Gary Vesper

Owner, Health Coach

Gary Vesper

Owner, Health Coach

Biography

This is my story of how I went from post-op of my sixth knee surgery to owning and operating a world-class facility that changes lives. For some, that may sound fluffy but for those who know me they know this is exactly why I am so passionate about what we do here and am extremely proud of the impact Driven makes in the community. .

If you are reading this and are a parent with a son or daughter deeply passionate about becoming the best they can become or if you are a mom or dad knowing you need to start a new chapter in your life then I think you will really enjoy this story.

In 2012 this was me at the surgery center on the day of my sixth and final knee surgery. Scheduled was a microfracture surgery on my left knee that would require another 9-12 months of rehab.

And as I lay in that bed waiting for the doctor I remember vividly reliving the past 7 years of my life and wondering how did this happen.

BEFORE THE INJURY

If you watched the Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls Documentary “The Last Dance” then you know the greatness of Jordan and the impact he had on so many lives. Growing up as a young boy that relentless approach Jordan had is what fueled me to be the best basketball player that I could be.

My parents would say that I was obsessed… I liked to call it driven. I wanted to be great, or as good as I possibly could, and I was willing to put the work in. I never really played video games, I didn’t do Fantasy sports, I didn’t really have too many other hobbies… all I really did was play basketball.

And that was enough.

My backyard driveway became Home Court for me where I would practice all day after school. I’d compete against my cousin and my friends and I’d dribble in my downstairs family room watching Jordan videos.

That was my life.

And I loved it.

My goals were pretty simple…become the best player that I could become, have a winning high school career, and play four more years in college. I became an above average basketball player and had my moments of showing I could hang (at least for a little while) with really talented kids from across the state and country.

But all of that changed my senior year of high school.

It was November 28th, 2005 and we had an evening practice. We were doing full-court offense/defense drills and I was matched up against one of the best players on our team. I was sliding right, we made contact, and BOOM, my right knee gave out and I was on the ground.

I remember that moment, that day, like it was yesterday. Up until that point, I had never really been injured other than some minor ankle sprains. But as I went through the orthopedic process I learned that I had torn my right ACL and that my season would be over if I had surgery.

I ended up playing my senior year, barely, with a brace and a limp and I went on to become a recruited walk-on at Mercyhurst College in Erie Pennsylvania.

Over the next 7 years I would have three more ACL surgeries, a meniscus repair and finally a microfracture surgery to fix all the damage that had been done.

And as I laid their waiting for the doctor in 2012 with more questions than answers I vowed to make this mess, my message.

And that’s what I did.

THE WORST OF TIMES

Those seven years were very tough. I lost my identity, fought off depression, and spent more time on crutches than I care to remember not being able to do normal things. I was always the ‘injured guy,’ and felt like my body had betrayed me.

How did this happen to me? Why couldn’t I do the things I was so accustomed to doing?

It was an eye-opening and humbling experience. I remember after my third ACL feeling so sorry for myself at a basketball practice (one of the few that I was able to participate in) where the coach called me into the office and frankly said, are you going to play or just sulk the whole time? It was a fair question.

It was depressing, embarrassing and extremely disheartening having to rinse and repeat the same old process. Get injured, be on crutches, have surgery, be on crutches, go to physical therapy, train poorly, get cleared, play for a while, get injured again, surgery, PT… rinse & repeat.

THE TIPPING POINT

I had become an ‘expert’ at the Assembly-Line Physical Therapy process and I was sick of it. I knew the drill: ride the bike to warm-up, heat and stim to start, leg raises with ankle weights, glute bridges, groin squeezes, hamstring and quad stretch with the green strap, leg press, squats, mini-band around ankles, balance drills, then finish up with ultrasound, some manual stretches and ice.

Rinse and repeat.

But the worst part, the part that is etched into veins, is that therapists would learn my story and be ‘wowed’ like it was a carnival attraction. I had switched therapists around 2011 and right after my meniscus surgery I started going to a new “Big Box” clinic… I would last only two weeks there because it was the same old rinse and repeat treatment. But I remember like it was yesterday a couple of the therapists talking to/about me, “You’ve had how many surgeries?? Wow, that’s crazy you must be an expert at this!” All the while I’m thinking, “Hey, experts, why don’t you try something a little different this time.”

They didn’t. I left and never went back.

Rinse and repeat.

The TURNING POINT

At some point in 2009 I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working. I would spend hours killing myself in the gym training as hard as I could hoping that this round would be the time I stayed healthy. I was so hard-headed that it never crossed my mind before that their may be a SMARTER way to go about physical preparation, injury prevention, and overall fitness.

I just kept on keeping on.

One evening I was surfing the Internet for answers, curious to uncover what was ‘wrong with me’ and I came across a resistance band video that opened my eyes to flexibility, mobility and body control. It was at that moment that a light went off and I knew that I had to completely change everything I thought I knew about exercise, training and fitness.

Curious about the video? Check out this throwback!

That’s what I did. I started devouring information from world-renowned performance coaches, physical therapists and fitness trainers. I noticed I had a chip on my shoulder; I could learn this stuff and apply it and maybe figure out why this keeps happening to me.

Unfortunately, I would soon learn that my body and my ability to implement on myself was going to be harder than I had imagined as two more surgeries were on the way. Every time I pushed myself on the basketball court my body would break down. But that didn’t slow my thirst for knowledge and my passion to find answers.

2012. Catch Your Dream Academy

First ever training session back in Spring 2012 (3-months post-op)

That was the name of my first training business. What do you think of the name?? lol Maybe not the best but it was round one.

Honestly, this business would never have happened if it was not for my physical therapist. For too many years I was so stuck in my routine and never felt like it was meaningful, progressive, hands-on or attentive to what I needed. So in 2011 through some thankful word-of-mouth I found a physical therapist who would become my mentor and physical therapist for the next three years.

In 2012, three months after my final surgery I told him I wanted to start coaching and training athletes and adults so that they trained smarter and not just harder. Honestly, if he said, “Gary, probably not the best idea,” I may not have started my company. All I can say is thank god he believed in me and gave me that vote of confidence.

It was truly just fueled by passion and a desire to impact others. At this point I was completely immersed in learning everything I could about training. I was reading dozens of books, attending countless digital seminars, I was coaching every single day and I was going to my physical-therapist for live questions, answers and perspective. This initial time period was critical to my development as a coach as I feel like I learned everything at such a rapid pace. The process and principles became so clear to me after everything that I had been through.

After a year and a half coaching athletes and adults in homes, parks, and driveways I moved into a global-gym for a year. This only reinforced what I wanted out of my career as I was fed up watching athletes and adults just put their bodies through so much poor technique and execution with lazy coaching and programming.

I knew we could do better.

2015. DRIVEN FITNESS & PERFORMANCE WAS BORN

March 29th, 2015 Driven was born. A 1700 square foot mighty little facility that had tons of energy, great people and an amazing program.

I knew when I opened Driven that I didn’t want it to be like everything else. Everything else is already out there. What was going to make Driven special?
For me what it always boils down to is that as coaches we were going to care about the person in front of us. We weren’t going to cut corners and just hand out generic coaching advice and programming and call it a day. There is already so much generic out there on the internet and in plenty of other places that if people were interested in that they could easily find it.

The other piece is that we are going to be experts in our field. What I realized as a young athlete growing up and then transitioning into adulthood is that I/we would really treat our bodies like a piece of meat in the gym. If we didn’t leave on the verge of exhaustion then it wasn’t a good workout.

I knew I wanted Driven to be built off of scientific principles that can be adapted to meet the needs of the person in front of us.

2017. Driven 2.0

Two years into our Driven Journey we moved across the street, behind Anthony & Sons, into an amazing 3500 square foot facility. The work that needed to be done to turn a vacant space of years into a training gym was not easy. Many family and friends chipped in to turn this place around in 8 weeks.

These three years were full of excitement as we watched people achieve goals they never thought possible. From our athletes competing at some of the highest levels, to the youngns we train dominating on the soccer field, to the parents who have been consistently getting stronger and more fit, it is truly remarkable watching as this “house” became a “home” for so many.

2020. Driven 3.0

Fast forward three years and we aren’t stopping. This time, instead of thinking how we can move into a bigger space, we decided to outfit the beautiful one we have with everything we will ever need for a world-class experience.
As we approached our five year anniversary I took a look around at the tools we had, the program we had built and the experience we were offering, and I asked myself one simple question, what do we need to fill in every gap? In answering that question I set out to leave no stone unturned in what we would need to dramatically impact lives like never before.

What motivates me now is what motivated me then. To offer people an experience I never had, but desperately wanted and needed. I think back to the young kid playing basketball in the driveway and wonder how much he would have loved training at Driven. It is those memories, the good and the bad, that drive me to never settle in the pursuit of being the best coach that I can be, in the best facility possible, so that everyone that walks through our doors is forever changed for the better.

And it’s been extremely exciting to report that this facility, and the people inside of it, have never been more on fire. As we look to five years and beyond it is with great pride and optimism that we continue to push forward so that everyone that is committed, driven, and consistent can and will achieve what they never thought possible.