A coach’s approaches

No endeavor can completely engender an escape from the harshness of life. A lifelong lover of sports, Michael Gillespie learned in 2011 that not even his preferred pursuits could keep him from suffering through a sad stretch, but instead of succumbing to sorrow, the Grays Ferry inhabitant has decided to use pastimes to promote future achievements through MBG Training, his South Philly-centric means to bolster athletes’ bodies and attitudes.

“We’re all chasing the same goal of becoming better human beings,” the 30-year-old said of assisting local residents’ physical activity-infused quests. “It gives me great joy to be a part of their journeys and to continue to grow myself through what I love.”

The resident of the 2900 block of Dickinson Street has become a trusted coach and mentor over the last three years, with turns as a basketball aide at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., and a football assistant at Prep Charter High School, 1928 Point Breeze Ave., as notable examples of his excitement for helping youths. Those titles and his overseer role for MBG Training find the figure striving to keep them from having to take too many of life’s crash courses.

“This existence isn’t always going to be peaches and cream,” Gillespie said, with his own odyssey including expulsion from Indiana University of Pennsylvania over a matter involving marijuana. “You have to remain openminded, though, about being able to grow from your setbacks. You have to stay positive and active, too, because when you’re bored, you get in trouble.”

Dubbed “The Footwork Jedi,” the affable individual conducts numerous group workouts, with an inclusive approach that finds practitioners of all ages welcome to sample his expertise. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, Marconi Plaza, 2700 S. Broad St., and McNichol Field, 2500 Moore St., number among his spaces for specializing in speaking positive messages rooted in the belief that one’s mindset could offset difficult dilemmas’ influence. Knowing that the lack of such encouragement helped to doom many of his peers, particularly in Grays Ferry, he wants this generation’s children and future eras’ constituents to see him as a perpetual provider of nods and nudges.

“I have these workouts with kids, and I get more out of them than they do,” Gillespie said. “They’re evolving, and I am, too, and it’s awesome to have that growth happening simultaneously.”

Hailing from the 2900 block of Tasker Street, the entrenched Grays Ferry figure attended St. Gabriel School, 2917 Dickinson St., and went on to call on St. John Neumann High School, formerly 2600 Moore St., to enhance his enjoyment of basketball and football. Claiming that he could never be “a science fair project winner,” he saw sports as his reliable source of direction and purpose and though they gave him both, he went without someone to inspire him once the action ended.

“Yeah, when the lights went out, we really had nobody to be a consistent voice for us,” Gillespie lamented. “We really needed someone to take extra time to tell us about our next moves. Without that push, some of us really suffered.”

Following his initial South Philly sojourn, he matriculated at Valley Forge Military Academy & College and West Chester University. At 25, he experienced his epiphany when Indiana University of Pennsylvania exacted the aforementioned punishment on him, yet he did not languish, confiding that almost overnight, he began to form a plan for rejuvenating his dreams.

“It was tough having, essentially, to part with all I had worked for,” Gillespie said of clear proof of his not-always-peaches-and-cream assessment. “I knew I could never let myself fall prey to particular temptations that wouldn’t serve me or help me to improve others.”

Calling on input from trusted acquaintances, including former Valley Forge football coach Jim Burner, he spent the end of 2011 and ’12 pondering ways to help children to reach their full potential. One could easily have given in when denied desired blessings, such as the opportunity to play collegiate ball, but Gillespie found that sports could spare him further dismay, and he has grown into a leading advocate for seeing games as great ways to wilt worry and woe.

“I want to offer assistance and get these kids to believe in themselves every day,” he said. “They have so much competition for their attention and so many voices that want them to go astray. Mine just has to be a little higher and a little sterner but with a strong amount of love behind it.”

Grateful to help local youths, particularly Neumann-Goretti’s Saints and Prep Charter’s Huskies, Gillespie also revels in knowing he has helped a few figures to move on to college with confidence and as he comes to know more individuals and obtains and reciprocates trust, he realizes that although one’s days will not always have peaches and cream on the menu, the options can still end up being pretty sweet.

“I love helping people to believe in themselves,” Gillespie, who is overseeing a GoFundMe campaign to acquire T-shirts for his charges, with leftover money going toward helping them to go for their driver’s permits and licenses, said. “We need that no matter how old we are. I don’t think it should all have to come from inside. We need that push.” SPR

Visit gofundme.com/ktua8m2k?pc=txt_ml2&rcid=57cd0b78ea5811e58610bc764e052a98, or contact mac3t0@gmail.com.

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.

Photos by Tina Garceau & Michael Gillespie