one or two things that you can maybe point to a specific coach that you played for, that you use in your coaching and your training today.
Something that you learned from a coach. You think is applicable to the athletes that you work with today? Is there anything that sticks out
[00:10:47] Tristan Smith: fSo it’s, it’s gotta be my high school coach, coach Jack Agostino? And the first thing is relationship building. That’s something that really is hard to fake.
You can have X’s and O’s, you can have somebody that’s built like an encyclopedia and it gives you all of those things, but it can be very cold and you can absorb that information, but the relationships lasts so long because it brings the trust factor up so high. So that’s something that I take with me all the way through, because we are human.
So you want to keep the human element in there. And as you get up in age, basketball is a business and you know what I mean? It starts to get robbed early on earlier in today’s age, because everything is so public. So that’s something that I try to keep authentic with the guys and it’s relationship built from there out.
Then we can give you information and we can get an outsource, all types of information too. But I just want you to know that I love and care for you. And then you can trust me because I’m going to give you 100.
[00:11:52] Mike Klinzing: What does that look like? So on the ground, you talk about building relationships. You talking about letting the athlete know that, Hey, you can trust me that I have your best interest at heart.
What does that actually look like in terms of the actions that you’re taking, the words that you’re using, how you’re going about building those relationships? What does that look like in your,
[00:12:13] Tristan Smith: I think the first thing is just feeling out the kid. You know, a lot of these kids, they’re not great. They’re not great.
Not all of them are great at, at face-to-face comp talking they’re better at texting and everything like. So sometimes the best thing is just to fall back. Don’t don’t overload them with too much, you know what I mean, have them a little bit, and then, you know what I’m saying? Almost just kind of let them dictate how this relationship is going to go.
We might not say that many words to one another, so then I’ll use the parent as the bridge. So I think you’ve got to have the wisdom to be able to kind of meet the kid where they’re at and you have some that are very talkative in AI. I can go ahead and give them a little bit more words. I can give them more sentences.
So you have to be able to feel out the people and their personality. And from there, the credibility starts to go up, especially. One of the major things I do is I’m able to break their body down with the imbalances on a few occasions. I can kind of break down, Hey, you sit down. I’m not your right hand and your left foot.
It, you do this, you do that. You have trouble doing these things. And now, now that I started on w you don’t even know me, how do you know that about me? It’s just because saying certain things that you have going on through this assessment. So you start to see early on, there’s a, there’s a level of trust that goes with it.
And then I’ll just ask them questions, man. Hey, who’s your favorite player? You know, saying what style of play do you like? You know, things of that nature. And from there, just try to break the ice, but really just talk to them like, like they would want to be talked to, or I would want to be told to.
[00:13:52] Mike Klinzing: Do you think that’s something that you got better at since you started?
[00:13:56] Tristan Smith: Absolutely. Absolutely. One of the things that I used to have trouble with is when you get new exercises and everything, do you want to throw them out?
[00:14:06] Mike Klinzing: And you’re like, Hey, I learned something I need to share this.
[00:14:07] Tristan Smith: Absolutely. We’re going to hang from the ceiling today. I just learned this thing, man, let’s go ahead and get in this style, but I want you to jump up and do the back flip cause I seen it and I tried it and it was really hard.
And so it’s falling back and keeping it very simple. So I had to learn that because one of the biggest things I’ve learned Mike, is that everybody’s not at the same level of you when you were athlete or other athletes that you’re in contact with. So you have to be able to use wisdom for each person.
And then if you’re working with the group, you have to have something that everybody’s going to be able to do to keep them safe and then keep them engaged. So it definitely was a learning lesson.
[00:14:50] Mike Klinzing: That’s so true. I think one of the hardest things that I found when I was coaching is to realize that, and I’ve realized the same thing as a parent.
Kids that you’re working with or kids that are your own kids. They’re not necessarily wired in the same way that you are. So, whereas I might’ve wanted, Hey, give me more, give me more, give me more, not every kid that you work with is going to be of that same mindset. Not every kid is going to come in with the same level of commitment or desire attitude, or maybe they have strengths and weaknesses that are different from the strengths and weaknesses that you had.
And I think one of the things that you have to do as a coach is this is what I hear you saying is you kind of have to step outside yourself and figure out what the kid needs and not make it about you and what you just learned. It’s more like, Hey, what do I know that I can pass along? That’s going to benefit this particular athlete.
I’m sure for you. I’m just curious. Cause I know you work with athletes of all different sports. You’re working with volleyball players and maybe a sport that you don’t have as much experience with actually playing. So how do you go about relating to those athletes that. You didn’t play their sport maybe at as high a level as you did with hoops.
[00:16:04] Tristan Smith: Great question. So, so I think one thing that does help me is that I know sports, I know movement, I played multiple sports growing up and had had w was fortunate enough to have success at multiple sports. So I understand enough about that from firsthand experience. And then also I respect all of the sports.
Like I went and got certified to train golfers. So now I train a PGA golf with Tom Hoby. So he’s on the tour. So I’ve learned how to step outside of my comfort zone to see how their body works and what they need. It didn’t have, they all correlate. There’s certain movement patterns. There’s certain exercises that correlate to all sports.
And then you have otherwise that are going to be a bit different based on the body type, based on the level and all these different types of things. So what I do is I have a foundation. That works with all sports and to not build out. Now, as far as learning, like when I got to Texas, I knew nothing about volleyball.
Cause it’s not very big in New York where I’m from, but I was fascinated to like, why is it not as big these, these, these, these athletes are phenomenal. First of all, they listen. I’m like, wow, that’s step one. They listen, you know what I mean? I’m like, I, don’t got to tell you five times and they’ll tell you once or twice it, so, so you have that.
And then now I’m asking all of these questions. So I ask questions. If I don’t know, I ask questions to, to answer your question. I ask questions. I do research and I, and I try to make sure that I surround myself with people that are smarter than me in other things. And I try to keep my ego low and that’s helped me out a lot.
[00:17:46] Mike Klinzing: How’d you end up in Texas?
[00:17:49] Tristan Smith: Oh, really, it was kind of just taken a leap of faith and just looking at the cost of living, but also just kind of having a vision you know, in the near future to be able to start something like I’m starting up now. And it’s, it’s a lot more difficult to do that in New York, just because of course the living and there’s not as much space.
And just knowing that this area is a hotbed for athletes, I’m like, there’s a way for me to go ahead and create a lane.
[00:18:18] Mike Klinzing: I give people the elevator pitch on that lane on what you’re doing with fit labs USA. Give us an idea of how you got it started, where the idea came from and sort of what your vision is for where you are now and where you’re hoping to go with it.
[00:18:32] Tristan Smith: Yeah. So when I first got out here, I was, I was fortunate enough to land a job at lifetime fitness, which is one of the biggest. gyms in the country, literally inside. They got everything in there it’s designed to have your family stay the whole day and they got, they got something that’s for sure, for everybody.
So that blew my mind. I never seen anything like that. So I learned the business of the fitness and inside of that, it helped me out to cook. No, to understand the back the, the, the, the business side of, of the fitness, I was like, I already was an athlete. So I got that side. I could relate to them.
Now I need to know more about training them. And from there, it was opportunity to go ahead and get my LLC. So I got that in 2016 and started from scratch with a small store front, and really, I want it to lock in to sports performance. So a lot of the young athletes they had to travel maybe an hour or so out to get some of the things that we’re providing now.
So my goal was to first. Reduce the risk of injury. You know what I mean? So teach these young athletes how to optimize their body. You know, they’re used to pretty much a machine, so everything works off each other. So just learning how to optimize their body, to reduce the risk of injury, improve performance and improve recovery.
Because if you, if you take care of your body, then it’s going to improve your confidence. You don’t have to worry about, oh, this is, you know what I may feel in lacks or not as strong. Now you just concentrated on building your skillset for your respective sport. So that was my mind frame in doing so. And then from there, it cottages morphed into me working with a lot of different athletes cause went off per store.
I’m thinking football I’m in Texas. I think they’re football crazy, but it’s really hard to get involved with a lot of the football because all of the, all of the schools. They have their own sports and performance skies there. And they like to lock in with those guys. So now I’m having to think outside the box.
So now I got volleyball, whatever, coming through my door, I’m training. You play ping pong. I’m going to try to be a better pong.
[00:20:53] Mike Klinzing: All right, so how do you, how do you build that business in a geographic area where you’re not from where you don’t have all those connections that you might’ve had back in New York to at least get a couple of clients in the door?
What does that look like when you’re just starting out? How are you going about getting the word out about what you’re trying to do?
[00:21:12] Tristan Smith: I invited every athlete that I knew. I invited every athlete that I knew and I was given discount sessions and, and free demos. And I w I w you know, have them sign a waiver now asked them could they, could they, could they put it out or am I able to put them out.
All my story, all my thing. And I use social media. Social media is a big deal for fitness, for fashion, for food. So it travels fast. It travels fast and already had a little bit of buzz from lifetime from lifetime. I was there for a couple of years, so I, I was able to settle in enough to where I had credibility in what I was doing, working with all the demographics there.
So it really just started with what that, you know what I mean? Just like pop the trunk type, sell a seat, and then you come in and man, what you doing to subway coming back and get this workout, come on, check it out and break them, break them down to like 20 minutes. And they’re like tongue hanging out and appropriate way.
Like, man, I never did anything like that because for me I’m a, my concept is keep it very simple and stack a lot of simple together. So that was my concept. We’re going to take a lot of simple exercises. We’re going to combine them to where it keeps you safe, but now you don’t understand why your leg is shaking, even though you didn’t lift a whole lot of weight, there was the three combinations of exercises.
So that was kind of how I did it. And from there, we just kind of just kept, kept building off that.
[00:22:44] Mike Klinzing: What’s been the most challenging part of growing the business. So once you get it off the ground, what has been the part that I don’t want to say the hardest part, but just when you look at it, when you think about what you’ve been able to build to this point, what’s been the most challenging aspect of that.
[00:22:59] Tristan Smith: The easiest answer in the world, the pandemic pandemic, because, right, right before, right before the pandemic hit September of 2019, I got into a bigger space. And it said, yeah, I’m like, this is, this is awesome. So we, we, we almost tripled the size. And now we’re in a suite inside of a really big sports facility where they have eight basketball courts and like 16 volleyball courts.
And they run a lot at a youth thing. So I’m like, this is this is going to be major for me. So the transition was really quick. I took over the spot from a baseball facility that ended up moving into another big facility. So it was a quick turnaround. So I’m doing a lot of this on the fly and I’m pretty much a one man band.
I have my dad who’s out here. He helps me out, but kind of a one man band. So I’m learning a lot of stuff on the fly and we finally get some traction for the, for the spring time COVID hit. I just got a couple of big contracts, like. Just start working and partnering with some teams.
And I was like, that’s the lane I’m really trying to get into. So I had a soccer team, a Kobe hit and I’m like, Aw man. So now the restrictions is crazy. And then also people are fearful about meeting up with each other. So I’m like, this is perfect timing. And you know, the bills don’t stop and they gave us, they give you a little that
[00:24:38] Mike Klinzing: big rent check.
[00:24:40] Tristan Smith: You still do write a big check is I can’t give him the monopoly money. That’s illegal. So I’m like this, this is tough. This is tough. So that’s by far the toughest because it also, it was it was it was so sudden, and then it was something that we haven’t seen before to where you have people that would like to work out, but they might not be comfortable working out inside of.
So it changed the whole dynamic of what we do. And then we had to slowly build up. And then also some of the people that we were ready to partner with, they lost their money. So now they keep their stuff in house, they run in bootcamps. You’re like, bro, you’re not even certified. Which means that now we need all of these dollars ourselves, we’re going to do it.
So it changed the dynamic for sure. So we’ve been slowly kind of getting back into that, but it really, to be honest, it almost took us out all the way. So it’s been a blessing I’m thankful to the Lord that we were able to keep going because a lot of my small business colleagues, especially if I was in New York, I would have been super additive.
So just, you know what I mean? Depends on where you at and what you had situated. A lot of people weren’t able to keep going forward.
[00:25:51] Mike Klinzing: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about running your own business.
[00:25:56] Tristan Smith: Oh man. What’s the biggest thing. The biggest thing is to, to stay professional because, because all it takes is one negative thing, and sometimes it doesn’t even have to be all the way to that will shut you down. All it takes is one negative. So you want to stay professional and make sure that you document everything, make sure you document everything, stay professional and, and make sure you treat everybody with respect.
Because especially now as a one post right there, get you gone with social media, all the way of each shoe. Like you wake up and your viral.
[00:26:38] Mike Klinzing: Could you imagine I say this all the time, but I could not imagine being a division one basketball player or a professional basketball player with, with social media, the way it is today.
And the amount of scrutiny and just the amount of stuff that comes at these kids who were playing college basketball or college sports or high school sports for that matter. I just couldn’t imagine what it must be like for those athletes to have that social media in their face all the time.
[00:27:08] Tristan Smith: God bless him. Like I have empathy because, because first of all, they are human beings and there’s only so much stick skin that you gotta be able to have. It is only going to be so much of the keeping your mouth close. You know what I mean? That’s why Louis dues is creating burnout accounts. They’re like, I got to get back.
I got to clap back at somebody. I know this guy hasn’t even played. He’s probably somebody facing it. Like, you know what I mean? Absolutely. Because everybody has a voice and not everybody should have a voice. In my opinion. Some people need to just keep their mouth quiet, especially if you don’t have any experiences.
So, so the people that we see on the television, regardless of age, they’re the easiest target that easiest target, you know what I mean? So you can have, you can be whatever you want, blue Twitter fingers. So it would be very difficult. So there’s certain things that are difficult and that work against them like that.
And then there’s certain things that work for you. Like you can have something be seen across the world and you can create a a whole new career or occupation that wasn’t there before. So there’s, there’s, there’s a pro and a concert as well, but absolutely it be really. I know me and high school.
You give me a blue check. Now I’m acting a fool. I’m not proud to admit that, but I’m gonna keep it a snack. Like I’ll be out there, like, you know what I mean? Probably going to be looking crazy. And I’m like, oh man, there would’ve been a..
[00:28:39] Mike Klinzing: Put it this way. It had been a lot of highlights. Right? I know what you’ve been posting.
There’ve been a lot of things. It would’ve gone up there that probably you look back on it now you’d be like, Ooh, I don’t know
[00:28:47] Tristan Smith: if I should’ve put that out there. People pulling that up from 2000 and Warren, man, I forgot about that.
[00:28:53] Mike Klinzing: Or just, you just think about, you think about the rivalries that you had, whether it was with teams or whether it was with an individual player and the things that you might’ve said to each other on the floor that disappear, right.
That disappeared. That nobody, you just, you, you still have those things in your memory, but nobody’s got, nobody’s got any proof that those things were ever said, but man, it’s crazy. It’s crazy. Now you think about,
[00:29:17] Tristan Smith: Ee have to read much more intelligent. You have much more diligent and much more. From an early age.
I mean, I’ve seen kids in sixth grade with a, with a blue check, for sure. I’m like, man, they barely not a walk the holiday school and they got a blue check and everybody, you got to adults falling over, over there. I’m like, man, this is out of line.
[00:29:39] Mike Klinzing: Everybody’s carrying a camera. I mean, everybody’s carrying a camera, was scared of the camera.
And you know, you think about just again, you never know where you are, what you’re doing. And it’s just I couldn’t imagine growing up, but not that I, not that I was doing bad stuff, but man,
[00:29:53] Tristan Smith: One move and you edit it. So it’s just something that I, that I, that I watch because you see other people and I let that be an example.
Like I got to make sure that I stayed. I got to stay locked in all the time because it’s not just me, but it’s my family. You know what I’m saying? My wife and my kids all are connected to me, my mom, everybody. So if I, if I have any outbursts. You know what I’m saying? It’s coming back to everybody. You know what I mean?
So I take that into consideration with everything. Cause there’s, sometimes you, you want to let off on a couple of people. I let me fix this guy real quick. You know what I mean? I got, I got to think it through to tellers do, but you you gotta learn how to be diplomatic. So I’ve learned that over my time, the most important thing to do as a, as a business owner and, and continue to humble yourself enough to, to build your network, build your network because you know that that network goes a long way.
Who knows you and what they know about you goes a long way.
[00:30:52] Mike Klinzing: It goes back to what you talked about right off the top, right. Relationships and what you learned from coach Agostino. So let’s go back to that time when you’re a high school player, share some of your. Memories from that time at Amityville.
What made it special? What made coach Augustino so special? Just your teammates. Just talk a little bit about what your high school,
[00:31:15] Tristan Smith: For sure. So for me, I was one of the, the, the first freshmen to start at our school. We have a pretty good tradition, pretty rich tradition in basketball and quiet to coach being there.
We had a legendary coach Fred Williams, and then there was a guy named Jack Smith that was there before him. So he kinda took the, took it with no experience because coach Fred Williams had, had gotten cancer and nobody wanted to take the job. So he was allowed to do it in green. I don’t know what the heck he was going.
And, and my, my, my the basketball team is predominantly black. So Amityville is about a 10,000. And the Skylar, this split. So south Amityville is predominantly white. It, the north family bill is predominantly black and minority. So when he took over the team is it was predominantly black team.
He’s a young white male. And I mean, it was, it was right off the edge of the crack epidemic and everything like, so he’s dealing with some stuff and, and he built a relationships with the community. So by the time I got in, in the late nineties, in the high school, he was already established enough to where he had the respect.
Cause I met him first in sixth grade. So. It’s kind of a farm system. He came and checked it out and he’s like, okay, we’re going to be pretty good. We got a couple of good guys coming through the ranks. So eighth grade, I’m more of a RJV ninth grade. I thought I was going to be on JV as well. So I went and tried that it kicked me out.
The gym was like, dude, you want varsity? I’m like, oh man, that’s how, that’s how, that’s how green I was. You know, we didn’t have the resources, like you said, we just go out there and play. So I didn’t know. So I come off the bench, come off the bench and like the fifth game. And I had a monster writer cause we came back and won and they gave me a write-up in the paper and then I’ve been a start ever since.
So from there, coach Agostino always had a lot of faith in me, even when I played bad, like I couldn’t shoot in ninth grade. Left-hand bandit. I can give you some stats, skews, some stairs and stuff. You pack the zone and it’s not going to be good. I’m out there shooting air balls and it’s not good, but there was to that fire, there was always like I got to get better.
There was always an inner drive for me to get better. And we had a lot of guys like that that had a lot of talent. There was a lot of talent, but there was also a lot of drive. And there also a lot of sacrifice cause we all wanted to win. We never won the state title yet. We want a lot of long island championships in New York state, final fours, but never the long island title.
So I can remember coming in with guys like Jason Fraser had teammates, UGI, Nottingham, who was a monster football player, but a dual sport athlete and Billy Chris, who was kind of the same way we had this collection of guys that sacrificed a little bit of their game in order for us to win and Agostino.
Helped us, because he was always honest with us. If we’d have a good game, he knock on front. He going to say, bro, that wasn’t good. We’ll be like, oh, of course I had a good care and I wasn’t good. And everybody’s joking on each other, you know what I’m saying? But we had that type of relationship to where we can help hold each other accountable.
So we ended up going on a, on my, let me back up my 10th grade year, we lost to the state title, the state championship team. And I feel like I fumbled the bag. I messed up. I missed the front end of her. One-on-one we was out there home. We was up by like nine points. Mike would like a minute and a half and we fumbled it.
We fumbled it. We started messing up and then just not doing the right thing of taking care of the ball, couple of questionable calls, but really on us. And we ended up losing our overtime. So that propelled us to say, we don’t want to fill out again because they ended up with it at all. So. Go away. And so my junior year, we had most of that team coming back and we ended up, I think we ended up going like 24 and three, and we won the school’s first title.
I was the first state tournament MVP in my school’s history. So it was a whirlwind man. Like we didn’t know what the heck we was doing, but we knew that we was capable of doing that. If that makes sense.
[00:35:39] Mike Klinzing: What did it look like when you started knowing that you had to get better? You wanted to work on your game.
How did you go about doing that and getting better and improving so that you could get to the places that you wanted to get?
[00:35:55] Tristan Smith: It was an interesting dynamic because again, my dad, he barely knew anything. I didn’t know until I got older that he was like, dude, I didn’t even know. I didn’t even have a Free throw routine.
He said, I watch cry, walk, clap praise. And he said, I watched a bunch of different guys and I would change. I know, buddy. So show me a set. So I’m like that ain’t show you a set free throw team. So we had a bunch of guys that are like this and we didn’t have any of that. So I would watch the game NBA on NBC, and I would just go in on a T and T and I would just take elements over there and I would go outside and I would just practice things.
I would just practice things the best way I knew how so for me, I was working at such a disadvantage of what you would see today that guys will probably pick up in like sixth grade because they have these resources. I was out there pure athleticism. I had good court awareness and you know what I mean?
Good hand-eye coordination and everything like that. But I played way too fast. Like man, slow down. You know what I mean? I don’t have anybody to tell me, you know what I mean, changed speech when you change directions, you know what I mean? Using your body as a shield. You know, everything was face up.
And so when I look back at saying my self as a young player, I’m like, man, I’m leaving a lot on the table, but there was still production because there was a good drive and a good enough athleticism. And ag did a great job of, of, of allowing us to be ourselves, but also getting us to play hard and we’d dive it on the floor and skinning up shirts and stuff like during practice.
And like, why are we doing this? Dive in and saving the loose boy, like coach, I’ve probably done this with one time all season, but he was instilling effort. Like we talk about communication and effort. You know, we do the shell drill and bulb like, cause this is 30 minutes to show it’s a shell and we were up and down.
See, can we get some shots up? But it’s that instilling the effort and the communication that we was talking about. Right. So it was really just doing what you could inventing drills and stuff, and you stayed over there, man. You come crash into me when I go and put his leg up there, you know what I’m saying?
Get one of the goons of the day, they, for short on my crashing into you. So you working on that, so it really just using your creativity. And then as you started getting up in high school, I would say probably around like 2001 and 2002, as I’m crossing over it to college, you started seeing the resources of trainers.
[00:38:33] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. The training business. Really? When you think about it, where it’s now it’s exploded to the point I laughed. When you said earlier that you had people that are doing things without any kind of certification, which you can walk down any street in America today. In fact, 10 people who are doing lots of things related to whether it’s athletics training, like what you’re doing, or whether it’s basketball training that have unfortunately very little certification.
I think that’s one of the things that if we could, if I could wave a magic wand and help to improve youth basketball, if we could figure out a way to certify youth coaches and trainers and get the best training for our coaches, it would really help over the players. We help our players in a lot of different ways.
And I think I was laughing again, when you’re talking about just kind of event drills and having this and that you’re just kind of outside trying to figure it out. That’s exactly. I mean, there was no, there was no blueprint. You just had to kind of figure it out. I remember when I’m working out, I’m like, all right, what, what is it that I try to do in games?
I’ve joked about this on the podcast before, but probably from the time I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, until the time I got done with my college career, I basically had two workouts. I had a workout. I did. I was by myself. And then I had another workout that I did if I was lucky enough to have somebody that wanted to shoot with me.
So they rebound
exactly. Well, I had a guy that his name was Scott Roth and he grew up in area around me and Scott ended up, he went to university of Wisconsin and he played in the NBA, played overseas and he’s probably about six or seven years older than me. And one day I was up at the playground when I was probably, I don’t know, I was maybe 14, 15, somewhere in there.
And he pulls up in his car and I had watched him growing up. Cause he went to a high school that was close to me. So I knew who he, I knew who he was. He had obviously no idea who I was, but he pulls up and he’s like, Hey, I’m looking for somebody that has a lot of energy that wants to play me full court.
One-on-one are you interested? All right. So here I am, this standing little 14 or 15 year old kid, and I’m going up and down full court on this playground in the middle of July. It’s 90 degrees. It’s two o’clock in the afternoon
[00:40:51] Tristan Smith: smoke.
[00:40:52] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. And it’s just, I mean, it’s a different, it’s different than the way kids grow up today.
And to your point, I think you said it well, that there’s pluses and minuses to both systems. And for sure kids have way more exposure to coaching. When I first went to college Triston, my very first day of college practice, they said, all right, we’re going to work on closeouts. And I literally was like, I don’t know what that is that I never had.
I had never heard that term once as a high school player. And you think about now kids who are seven have probably already heard that a thousand times. So there’s such an advantage there that kids are exposed to better coaching and more resources. I think it just gives them an opportunity, but yeah, it’s funny how.
We just went about getting better. It was like, you just went out and you tried to figure it out.
[00:41:44] Tristan Smith: This is been a drive. There’s a lot more, there’s a lot more inner drive inside of that era than it is. Yes, it is. Now. Like you can have a parent that wants it for the kid from for sure. And they’ll share the resources set up, especially if they have the funds you’re outta me.
And it’s a lot more POS is inside the cool air conditioning here. We can do it all year round. And if you get heat, if it gets too cold outside and you do these things, but there’s some element of toughness that is missing because you not getting those elbows scrapes, you’re not getting knocked down by some of these guys you’re not getting chased or you’re not doing the chase.
There’s some of the elements that come and create life lessons in life skills for you that. You’re going to be very sensitive to when things don’t go your way.
[00:42:35] Mike Klinzing: There’s always an adult around right now. There’s always an adult now.
[00:42:38] Tristan Smith: You know what I mean? There’s always an adult around. And then a lot of these adults, when they start getting a name, these kids, they start turning to kids.
That’s like, you’re going to co-sign this action that makes it worse. You know what I mean? Those are the best. The worst combination is when you have a parent that’s acting the same way as the kid and they’re know no alls as well. And we have a lot of those things because they’re trying to protect the kid, but you’re going to end up hurting the kid because once you cross over to college is business and it started to get more business in high school now, but it’s going to really hit home when you get to that college age.
And that coach is looking to replace your kid. As soon as he gets there immediately.
[00:43:26] Mike Klinzing: You’re already looking to be, they’re already looking to recruit over you if they can, right. Get the next best, get the next
[00:43:31] Tristan Smith: I’m looking for the next best thing. You know what I mean? He may be better than you. He may not be better than you, but I’m lucky wherever a high school, for the most part, I’m staying with you because you’re my guy.
And even at AAU, I’m going to stay with you. Cause I don’t want you to leave. It didn’t know you have even this, this dynamic to where kids are going to school everywhere. Now, like you didn’t leave your area. You got kids from New York going to Findlay prep. They hold over the map. Right? You got, you got to physically stop in Google to see where the kid is from.
Cause he might be from Alaska where he’s at Mount Vernon. Now you’re like, what is going on? They all offer because the landscape has changed. And like you said, there’s good things to it, but there’s also elements. That’s going to hit hard as an adult that I don’t know if everybody’s going to be able to recover from because you know now too, It’s more instant if like, like if you’re not hitting it right away, you trash, and this might be the first time that you’ve ever been called trash in your freshman year at college.
How do you bounce back from that? We don’t know. Cause you never had to do it.
[00:44:43] Mike Klinzing: It’s really interesting. I think when you talk about just the transfer portal and kids leaving and going to different schools and that’s trickling down obviously to the high school level as well, but you look at some of these rosters while you talk about a high major school, a mid-major school and it used to be, let’s take it from a mid-major perspective, right?
It used to be at a mid-major. Maybe you get a kid who’s a diamond in the rough, a kid who got overlooked for whatever reason. Now you bring that kid in as at a, mid-major develops into a really good player. And by the time that kid’s a senior, now, maybe that’s one of those teams. Makes a run to the sweet 16 and the NCAA tournament because they got that one guy who, other schools miss.
Well, nowadays that kid comes in and he average 17 a game at a mid-major he’s gone. He’s got to be at, he’s going to be at a high major school. Cause why would that high major school taken? Because they already know, look, this kid’s already made the adjustment to college. We already know we can play at the college level.
Why would I recruit a high school kid who I have no idea whether or not this kid’s going to translate to the college game? So you have it going that way. And then, and then on the other end of it, you got kid who maybe goes to a high major school. Doesn’t get the minutes that they want and their freshmen or sophomore year.
And now they’re like instead of developing and putting their time in, and maybe they get an opportunity, then when they’re later, maybe they transfer down. And so there’s just, it’s amazing when you look at, I think the job of a college coach to try to be able to put together. A cohesive team under the system we have now, man, it’s got.
[00:46:19] Tristan Smith: I don’t have the, any of those I don’t.
And I think that it’s going to, it’s going to over time phase some of the old school guys out it’s too much work it’s too much coddling is too much effort to, to, to have a brand new team like that. And then also is too much question marks. I can’t really be the powerhouse. Like I’m used to being a powerhouse.
Cause I don’t know who going to be in that.
[00:46:43] Mike Klinzing: I don’t even know what my roster, every year, every year my roster looks different. It’s a whole,
[00:46:49] Tristan Smith: because I might count on, they might come to me and be like, yo, I’m out. I’m like, wait a minute, man. I had to you know what I mean? Everything’s pollution was bad, but the wing, like, nah, I’m going, man, I’m going, I’m going to cross man.
Me and my guys is going to Florida state next year. Whoa man. And then it also changes the dynamic at his high school kids. I’m trying to tell him, I said, listen, y’all pool was getting. Because they can go right into the portal. Again, we’re getting hundreds of kids going into the portal every year. So like you just said, I’d rather go and get him.
Who’s already been experienced and exposed to the college life. And I know he can pick it, do it, as opposed to this question, mark, to this young guy, I seen him on his Instagram. I don’t know if he’s ready for, it
looks, it all comes back to social media, right? They check it, they tell me they check it. So I said, listen, use it like a resume. You, you promote everything positive or accolades. As far as your academics post some of your workouts. You use that as a, as a resume for you in high school and nothing.
Yeah, it was a world. Come back to you if you do otherwise.
[00:48:05] Mike Klinzing: For sure. And there’s definitely, as you said, there’s a positive to it and it’s just a matter, it’s a responsibility of us as adults, whether it’s coaches, teachers, parents, to be able to help kids to navigate it and to know what’s appropriate to put on there and what’s not.
And then the scary part too, with that though, is that you can’t be around as a, as an adult, as a parent, as a coach that you’re, you’re not around that kid. And because that phone is attached to all of us,
[00:48:32] Tristan Smith: 24 hours a day, Snapchat is getting them there. Yeah. It’s there,
[00:48:35] Mike Klinzing: it’s there, it’s there all the time.
And so you can’t, you can, you can provide, we know as adults, we can provide as much guidance as we want, but still sometimes kids because they’re 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, Decisions that don’t look so good in the light of day. And it could put them in a bad position when you and I were growing up. You could make a mistake and yeah, maybe some people around you do about it, but
[00:49:03] Tristan Smith: The whole world, it’s not national news.
No, no, not thankful for that. Cause I’ve, I’ve fought with the bag quite a few times for sure. Flags that made national news. Yeah. There’s
[00:49:13] Mike Klinzing: Just things that you look back on. You’re like, man, that was, that was dumb. Or man, I shouldn’t have done that, but there’s no other than maybe a little oral history of your friends who were there with you when it happened.
There’s not really much else out there. So it’s an interesting world that we grew up in and it’s, it’s an interesting world that kids today are growing up in. Let’s think about your recruitment and how you ended up at St. John’s talk a little bit about that story.
[00:49:39] Tristan Smith: Yeah. So I was a dual sport athlete. I actually have more offers in football.
So I got recruited pretty, pretty heavily for that. So that was kind of on the table, but I wasn’t very physical. So, and being from New York, the hoop dream is strong. So I’m like, oh no, if I’m gonna do the football thing, I don’t like collide. And the people I like catching the door and all that. See what you to grow up in Texas.
It might’ve been different, right. It might’ve been a little different or even if I just had somebody else, cause it was brand new for me. I was the first one to get majorly recruited. You know what I mean? So just even taking a look at it a bit more, football’s an easier transition to basketball. Slide it to the unusually tall person.
You know what I mean? So I’m like I have, I have a couple of different things coming at me now. So I’m getting, I was say junior year mid-majors I’m mid-major and then like I said earlier, we won the state title. So now I’m squarely in the mix of everything in New York and. Gary Charles from the long island Panthers called me.
And then we had Jason Fraser. Who’s coming up the ranks. Jason Fraser was I six, eight. That time ended up being 6’10”, top five guy in the class behind me. I’m class of oh one he’s class. Oh two. So now we’re on the long island Panthers. This is the first time I’ve ever played AAU prior to that of CYO local stuff.
So I’m traveling the country now as a junior, and I’m seeing the world mind you, our team was stacked. We had Sebastian Telfair, Charlie Villanueva. We had Jason Frazier, Eric Ferguson, who ended up going to Arkansas. Every king went to St. John’s with me Curtis Sumpter, who went to Villanova a lot, a lot of, a lot of big time players.
So we’re playing all over the country and we’re traveling and doing nothing. And I’m seeing the money, man, by us. I’m like, yo, this is different. This is different than just playing and. As I’m doing that, I’m increased. I’m getting better that we didn’t have any resources, but I’m soaking up all of this information.
You know what I mean, with meeting some of the pro guys and stuff like that because of the network I’m around. So I’m like, I can get used to this. And I know in my already I could get used to this. And I’m like, I know in my heart I have the ability, you know what I mean? Also have to know how, I mean, I have to want to, I just need more of the know-how.
So going into my senior year, I’m like, I’m going to dominate. I don’t want to lose a game in football or basketball and it was close. I lost my last game of football. We lost a heartbreaker and then a couple of days later, we didn’t have any practices. I lost my first game to Archbishop Malloy, really good team in Queens.
And then we ran the table. So we ended up at 27 and one in basketball, we went 11 and one in football. So. It was like, now I’m starting to get a lot of interests. So it came down to Texas A&M, Pitt, Illinois and St. John’s St. John’s is they’re in the backyard. They play in the Garden. I took a visit to Texas A&M.
That was probably the best fit for me. My first offer was Manhattan college with Bobby Gonzales. They had Louis Flores who ended up play or whoever get drafted for the nuggets. I was like, eh, I’m trying to go piggy. So I was almost big time in them. And this is something that I tell the kids don’t do that even in your own mind be respectful.
Manhattan was the first offer and the guy that was the head recruiter was Mike Malone, the coach of the Denver nuggets. I’m like, really, you really don’t know who you’re dealing with. And you know what I mean? So what the ANM and they showed me so, so much love. They had a little group chat and everything on the baby internet and they knew I was coming and they were showing me love.
And I’m like, I could get used to this, but this is far. And it looks very country. And what is this? But I didn’t have the foresight Mike to be like, man, this is a good fit when he was going through some things at home. And I’m like, I think I need to be home. So naturally it was like, if I could make it as St John’s, then I can make it anywhere.
So that was the, that was what I went with. I went with St. John’s university.
[00:54:03] Mike Klinzing: And what’s that experience like when you get there as a freshmen,
[00:54:06] Tristan Smith: A whirlwind, it was a whirlwind for me because again, no resources and then only had one year on the circuit. So when I got there, I was behind the eight ball. Just with information, like you said, I’m like what he job has told me to change floors.
I said, what? And he’s fighting a whistle. He’s pulling the Whistler ton of blow it as much as can. So he’s like physically cross over it because there’s too many people on this side of the alumni. I’ve never heard that in my life that he’s putting it. You thought
[00:54:37] Mike Klinzing: You want me to put down some carpet or what?
[00:54:38] Tristan Smith: Yeah. You know, tase flow. I’m like, I’m looking crazy. Like, you know what I mean? And, and it was just everybody’s good, everybody’s tall, you know what I mean? Everybody’s athletic. So all the things that was just working for me in high school, wasn’t quite working. And my confidence was going up and down until he was saying different things to us, man, that probably shouldn’t say to your team to keep that competence.
Like, I mean, I was a pretty decent shooting allow what you’re shooting a bowl. So now you’ve got to be out there, pump fake it ain’t nobody. And these are the things that I’ve tried to change. Play the kid into the confidence. So you’re like, bro, you’re shooting 12%. We ain’t got you. Ain’t shooting the ball, let him play his way through that.
You know what I mean? Because anybody that has to look over their shoulder is not going to be a really, a really good player. So, so true, man. Yeah. You want to instill the confidence in those guys, man. And, and within reason, of course, you know what I mean? Within reason, but it was a whirlwind for me. It was a whirlwind.
I was, it overwhelmed me with all of the magnitude. And then the twin towers got hit. That was the year when the twin towers fell. So I’m like, am I going to war? I’m the oldest kid. I’m not really trying to be a soldier like that, but you know what I say, like all this is going on. And again, my, my, my family was going through things, bouncing from house to house at the top.
So I’m like, this is, this is a pressure cooker for me. And then I think I put a lot more pressure on myself then, then I need. So it was tough on me, you know what I mean? Cause I’m like, I have to make it instead of just saying, Hey, listen, just get it to this part, embrace it. You know what I mean? A lot of people want me to get to this point, I looked at the, the percentage of you get in from high school to division one.
It’s like 1% that’s nothing. Yeah. So I’m like celebrate this. It didn’t just, just take the small bites at a time. I was trying to digest the whole care and it was overwhelming me and I didn’t play that well, and I have opportunities. I had my opportunities and that didn’t play that well. So going into my sophomore year, I seen that they was bringing in an all American and another Juco All-American at my position.
And then my teammate decided to go to Villanova. So I don’t think he was happy about that. Like I had, like, I had a choice in the matter, so I’m like, I might get boxed out here. I’m like, I’m not dumb. I might get botched out here. You know what I mean? So I went and talked to him. I said, listen,
And my box down and just keep him on it and my box down, or, or will I have opportunity to play for my position and play for my minutes. And he told me that, so I did a transfer cause I was looking to, to, to, to go out because of that. Cause I’m like this probably not gonna be the best spot for me, but I’m like, I don’t want to quit.
I’m not a quitter. And I think I can play here. I know I can. I learned a lot my freshman year and then we have a trainer now, Jerry Powell, I, Jerry ice Powell was in New York now and I went to him and I worked out and I got better and I came back ready to go. But, but I, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t get that same opportunity to be like I was told it hurt me a lot.
It hurt me a lot. And fast forward to February of muscle. If more you, we play a Carmelo, Anthony is Syracuse carrier Dole call my mom. I’m like. I’m not thinking in anymore, I’m letting the gun go. I’m shooting a lot of shots. They don’t play, they don’t play defense. I’m shooting. She’s like, go ahead. Do your thing.
So I get in conflict. One job would go away. We don’t ESPN now cause they’re top five. So I’m okay. It’s my night. So I didn’t see the rest of the floor. I watched my teammate shoot. Then big east bracket, low 2, 4 24 for the field two for 22 from the three-point lot. So I’m like, man, he made one more shot than I did.
And he took 23 more shots. That was the, that was the worst feeling because I’m like this, this, this doesn’t seem, this, this seems more than basketball. And I’m like, man, I feel like I wasted a year, but it was, it was a character builder for me. It was a character builder for. In a lot of ways, but it hurt, you know what I mean?
It hurt because it was like, I’m not really in the plans, obviously. It’s just not this marriage night two for 24. So
[00:58:57] Mike Klinzing: That’s a lot of shots. That’s a lot of sets, man.
[00:59:00] Tristan Smith: He, wasn’t looking over his shoulder. That’s my point. That’s my point. And that’s really tough to go through. You know what I mean? Especially when you had a really good career in high school and you’re also a team player, you know what I’m saying?
[00:59:12] Mike Klinzing: Did you lose the fun?
[00:59:12] Tristan Smith: Absolutely. It really did. It really, it knocked the sales out of me and I had to pick myself up for the bootstraps and it humbled me because yeah, humble be all those things at the same time, I was like, man, I’m going to have to go down a level. My numbers are trash.
What is going on? Nobody on a high level is going to take me, you know what I mean? So I was like, I’m going to have to go down to a lower level because, because of my statistics and everything like that, I’m shot liberal right now. And it had the. Get the fun back. Cause it definitely did. I was jaded for the rest of the year.
We ended up winning the NIT and that was one of my regrets is I wished that I was a bit more happy for my teammates because I was just showing up to not fight the coach. That’s hard, man. It’s a hard position. My silence from now I’m here. So I don’t not to not get fired. This is why I’m here right now.
You know what I mean? Cause I don’t want to fully quit. I gotta be professionally, but it was tough. You’re 19 years old. You’re 19 years old going through this with no real blueprint with no real boot plan. You got, you got you, you got your people that like, yeah man, you’re not getting done. Right. And everything like that.
So it was tough because you don’t want to put it on a coach, but they hold a lot of power, especially in our time because coach has a lot of weight. They hold a lot of weight in those things and, and if you don’t get the right fit, man, it could change the course of.
[01:00:42] Mike Klinzing: It certainly can. There’s no doubt that to go through what it takes to be a division one college basketball player, and then to not have playing time at the end of your, at the end of the day is really, really tough.
My freshman year I played like four minutes a game. And that was by far, the longest year of my career. It was every day practice would come and you’d be like, oh man, like you talk about, that’s why I asked you about, did it take the fun away? It really is because there was a lot of times for me where that year, I mean, there were, there were, there were still practices when I was playing and starting games where it wasn’t fun, but when there’s, when there’s no game at the end of it where you’re playing and you know that, unless something totally outrageous happens, I may not even get into the game like that.
That is tough. Especially when you go again, Being a high school player where you’re probably the best player on your team. You’re probably the best player in your area. You just have had a tremendous amount of success and that boom, now you’re in a situation where it feels like, Hey man, I could do it if I had these same opportunities, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t, it doesn’t click right away.
And then that was, that was by far, the longest year of my basketball playing career. When I’m playing like four minutes a game
[01:01:58] Tristan Smith: It’s tough. It’s tough. It’s a character builder. But, but it has equipped me for forget, keeping it real with the kids. I see. At each level you have to look at yourself like a walk or, you know what I mean?
Like you have to look at yourself like a Walker, cause you have to re-establish at each level. You know what I mean? You have to re-establish it. And that’s why I tell these kids even to when they, when they take the court say what’s up in basketball, but I tell them whatever they sport, you have to know how to be efficient.
And they’re like, what you mean? I’m like, you may score 25, but you also may it, so 25 shots, you might’ve took 30 shots. So when people look, they’re going to see the. But you’re going to, I’m looking at this, the field goal percentage. I’m looking at the Florida game. I’m looking at those types of things.
Cause when you get to the next level, there’s probably a low percentage that you’re going to be one of the guys able or allowed to take that many shots. And then if you, if you have enough skillset and are blessed to go to the next level, there’s only a handful of guys that are allowed to take that many shots.
So you have to learn how to be efficient and taking eight. I got to learn how to be more efficient at taking 10 shots.
[01:03:06] Mike Klinzing: That’s that is so, so true. We had Mike Procopio on probably, I don’t know. It’s probably a year ago. And he was, he worked with Kobe back when he was, he was kind of him and Kobe got connected and then Kobe would send a videotape and Mike would break that videotape down and he kind of became his guy.
And then Mike worked for the Mavericks and basically he’s his whole mantra is like, you got to dominate simple and he’s like, there’s. 15 or 20 guys in the whole league that matter. And everybody else is a role-player and you got to figure out what it is that you do, that you can contribute to the team.
And I think so many times at the high school level, at the college level, everybody kind of has this vision of, oh, I’m going to, yeah. That I’m going to get to be outright. I’m going to get to be the guy like I’m going to be
[01:03:55] Tristan Smith: carpenter are not going to BJ’s of that. That could go out there and take 30 dribbles in a possession.
[01:04:03] Mike Klinzing: It’s just not going to happen. And so part of it is, yeah, you want to work and you want to get better at your game, but then there’s a party that says, look, if I could just be, if I could just be a great post defender and learn how to screen and catch the ball and the role and score or make the next simple pass.
If I just learn how to do those things, I could be so valuable to my team, but it’s. A lot of times, you’ll see that kid working out on 14 dribble between the legs movies. And you’re like, yeah, you’re like, you’re never going to get to do that in a game. And so, but that’s, that’s something that’s hard to get across to a 15 year old kid.
And even to a 21 year old junior in college,
[01:04:42] Tristan Smith: But at the same time, while you’re trying to make money at doing this. So, so start with the simple, and then if you are allowed to do that, then you, then, then you can add that to it. Somebody like Jimmy Butler, he started out, I’m getting in right.
Then he started to expand this role with his minutes. They’re like, man, why he could do that? And he started gradually doing that to where he’s an all-star and now he can do what he wants out there.
[01:05:07] Mike Klinzing: It doesn’t happen that way very often though.
[01:05:09] Tristan Smith: No. So you got to assume your role, so you have to learn how to be efficient and that’s also life, you know what I mean?
That’s how to be. That’s something. I try to tell all of them blow had to be efficient. And one of the main things is your communication effort. If you can consistently do that, you’re already ahead of the curve because not a lot of people can do that. Not a lot of people can bring that consistent, positive attitude and communication effort.
That’s so true.
[01:05:37] Mike Klinzing: Like as a business owner, my wife and I have this conversation with our kids all the time. It’s like, look, if you just call people back and are polite, you’re ahead of like 95% of the population. Just, just, just, if you do those two things, forget about being a superstar. Like we’re talking about just be polite and call people back, man.
[01:06:01] Tristan Smith: You’re who you are.
[01:06:04] Mike Klinzing: And it’s kind of, it’s kind of amazing St. Francis talk about St. Francis.
[01:06:09] Tristan Smith: So Saint Francis was, was interested. It was, it was the bizarro world of, of St. John’s St. John’s got all the money and all the stuff. And where we got Jordan stuff and we got all of these boxes coming in and everything St. Francis, man, you might as well, this week, we would pretty much get stuff from the Goodwill. It was like the budget, like, what was it? You know what I’m saying? We pulled an old money together, man. Let’s go ahead and walk over to Fulton street and grab a couple of things. Like we’re looking like we can’t wear this, but it was the opposite.
Zero history. They never made the tournament losing seasons, like all of these types of things. And I’m like, man had a mighty have fallen, but at the same time, what a golden opportunity this is for, because then I humble myself. I said, I’m thankful that somebody took me. You know what I mean? And it was still, I’ll still in the area.
So people are still going to see you’re still in Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying? So I’m like, alright, why that, why not be the centerpiece of something special here? And. Of course you sit out the first year and the first year was tough because you sit now and you’re just practicing the practice and all the while I’m getting yelled at a screamed at, and I’m like, well, I’m not even bald stone that because you know, I’m joking around and I play eh but he was trying to, he was trying to set the temple.
You’re coming from a high major. And if I can, if I can get you in alignment with being able to take criticism and everything like that, then it’s going to trickle down to all of the other players who would never recruit it like that. And I skip that now, but I don’t why he disrespected, you know what I’m saying?
I’m ready to square up with goat. Right? I’m not even playing right. Exactly. You know what I’m saying? But that’s the maturation of a, of a young, a young kid going into a man. So I’m practicing with them that they, they didn’t, they didn’t have bad grade season, junior year goes in and I’m excited. Struggling with money.
You know what I’m saying? Like, we don’t have the same resources. Like I had to get a summer job. I’m working in the Brooklyn terminal market and the nighttime seedy part of town. It’s tough out here right now. I’m a college athlete. I shouldn’t be doing this. You know what I mean? So going into my junior year me and my friend was selling back books.
You know what I’m saying? Use books so we can get some extra money. And it got pinned back to the guy and they pressed this dude that was breaking off and they ended up suspending this night, kicking us out of school. So we had to, we get reinstated me and my teammate. And so I’m like, I’m going through it, how to get reinstated.
So they ended up suspended us for the first few games. So then I come back my first game against army and they wasn’t very good. So I’m like, I’m about to smoke. You do. So I ended up scoring like 26 on them. Everybody’s decided. And I’m like, okay, here we go. So that year kind of goes up and down. I think I average like 14 points.
Wasn’t anywhere near what I was hoping for. And then we had a coaching change. We had a coaching change and my senior year we had gone through, again, we go into a lot of stuff at home. Money’s low and there’s a lot of stuff called stuff about girlfriend is this, it was just like compiling on me, this stuff off the court.
But a lot of people didn’t know. I was one that didn’t show my, my, my, my hand. A lot of people didn’t know that I was going through those things. More so than what most people, people thought. So my senior year was even worse. It was terrible. I had a terrible season, so I’m like, well, my career is pretty much done, pretty much done.
So we didn’t make the tournament. We got ousted by LIU. We stomped R is this like, it felt like it was just a complete shackle around me that you can’t even explain. And it was like, who is this guy? Who was this guy? So I’m rejected. I’m like, man. But I remember that the year before my teammate played at a USBL with the Brooklyn Kings.
So I’m like, I remember seeing him do good. I think I could give that a try. So they had a long island team and guess who was the assistant coach? Jack Augustine though. Nice. That’s a good connection. I had a plug. I know that guy. I know him. So he said, come on down. So I go down there and now we’re playing NBA rules.
You know what I mean? So we’re playing NBA rules and I’m like, that’s more fitted to me to this college boxing one and all this, these guys dive in at me, get old, get out of here with it. I’m more of a free flow of status and better for me. So he gets me into that. And they didn’t know who I was. They was playing with a lot of guys that was coming back from overseas.
I was trying to get some elite jobs jobs with the, with the NBA summer league and everything like that. So I was buried on the bench one time hut, the, the head coach couldn’t make the game. So that was the head headquarter. So I moved to the six minutes. So I went to the six man, man, I took off, man.
I think that that game I had like 20 coming off the bench, I’m talking. And they’re like, who is this dude? And I’m like, this is my opportunity. This is my opportunity. So I ended up winning rookie of the year for that. So I seen there was a guy like Brian Chase that went to Virginia Virginia tech that ended up playing in assemblies.
So I’m seeing these guys that I’m playing against that going into the summer league and the G league, which was the D league. I’m like, I got a chance. I’m going to be able to go through the back door. I’m going to get an opportunity. I know I got the drive and now I figured I got all this ebbs and flows in my career.
I’ve developed. Now I can do it. So the one thing now that I’ve learned in Mike is you need to have somebody that’s connected. You need to have a good agent. That’s for sure, man. My Asia might as well have been mom. My dad could have been my uncle. How’d you get connected with the guy. He was hanging around the gym.
He was one of the guys hanging around these guys. So they was like, he’s my age. And so I’m like, I mean, he couldn’t get me no deals, man, no deals after I did that, couldn’t really parlayed me into anything. So I was just kind of sitting there and I bounced from that to the ABA. I ended up going and playing in south America for a little bit.
I was cooking out there and it was going to transfer it to the first league. And then I had some opportunities to play in Poland and Finland, but. You know what, man? I think I’m just going to just tuck it here in America. I tried out a couple of times for the D league went to a big showcase in Atlanta. I was cooking crazy out there, but I was still under this guy.
So I’m not going to say his name cause I’m going to be respectful. He was a nice guy, but I mean, shoot me. I, it probably was a cracker Jack box. He got the certification in a cereal box
so I’m like, I think my career is over and that was a hard, it was a hard pill to swallow. It was a hard pill to swallow because I felt like a lot. I left a lot on the table, but as an adult, man, I feel like it allowed me to be better at what I’m doing right now, because I think if I had more success, I would have had more empathy and I would be a lot more self-absorbed than I am now.
A lot more, more selfless. So I think it worked out in the grand scheme of things, but it was tough because I feel like I left a lot on the table with my actual ability.
[01:13:50] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. That’s the thing where so much of it is context, right. And where you end up and fit. And we have a lot of the college coaches that we have that come on.
And that’s one of the biggest things that they talk about, especially guys that coach at the division three level, really talk about that a lot, that like, look, you got to find the right fit between you and the basketball program, you and the coaching staff, you and the school, you and the environment on the campus.
And if you do that, then you can end up with a really good experience. And sometimes kids do that and they get lucky and they get in the right spot. Sometimes you end up in a place that for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work. And you see somebody that like yourself, you feel like man, if, if I would just would have made.
Decision X or man, you wish you could replay it. It’s kind of like that old theory of like, look, if I could replay my career 10 times, what does it look like? Or I replay that college decision. What does it look like if I get to a better environment, right. From the get go. And you know, it’s obviously we all in the, the life lesson there is you get, you only get one chance to do it and try to figure it out.
And to your point, I think that just hearing you talk the way that you’ve been able to take what you’ve learned and parlayed into, not somebody who’s sitting there and is bitter about what happened to them, but instead has looked at it as, Hey, it could’ve worked out differently. I wish it would’ve worked out differently, but what can I learn from my experiences?
And then how can I take that learning and apply it to what I’m about to do now? And it seems like that’s what you’ve been able to do now. I can’t let you get away without asking about your favorite Uruguay basketball story. What’s the craziest. South American basketball story that you can share. We can go up.
We can go up to PG 13.
[01:15:44] Tristan Smith: I think one of the craziest thing is when they lit stuff on fire, I didn’t know that was a allowed, so we’re playing on the road and then this place is so when I went there, this, I didn’t even notice too. I’m just happy that I packed most of my stuff. You know what I mean? I was in between sides pack.
It was winter time, winter then you’re that? It’s July, July. So his cell phone be acquainted. My, so it was summer for us, but it was winter. So I went out there, like to stair-step go out there and cook, and then you’re going to play in the first division. You know what I’m saying? Next go around. That was, that was going to be, to do, and I, I did my thing.
I was crashing, but it was cold in some of the arenas. So. These dudes lit a trashcan or at the top of the fire. And then they let you know, sometime they be throwing a flag and they say stuff in Spanish and they lit the thing on fire. And nobody was tripping. If the came with me, everybody that is on the court and I’m like, I’m concerned, you know what I’m saying?
I’m a bit concerned because I’m like, first of all, it’s a fire hazard. I don’t want to lose my life like that. And then also, how am I supposed to get right where all the smoke and nobody did anything about it. You just had to learn how to deal with this smoke. The craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
That’s crazy. I’ll buy, swept, pays a kick in the in-between whistles slide. So I’m like, but I’m like, I’m okay with this, that part of it, because they know I’ll play it in the, in, in, in the rain and stuff like that. It’s just fire out and they’re out there drinking their little Mati teas. I’m like, this is crazy.
This is like, it is almost third world.
[01:17:40] Mike Klinzing: I believe it. I mean, I’m sure you know that, and I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of people that played and just the different things that have gone on in these countries and the way fans behave and stuff they’re throwing and lighten on fire and flares and all this other kind of crazy stuff, it is a whole nother word. Like people sometimes I think romanticize what that looks like. And maybe if you get to some of the top leagues you end up having, yeah. Then maybe you have a pretty good experience, but I’ve talked to so many guys that, and I know I had the, I never had the opportunity to go and then play.
And they’re just like you have regrets. I kind of wished that I had gotten an opportunity just, just for a year, just to experience it and gone and live somewhere else. But I’ve talked to so many guys that have just so many crazy stories about fan behavior and bus trips and try to get their check from this guy.
And nobody speaks English. And just the whole
[01:18:39] Tristan Smith: thing is just, I got a craziest story for you in booklet.
[01:18:46] Mike Klinzing: All right, I’m
[01:18:46] Tristan Smith: ready. I’m ready. So we’re playing in the ABA. Now this is the Brooklyn Wonder. They ended up changing management, became the Brooklyn calmness or something like that. So we were supposed to get paid, right?
Nope. I had to check will be here later this week. So we play the game. Check we’ll be here next week. So we two weeks in and it’s getting close to like the holiday season. I need my check. We got bunch of grimy, dude. We got dudes,
a couple of kids and you know what I’m saying? A couple of records. And it’s like, you know what, bro? Like, we all gonna go up to the office and we going to wait for him and we got to talk to him and that cool. So we’ll hop on a chain and we meet up in there and it’s like, six of us Tim’s on. And it’s rugged.
It was all have no shape. So we sit in there and then the receptionist was like, oh no, he’s left and he’ll be back. So we said, he said he won’t be back till later today. And we’re like, all right, we going to wait for him. We waiting for us. So we laughing and joking, but some do the series they pacing around looking and we walk one of the dudes walk by his office and they say, hold on, like, stop, like, hold on.
Everybody’s. They said something to me. So Mike
and this dude is under the desk. So what I mean, the two biggest dudes, we have some goals it’s about six, eight, and they picked him up by his collar and he said, yo, you cutting the checks right now. So he pulled out and he cut the checks and we ran to the deeper reload. I’m like, I know that all these checks ain’t gonna hit.
[01:20:35] Mike Klinzing: Right. I gotta get mine in first for the
[01:20:38] Tristan Smith: First boy hit. And I was one of the first one to get it, but they picked this dude up and we was in there for about two hours and a half. So this dude was sitting under the desk for two and a half hours. That’s hilarious. That’s my, the lead basketball
[01:20:52] Mike Klinzing: That is nice. That is, that is minor league basketball. That, that encapsulates encapsulated. It encapsulates it perfectly without a doubt,
[01:21:01] Tristan Smith: Without a doubt.
[01:21:04] Mike Klinzing: Last part of the story. So we told that we see, we kind of went in reverse order because we went with what you’re doing now first, and then we kind of did the buildup.
So what’s the transition. What did you think you wanted to do when you got out of college? When you were done playing, what did you kind of envision or did you just kind of always envision, Hey, I’m going to figure out a way to play and make it work. And then once you were done, you looked around like, Hey, I got to do something.
How did you get to, how did you get to what you’re doing now? What was the transition like? And did you always kind of know that that was where you’re going to end up?
[01:21:35] Tristan Smith: The answer is no. So young, I told my mama professional athlete I recognize that early age, I had the ability, whether it be baseball for poor basketball, it gravitated towards basketball.
For the reasons we spoke about I’m going to be a professional athlete and then I will branch off of that. And when that didn’t happen, it crushed me. I felt like I let everybody know. ’cause I’m one of the most likely to succeed. I was voted for that he going to be one of the guys, you know what I mean?
So I feel like I let, not just my family down my neighborhood down, like it hit me. So it took me a long time to get over that. But I’m thankful that the Lord has helped me to get over that in order for it not to, you know what I mean? It hurt me now and hurt my family. Cause there’s a lot of guys who have it.
So I went to school for communications, film the broadcast. So I actually had a couple of internships lined up with Fox and ABC and a couple of things like that, but I passed them up for the hoop dream. So as I’m sitting there, like my career is over, like I’m a recreational guy right now. Not that way.
Like I don’t have any connections. What’s going to be my lane. So I’m flipping through the channels and I see. I exercise video. I’m seeing this, got Shawn T jumping around and doing, I’m like, well, he’s not even doing that. So something to me like, hold on, man. I, I was always the guy creating drills. Like I was here.
I was the guy creating the drills and doing these types of things. And did you, did you, how’d you feel when you came off that, and I was the guy that they was giving feedback to, so I’m like, yo that’s naturally me. I think the fitness industry might be my lane. I don’t know exactly how so. I started doing research and started peripherally, doing research, like Lord, help me to do this.
But I knew that there was many branches that you can go, you can train overweight people, you could trade elderly. Like everybody needs fitness of some sort in their life. And, and then it was like athletes. I am. And then I can learn how to train one. That’s where a lot of people don’t, you got people that go and get a kinesiology degree, but they ain’t never who, they never, they never kicked a soccer ball.
They never played, they never, they never played anything at a high level, so they don’t have that connection with them. So they give them information, but they don’t build a relationship. So I’m like, I’m that? I just need to learn more of the exercises that I I’m more than capable of doing that. And I’m more than willing to learn that part.
So it was a natural transition into that. And then from there it felt like more of an assignment and then also more of what I’m supposed to be doing at this time. If that makes sense.
[01:24:29] Mike Klinzing: It makes total sense. And I think from the beginning of our conversation, you could see the passion that you have for what you’re doing now and for trying to help your athletes improve again, no matter what age they are, no matter what sport they play.
The passion that you have for that certainly came through loud and clear before we get out trust. And I want to give you a chance to share how people can connect with you, social media website, just let people know how they can reach out, find out more about what you’re doing. And then after we do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
[01:25:01] Tristan Smith: Perfect. Perfect. So, yeah, we’re, we’re S I’ve worked with every demographic. You know, I have a circuit training class for there’s a lot of like middle-aged women. I work with everybody, so I’m on pretty much all the social media platforms. So first my website is thefitlabusa.com
And you can find me on Instagram at FitLabUSA. You also can find me on Facebook though. FitLabUSA and Twitter is FitLabUSA. So I’m all of I think I’ll be even on Snapchat, the fitlabUSA. I got Snapchat. You got to,
[01:25:43] Mike Klinzing: you got, you got you. If you’re training high school kids, you better have Snapchat.
You got to get tik-tok too, man. You got to get
[01:25:50] Tristan Smith: that. That’s it Tik -TOK almost blew my brains out, trying to figure that out. I got on there for seven minutes and I seen the world in seven minutes. So I do actually have a Tik TOK, but I don’t know what I’m doing. I got to delegate that to the,
[01:26:04] Mike Klinzing: I haven’t gone with Jason.
I haven’t gone that far. We haven’t gotten, we haven’t gotten the tik-tok. Sure, but we haven’t
[01:26:10] Tristan Smith: Tik TOK as well. Everything is little bites and it’s like, I don’t know what’s going on here, but we do have that. So you can, and you can find me on that. And then as far as reaching out to me, my email is info at the fit lab USA, or you can put a in at the fit lab, usa.com.
And I’m very accessible. I’m really just here to help as many people as I can, and just really just enjoy, enjoy my, my part, enjoy playing my part.
[01:26:42] Mike Klinzing: Tristan. We can’t thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule. And I’m so thankful to coach Augustino for relaying your information to us. So we get an opportunity to have this conversation with you.
It’s been a lot of fun. We went through a lot of different, a lot of different aspects of what it means to be an athlete growing up, and then what it means to transition into a business owner and a trainer, and the way that the world is today in terms of trying to help young athletes to maximize what they can be.
So thank you truly appreciative and to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.