“Hard work pays off.” That’s a phrase you often see on gym walls and in locker rooms. Some people claim it to be their motto or their mantra, but few take it to heart. Few people actually live that phrase. One of those few? Travelle Gaines. If you haven’t heard the name, it’s ok. He’s not a professional athlete, and you won’t find him on the Top 10 plays. He’s an athletic trainer — one of the best in the country — and he’s the force behind some of the world’s best athletes: Antonio Brown, Andrew Luck, Jimmy Butler, Troy Tulowitzki, and the list goes on.
For the last nine years, Travelle has run Athletic Gaines, an elite, Las Vegas-based athletic training center he also founded. It’s an 18,000-square-foot facility that focuses on everything from strength and speed to physical therapy and nutrition. Travelle is a training expert, an entrepreneur, and he’s been featured on countless magazines and websites. But even so, he doesn’t thinks he’s “made it.”
“I still haven’t felt like I’ve done anything special,” he said. “I’m just so driven and hungry. I work hard every day. I’m never on vacation. Never take a day off. I won an Emmy. That was pretty cool. But other than that, I don’t think I’ve really done anything cool.”
It’s pretty obvious to the rest of the world that Travelle has accomplished great things, but greatness is commonly bred by humble beginnings.
THE VALUE OF SPORTS
For Travelle, it all started with playing sports in the rough Louisiana neighborhood he grew up in. With the unsafe situation he was in, growing up and overcoming obstacles wasn’t a choice — it was a necessity. But he had sports, including his first love, baseball.
“I was a huge baseball fan,” Travelle said. “It really just got me hooked and made me a competitor. It made me want to be the best at everything that I did.”
That competitive spirit proved to be useful, as he was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 11th round in the 1998 MLB draft. But playing pro baseball wasn’t his goal. That’s why he turned down the option in order to pursue a football scholarship at San Jose State.
“I was one of those kids who really wanted to use sports as a vehicle to my education,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to go to school. I was a triple major at San Jose State (behavioral science, sociology, history). I was a total dork. With the scholarship I got to go to school for free. I really felt that going to school and getting an education was way more important, just because I grew up in a situation where I had nothing to fall back on.”
TURNING A LOVE INTO A CAREER
If you hadn’t noticed, athletic training wasn’t one of those three majors mentioned above. When Travelle went to college, he had a different dream in mind — being a high school principal. At that time, physical fitness was more of a hobby. Sure, he needed to stay in shape for football, but Travelle spent more time in the gym than most athletes. That caught the attention of his college strength coach.
“My senior year he talked to me and was like ‘Hey man, I think you’d be a great strength coach — you’re really into training, everybody likes you, you lead by example.’ He took a job at Louisiana Monroe and he said ‘why don’t you come here and be my assistant.’ I was 22 years old at the time, thought it was a good idea, and that’s how I got into training.”
Working with the ULM football, basketball, and track teams gave Travelle his first professional training experience. “I was up at 4 am every day, in the weight room 12 hours, working hard,” he said. “I wasn’t making a lot of money, like $500 a month, but it was well worth it. I really liked developing the athletes. That was pretty cool for me.”
Eventually, Travelle worked his way up to training at larger universities and multiple NFL teams before he began training athletes in Washington state, including the first professional athlete he ever worked with: Marquise Hill, a former defensive end for the New England Patriots.
Then, to gain more high-profile clients, Travelle made the move from Washington to Los Angeles, and the stars started pouring in. It started with Reggie Bush and Brandon Roy, and more followed, including Chris Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, and Andrew Luck. Pro Bowlers? Check. Super Bowl champions? Check. No. 1 draft picks? Check.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Even though Travelle is known for his work with professional athletes, the focus of Athletic Gaines is on a younger demographic, and that stems from his desire to help kids. A large percentage of the clients at Athletic Gaines are actually high school athletes. According to Travelle, the facility’s motto is “TRAIN LIKE THE PROS TRAIN,” so kids can come in and do the same workouts their favorite athletes do. That’s one of Travelle’s favorite parts of his career.
“It’s great to be a safe haven in the community for athletes who want to get better,” he said. “It’s good for the kids when they see pro athletes in the gym and they know if they work hard they can aspire to be the same thing. It’s an honor and it’s a blessing to be in this situation and to have a place that has impacted lives. ”
As much good as Athletic Gaines does for kids, Travelle’s goal is to impact lives all around the country. “I want to have 10-12 facilities throughout America,” he said. “I want to keep impacting, keep growing, have camps. I want to keep developing the kids of today.”
The ability to make a difference in so many lives doesn’t come without a price, though. There are sacrifices to be made, and the one Travelle’s happy to make is working non-stop. “I’m up every day at about 4 am, then I normally work out myself for about an hour to 90 minutes,” he said. “Some days I’ll train all day back-to-back clients. There’s never a dull moment, and it’s always jam-packed every day. I’m normally in until about 9 pm, and go to bed around 10, 10:30, 11.”
Eventually, Travelle hopes to retire and go back to Louisiana, where he can indulge in gumbo and cheer on his New Orleans Saints. Until then, the grind continues. But why does he do it? The 18-hour days, the constant commitment, the endless pursuit of greatness? Because hard work pays off.
To learn more about Travelle follow him on Twitter @TravelleGaines, and to learn more about Athletic Gaines, check out athleticgaines.com and follow it on Twitter @AthleticGaines.