At A&M Sports and Fitness in Upper Marlboro, young men go through drills and maneuvers that equip them with the tools to overcome opponents on the field.
But co-owner and former NFL linebacker Marcus Smith knows from his own journey that athletes also need help coping with opponents that can dwell within -- depression and anxiety.
“If you push those things to the side, those things tend to resurface themselves in some part in your life,” Smith said.
Smith was a 2014 first-round NFL draft pick and later spent time with the Washington Football Team. Still, he struggled on and off the football field with anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. Through the ordeal, Smith discovered that he was not the only athlete suffering.
“I used to have anxiety attacks all the time and I would go through depression. Then I had an episode my fifth year in the league where I was about to take my own life,” he said.
Since those dark days, Smith has made it his cause to see that the mind and muscle get equal attention in preparing for a career in sports and for life.
“A lot of them don’t necessarily feel like they have value unless they’re playing a specific sport,” he said of his clients.
That's why among the weight trainers and position coaches at A&M Sports and Fitness, you’ll also find mental health therapist Phillip Reynolds.
“Mixing it with sports and athletics is a great way to do it. And so the goal is to be able to work with these young men off the field in their head space and what’s going on with them,” Reynolds said.
He and Smith’s prevailing philosophy is that a well-rounded, grounded athlete is a successful person after that last whistle.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have, it doesn’t matter where you are in life, we still are human beings,” Smith said.
Using a holistic approach to training, Smith does his part to create athletes that are as prepared for the mental rigors of the sport and the challenges of life.