Bobby Stroupe has been training Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes since the quarterback was in grade school. Stroupe is the founder and president of the Athlete Performance Enhancement Center (APEC) and trains NFL and MLB players along with youth athletes at his Dallas-Fort Worth and Tyler, TX, locations.
Mahomes just wrapped up his second Super Bowl victory and Super Bowl MVP to go along with two regular season MVPs in his six-year career. Stroupe has been with his client for every step along this journey and is just as excited as he was when Mahomes reached the big game for the first time.
“It’s incredible as a coach to be able to see someone get to a level they aspire to,” Stroupe says. “We talk about dreams into plans all the time and that’s been painted on the wall of my business from 2005 onward. That a coach can be with someone, have a relationship, and see that development and growth as a man or woman—reach the Super Bowl—it’s just awesome to be able to live that out.”
As an underdog athlete, Stroupe always sought ways to gain an edge. It’s the reason he leaves no stone unturned in pursuit of helping his clients continue to excel on their field of play. The trainer spoke with M&F on how he learned to channel his athlete ego into helping better other athletes, why positivity goes a long way, and how beneficial Whoop data has been with his training.
Turning Fuel into Focus
I really feel like my entire upbringing and athletic experience was really good preparation for me psychologically to at least know what it’s like to be in those moments. I was a bit of an underdog, an undersized kid, so I always had to find extra ways to work to close those gaps. Having to do my own personal research, and do the extra work, really prepared me for what I do now. Being someone that focuses on health, performance, and player development, I know what it’s like to need to find ways to be better than the competition as far as I needed to be able to find those gaps in order to be able to play.
Even though I did make it to a professional level in football, my pursuit of that was only to gain a résumé that was strong enough to attract clients and get opportunities with people I otherwise wouldn’t. Also, to understand what it’s like to be an athlete in these situations was paramount. I think in life, business, relationships, and the training industry, you still get that competitive nature and competitive feel.
You have that opportunity on an ongoing basis to be able to question yourself and go out and be competitive in finding things that make your training practices better. It’s really humbling when an athlete of yours gets hurt or fails because if you are really good at this, you should be the one that puts it on you. You should go find a way to create a better scenario for your people and you should try and own any part of it you can to get better.
The Power of Positivity
I think there is an enormous amount of evidence over the last 30 years on the power of positivity and the effects it has on wiring neurological processes in the brain, and body, and manifesting physiological benefits. Injuries are a part of sports and pain tolerance is a part of greatness.
I also think that when you come across an injury, you have to have a collaborative group of people that are focused forward. It’s like an F1 racing team. If you blow a tire in the middle of a race, no one should be like “Who bought these tires?” The questions should be what needs to happen now and how do we win this. Fortunately, for Patrick, he has an incredible ecosystem of leadership, training, and medical staff and we work together like a pit crew.
What’s great about him is he’s an overwhelmingly positive person. I would challenge you to go find any quote from him that was negative about any person or any situation. You’re going to have a hard time finding it and that speaks to what kind of person he is. More importantly, it speaks to the type of relationship he has with himself.
The way that I want my athletes to think about injuries is every single injury is their fault. The reason is because of a culmination of all the factors of how they grew up, and handled their body, sleep, and habits. It’s an accumulated result of how they’ve lived the last 10 to 21 days to six months and it’s the result of a decision or the solution they choose in a game. Whether it’s a contact or non-contact injury.
I say that tongue in cheek because if they are operating that way then they’re going to protect themselves. Injuries are anything but their fault but if they come at it from that point of view, and I also come at it from the point of view that I have to find a way to help with tissue resiliency, mobility, stability, and flexibility in my offseason work. Then you have the Chiefs’ medical staff that is proactively looking at things that are suboptimal or things that are happening in the game.
If everyone involved is looking at it as their responsibility, including the athlete, then now we have an opportunity to have that best-case performance when those things pop up.
Remain True to Your Principles
I think for us, it’s about what are our core principles and things we know we are going to use as part of our curriculum that are nurturing our athletic traits and what we do. You can change some of your strategies and concepts but you don’t change your principles of human performance. God is not out there making bodies like the Terminator. They’re still human bodies and there are things that we have to do.
The Power of Whoop
When I finally got an opportunity to get Whoop, I ordered dozens of them for my training facility in I believe 2016 and they were $500 apiece. I bought one for every single baseball player we had that offseason. We had about 60 guys at the time. We invested in the product not because it was a business relationship but because I was finally going to get some level of answerability of are my guys living right so that this training can make the adaptations we want. I needed to find out how good is our training. How am I going to know how good it is if I don’t know who’s living right according to the metrics for these adaptations? I was able to see this guy wasn’t sleeping, so we’re not going to look at his results and judge ourselves on that. Him only improving two miles an hour on a spinal rotation test to the left doesn’t matter as much as this kid who’s getting an average of eight hours of sleep a night. He’s averaging nine miles an hour improvement on that and that’s a better way for us to test if our theories are true.
It began with a selfish approach to being able to test our theories and our training systems. What ended up happening is the athletes started becoming more invested in the gamification of recovery and started becoming more competitive in that space. Whoop has so many metrics you can look at but it’s about the strain and recovery score. You simplify the complex when you communicate to the athletes and then you have an opportunity for them to actually make a change. I’ve been quoted on this a lot and I’ll say it again. I can care less if it’s accurate and here’s why. All I need is for these athletes is to want to be competitive on that score. If they’re doing that, I’m winning, period. That’s me being a little snarky. I do want it to be accurate and it is accurate enough for me to look at things that can matter in real time for me to change training, especially with someone who is a one-on-one client like Patrick.
What Separates The Great From The Good?
I think it boils down to an absolute addiction to self-improvement. The greatest are not going to rest and be happy with getting awards and championships because it just irritates the hell out of them that they were inaccurate in short passes to the left within three yards, or that they had sloppy footwork and missed three post throws during the season, or they didn’t have enough speed to outrun a linebacker to make this one play. In the NBA, it’s really easy to identify the guys that are adding things to their game every offseason. I think what you’re starting to see at the quarterback position is guys are doing the same things. I think there’s an old-school type of quarterback approach where a lot of these guys are announcers now. So they shape the general public’s knowledge of the quarterback position.
I feel like there is a strong belief out there that quarterbacks can’t improve and I believe that’s very strong within that announcer crowd. The reason they think that is because they didn’t improve and they think because they didn’t that no one can. I think what you’re finding is a more malleable and variable athletes playing the quarterback position. Not everyone is 6’5” with the exact same footwork and can throw off their back foot to hit a certain route. It’s a different type of approach and opportunity. Yes, quarterbacks are still able to do those things but they can also do so much more now. There’s never been a time in the NFL where you see quarterbacks improving at the rate they’re improving. I think that goes to advancements in coaching, strength and conditioning, performance, athletic training, sports medicine, and head coaches that are making decisions to move the game forward, open this thing up and let people be themselves on the football field.