We recently sat down with Steve Leo, Parisi Master Coach and owner of Parisi Speed School Sparta, to discuss his experience as an owner and advice he has for other owners.
How did you first learn about Parisi?
An athlete that I was coaching was training with Bill Parisi and the father told me about it. I contacted Bill and soon after saw an ad in a newspaper about a free clinic he was holding. I attended the clinic and was able to connect with Bill. He was promoting his Sunday clinic that had mostly high school athletes, but I joined the class as well for my own knowledge as a personal trainer. A few months later, I saw an ad that Bill was looking for a NASM certified trainer, applied for the job, and Bill’s manager at the time got me a meeting with Bill since I had already attended his class.
I started as an intern and helped Bill train teams through the summer. In February of 1997, Bill offered me a full-time position to train both adults and kids. I was a member of the original training team in Wyckoff. At the time, the program was only one-on-one. It grew so quickly that Bill decided to open up in Midland Park and we expanded our offering to group training. The program was so popular that we had a two week waiting list just for evaluations. Two years later, we opened the facility in Fair Lawn, which I helped manage with Bill and Martin Rooney.
Things in Fair Lawn grew so quickly that we expanded to a new facility in Morris Plains which I then managed. Soon after, Bill launched the Parisi Franchise and the first Certification Week was held in Fair Lawn. With the huge growth the new franchises experienced, I transitioned to the position of Regional Training Director for all of the facilities.
Why did you decide to open Parisi?
In 2011, I decided to open up my own facility because I saw the huge success that all of the franchises were seeing. Fortunately, one of my former athletes was training at a basketball facility in Sparta and told me about an open building next door. We started holding some demo classes in the existing basketball facility and had 25 athletes within the first week. The idea took hold and Parisi Speed School Sparta opened in 2012.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Initial construction was challenging. I did the entire build myself – I did not hire a general contractor. I even slept in the office sometimes because I needed to have early meetings with the subcontractors. Any work that I could do myself, I did.
Over the years, we’ve dealt with difficulties in the economy. We’re not in the most affluent area, so we always have to keep that in mind, but we’ve proven our value in the community. The market was not fully educated in what speed training is, but as we continually shared helpful information and connected with the community, we saw our program grow as a result.
What have been some of your proudest moments as an owner?
In 2014, Sparta was awarded Franchise of the Year at the Annual Parisi Summit. And in 2017, my coach, John Novak, won Performance Coach of the Year at the Annual Parisi Summit.
We’ve also had a lot of amazing success stories with our athletes. There are many college athletes that we worked with that may not have honed their skills without the Parisi system.
What advice do you have for future owners?
- Follow the system.
- Hire good staff that love kids and the education we provide.
- Have passion for making an impact on youth.