Congrats to 7 ladies who trained with us!

Congrats to 7 ladies who trained with us!

Congrats to 7 ladies who were in the gym with us this past season:

  • Maddie Hoff (OLSH)
  • Corynne Hauser (Rochester)
  • Alexis Robison (Rochester)
  • Emma Theodorsson (Bishop Canevin)
  • Shamyjha Price (Bishop Canevin)
  • Sierra DeAngelo (Oakland Catholic)
  • Maria Cerro (Bethel Park)

These 7 ladies were selected to their respected All-Section teams in District 7 of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. Way to go ladies…keep up the hard work.

Complete All Section Teams found here. 

Gym Rat Trainee to Play at PSU Greater Allegheny

We are proud to announce that Gym Rat Performance Training trainee Brian Davidson (Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic) will continue his academic and basketball endeavors at Penn State Greater Allegheny. Brian is coming off a stellar senior season at North Catholic where he started on a Trojan team that made a District 7 Final Four run as well as qualified for the PIAA State tournament. Brian was selected to play in the Quigley Catholic Senior All-Star where he took home MVP honors. He has been working out with Gym Rat Performance Training for a little over a year. We are extremely proud of Brian for all his accomplishments and know he will have a great college career. 

Attack the Rack Basketball Academy

Gym Rat Performance Training is proud to announce our 2018 “Attack the Rack” Basketball Academy. This 12 week course is designed specifically for players grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 focusing on speed/agility, basketball fundamentals (proper shooting technique, ball handing/offensive moves in the post and on the wing, defensive positioning and relentless rebounding).

The course will be taught by renown Pittsburgh basketball skills trainer Coach Andrew Kurzawski (former NCAA, NAIA, USCAA) who has worked with hundreds of collegiate basketball players including 24 collegiate All Americans, over 30 division 1 players and 8 European professionals. He will be assisted by skills and drills specialist Coach Tom Obiecunas (former Junior College coach, former high school coach at Peters Township HS & Keystone Oaks HS).

Our KICKOFF Event is planned for Thursday March 29th at 6 PM (Pressley Ridge Day School – 530 Marshall Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15214. Training will occur once a week following the Kickoff Event starting April 11th (allowing families a week to enjoy the Easter Holiday).

Payment in the form of cash or check will be accepted at the Kickoff Event. Questions? Please contact Coach Andrew Kurzawski (412-713-0714) /

INTERESTED? Please Call (412-713-0714) / Email to reserve your spot today!

  • Payment will be accepted in cash/check or money order at the THURSDAY MARCH 29th Kickoff Event
  • Please complete Waiver Form (Found Here

Gym Rat PT adds 2 new coaches

Gym Rat Performance Training is proud to announce the addition of two new coaches to our training family to better provide elite basketball training in the Pittsburgh area. Coach Obiecunas (Bio Here) brings over 10 years of high school/grade school coaching experience as well as skill development coaching to the Gym Rat PT program. Most recently Coach Obiecunas assisted Coach Kurzawski as a basketball trainer at Community College of Allegheny County – a junior college program in Pittsburgh, PA. He has also played an influential role (Athletic Director / Coach) in the success of the St. Thomas More athletic program – one of the top middle school girls basketball programs in the state of PA. Coach Obiecunas will be working with Coach Kurzawski on a new summer basketball program (Attack the Rack Basketball Academy) and he is also available for 1-1 and small group training.

Coach Alexa Xenakis (Bio Here) is the current Assistant Varsity coach and Head Junior Varsity coach at Seton La Salle High School. Coach Xenakis has been around Gym Rat Performance Training for over 2 years training under Coach Kurzawski to improve her athletic performance. Coach Xenakis played her high school ball at Keystone Oaks High School (Pittsburgh, PA) where she scored over 1,000 career points finishing her career as one of the top 5 scorers in school history. Following her stellar high school career she signed her national letter of intent to play collegiately at Point Park University (NAIA  D2 Scholarship program). During her time as a Pioneer Xenakis racked up 935 career points while shooting over 30 percent from 3 point range for her career as well as 41.4% from the field at the shooting guard position. During her 4 year career Xenakis enjoyed a 97-28 overall record and a 47-16 conference record. This included a trip to the NAIA National Tournament in 2014.

Gym Rat Trainee Scores her 1000th point

Congratulations to Gym Rat PT trainee, Carlow University commit Emily Grandy (2018 Guard – Sharpsville HS, Sharpsville, Pennsylvania) on her 1000th career point. Emily worked with #GymRatPT this past summer to improve her athleticism and strength as well as improve her drive game and lateral quickness. Her results this season speak for themselves as she is one of the leading scorers in PIAA District 10. Emily will bring much needed three point shooting and a knack for making big plays to Coach Tim Moore and the Celtics. Congratulations Emily….good luck in the playoffs!

Gym Rat PT trainee signs with NAIA Carlow University

Congratulations to Gym Rat PT trainee Taylor Lambright (2018 Guard – Blackhawk HS, Chippewa Township, Pennsylvania) on her signing with NAIA Division II Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA. Taylor is a tireless worker and a young lady who has been very dedicated to the weight room this past summer. We have no doubt that she will play a huge part in the growth of the Carlow University basketball program under Coach Tim Moore. Gym Rat PT is thrilled we had a chance to work with her this summer via our strength and conditioning, meal planning and basketball training programs and are excited to help her prepare for her freshman season at Carlow this upcoming summer. Keep an eye out for Taylor and her Blackhawk team to do big things this year in the WPIAL.

AAU – is it for my child?

One of the questions any coach in the basketball world will be asked is if a parent should have their child playing AAU and travel league basketball. With that being stated – let’s dive into what AAU basketball is and how it can help or hurt the development of your child.

What is AAU?: According to their website – “The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer, sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.”

AAU basketball has now become one of the largest amateur summer basketball programs in the United States with hundreds of teams scattered across every city in America. With all these teams bidding for your money what should you be looking for when it comes to selecting the right team for your child?

Picking the right team: First and foremost a club that has a lot of players does not make the club credible or “elite” “premier” or the countless other adjectives an organization uses to bring more revenue in. Some of the worst investments when it comes to AAU organizations are the largest clubs where your child is just a number and another check in the director’s pocket. Clubs like this will often brag about the number of elite level players they have “got to college.” What they don’t tell you is these players were already elite level players when they joined the club, they were guaranteed to go to college and the club picked them up from a smaller organization and promised to pay for all their gear, travel etc. They also don’t tell you that their “practice” and skill development is little to non-existent. In other words, they are paying for all-star teams to increase their own exposure and to gain more revenue.

Secondly having nice “GEAR” or a club being “sponsored” by a shoe company does not make their players GOOD and does not mean the organization is good. Smoke and mirrors are a huge dynamic to AAU branding with the thought being if we look big time people will pay big time. Stay away from these clubs and organizations.

Thirdly AAU has become a important part of the recruiting process for high school athletes wishing to play at the college level HOWEVER it is much more important for HIGH SCHOOL Division 1 prospects than it is for grade school, junior high and even high school athletes who will be playing at the D2, D3 and NAIA levels. This is because coaches at those levels (non-D1) have much more freedom to recruit throughout the summer and are not restricted to “open” periods (periods when D1 coaches can attend NCAA AAU certified events).

Here are some dynamics you should look for in your AAU team:

  1. Coaches with legitimate experience. If the coach of your child’s high school AAU team has never coached high school basketball then they shouldn’t be coaching high school AAU. If they have never coached junior high school basketball then they shouldn’t be coaching a junior high school AAU team. Coaching is not a hobby – it’s a vocation, job, career. If you want your child to grow in the sport they need to have a coach who legitimately knows the game they are playing and has the resume to prove it. There are always exceptions (a former college player who just coaches AAU because of their day job etc) but coaches should have a sports specific background if they are going to be an asset to the athletic growth of your child.

  1. How much does the club practice? If you are paying money for your child to be on a AAU team and all they do is play games you are getting ripped off. A good AAU team should be practicing at least 2 times a week with a major emphasis on drills and skill development. The purpose of AAU basketball at EVERY LEVEL is for players to get better. Playing a ton of games does not make a player better – what it does do is allow them to continue to make the same mistakes or rely on the same skills they are comfortable with without ever going out of their comfort zone.
  2. How serious is the club about what they do? Good AAU organizations are run like any successful endeavor. They expect players to be at practice (unless their high school team has a conflicting event) and they expect their players to be dedicated to the team, to the process of becoming a better player and teammate. If the team your child is playing on struggles to field practices for lack of players, lack of coaches, lack of dedication than they lack the ability to take your child to the next level.
  3. How honest is the club about your child’s ceiling and how willing are you to hear the truth? Many parents think their child is a division 1 (full scholarship) prospect player. The reality is that probably is not the case. According to a study by the NCAA (found here) out of the 546,428 male participants in high school basketball this year only 3.4% are going on to play at the NCAA D1, D2, D3 levels with only 1% of that number playing at the D1 level. With this being stated, most D1 prospects start receiving interest from division 1 schools by their freshman year in high school with scholarship offers coming by at least their junior year. There are certainly exceptions to this (late bloomers) but if your child is entering their junior and senior years in high school and does not have scholarship offers the reality is they probably are not a D1 caliber athlete. AAU clubs at the high school level should be working hard to help your child get to the college level (whether that be D1, D2, D3, NAIA, USCAA or JUCO) but this includes honest talent evaluation and feedback from the club’s coaches and the college coaches they are in contact with as to what level they fit.
  4. What type of tournaments do they play in? If your child is playing at the youth level there is no good reason to be traveling all over the country to play AAU tournaments – there is plenty of competition within a 2-hour radiance and the reality is your child needs to be perfecting skill work and learning the game. If your child is a high school player with college ambitions than there is more need to travel. However, this goes back to what was stated earlier – it is based on their college talent level. There are plenty of great tournaments within most areas that several D2, D3, NAIA, USCAA and JUCO coaches will attend. If your child is not a D1 caliber player the need for them to attend events in which D1 coaches will be present is less important – it won’t hurt them but it also isn’t necessary. A club should be forming high school teams based on their college level and playing in tournaments which will expose their players to college coaches at their level.

What parents can and should be doing to help their child improve their skills:

  1. Playing AAU is not enough to help your child improve in their sport. The importance of camps, clinics and additional training under the direction of a skilled coach /trainer cannot be understated. Players with a desire to play at the elite level can greatly benefit from 1-1 or small group instruction in which a skilled coach / trainer could fix flaws in a player’s game as well as helping them form new skills.
  2. Players who get to the college level must have a passion for the game. This means they don’t have to be asked, told to practice. If your child isn’t out on the playgrounds, going to recreation centers, fitness clubs (on their own) to practice their craft than they do not have what it takes to play at the college level. Don’t baby your child. They either have the passion for it or they don’t…if they don’t accept that…it’s their life.
  3. Allow your child to be a kid. Being good at a sport or many sports is great but it is just as important for your child to enjoy time with friends, summer activities etc. If your child loves the game they will make time to work on getting better because they ENJOY getting better. There is nothing worse as a coach than seeing a player with great talent who doesn’t like playing the game because they are burnt out.

To summarize:

  • AAU is a great way for a young athlete to improve their basketball skills as well as their social skills if a family picks a solid, trustworthy AAU organization which values player development and honest evaluation over their bottom line.
  • Find organizations that have great coaches / great teachers of the game and who value practice time and being accountable to the team.
  • The teams with the biggest numbers does not make them the best fit for your child.
  • Accept what good high school, AAU and college coaches must say about your child…not every kid is going D1, not every kid will receive a scholarship and that’s okay.
  • AAU is not enough – elite players need to be doing camps, clinics and working on their skills with a trainer /coach and most importantly on their own.
  • Let kids be kids. Encourage them to pursue their dreams but make sure it is THEIR dreams….not yours.

Andrew Kurzawski, BA, M.Div, NETA CPT is the founder of Gym Rat Performance Training where he functions as a strength & conditioning coach and basketball skills trainer. He is a collegiate basketball / strength and conditioning coach at Penn State University Beaver. He holds a NETA (National Exercise Training Association) Personal Training certification and has over 10 years of experience working with elite level athletes at the high school, college (NAIA, USCAA, NCAA D1, D2, D3) and professional levels. 

The Offseason

One of the most common misconceptions amongst parents in the summer sports world is more playing equals more improvement. Although this may sound good in theory the reality is that most kids (this also includes high school and college players) need time to recover from long seasons (both bodily and mentally). This being stated it does not mean putting the ball down or sitting in front of the television, iPad, smart phone etc. What it does mean is athletes need to have an offseason and an in season. Both seasons hold significant importance however the offseason tends to be focused more on sports performance goals /skill work and less on competitive play.

The offseason is the time for an athlete to both rest their bodies and to recover from injuries but it is most importantly a time for the athlete to improve their athletic and mental performance. This is best accomplished under the watchful eye of a personal trainer, sports specific trainer or strength coach who is well versed in your child’s sport(s). Not all trainers are created equal – if a trainer does not have significant knowledge of the specifics of an athlete’s sport they are not the best option to train an athlete – IE bodybuilding training is not the best style of training for a soccer player nor is it wise for a football player to be trained in the fashion a cross country runner is.  Parents or the athlete are perfectly within their right to ask a trainer what certifications they hold, what their sports specific and training resume consists of and most importantly what goals the trainer has for the athlete and what means the trainer intends to go about achieving said goals.

During the offseason, the athlete needs to focus on sports specific and sports performance goals (IE to be more explosive, to add muscle to gain a competitive advantage for the sport, to improve skill work they struggled with within their sport and to work on the mental aspects of the sport). This requires the athlete to dedicate a significant portion of their week in the weight room / performance training setting…most of our athletes meet with us 2-3 times per week during the summers (sessions lasting one hour to one hour and 30 minutes) in which we track the progress of the athlete via weekly or bi-weekly progress reports. For high school and college athletes, it is wise to be in communication with your coach about what specific dynamics they see benefitting your overall performance. Good coaches want their athletes working in the offseason and getting better – any coach who discourages an athlete from making athletic improvements in performance as well as skill work improvements is questionable.

Some sports require athletes to play on various travel / AAU teams during the summers. Although these teams can help players improve their skills and may serve to showcase a high school athlete’s abilities to college coaches – there are far too many of these teams selling empty promises and inadequate coaching/training. Parents and players are best served researching the credentials of a travel team’s coaches and their abilities to teach the fundamentals of the game. Travel teams at the youth level are NOT as important as skill development / fundamentals and youth level players are better served participating in summer skills camps as opposed to travel teams.

If an athlete has showed potential and expresses a desire to play at the collegiate level travel /AAU teams become more important. Again, it is important to find teams that are teaching the game, are showcasing their athletes to college coaches who match the level of talent on the team. Just because the team has a popular name and is “sponsored” does not make it the best fit for your athlete or for you as a player.  D3 athletes should not be going to tournaments where most coaches are D1 and vice a versa. Good travel/AAU organizations are realistic with what type of talent they have on their roster and what college coaches are best served seeing said players.

If you need some help regarding your offseason (summer training) plans please give Gym Rat Performance Training a call or e-mail. We have helped many athletes make the jump from the high school to the collegiate levels and would love to share our expertise with you.

Being a woman college hockey goalie in a league heavily dominated by men, I knew that the workouts that I was doing were not going to cut it. I began working with Coach Andrew and Gym Rat Performance Training. They quickly made me realize that there was nothing wrong with a strong, muscular female athlete when he began having me truly train with weights for the first time in my life. I have since gained strength and endurance that has improved my game performance and helped lead my team to victory. – Katie Work (Penn State University Beaver Hockey)

Andrew Kurzawski, BA, M.Div, NETA CPT is the founder of Gym Rat Performance Training where he functions as a strength & conditioning coach and basketball skills trainer. He is a collegiate basketball / strength and conditioning coach at Penn State University Beaver. He holds a NETA (National Exercise Training Association) Personal Training certification and has over 10 years of experience working with elite level athletes at the high school, college (NAIA, USCAA, NCAA D1, D2, D3) and professional levels.