So, Sam Mattis showed up at Mark’s house the in 2009. Sam was wearing a pair of high top cross trainers, giant Afro and a Cheshire cat grin to meet his new coach.
Mark asked Sam what his goals were; I will never forget the response from both of them. Sam said “I want to win the Meet of Champions, win the US High School Nationals and set the NJ record in the discus”. Mark smiled and told him to slow down. He said “let’s teach you how to throw the discus first”. I started laughing because I know my son and once he locked in on his goals not even a team of Clydesdales could stop him from achieving them. I also appreciated Mark’s calm and funny response. It was classic Mirabelli as I have come to know him over time.
Long story short; with Mark’s guidance and foundational principles Sam was able to:
1. Set the discus record for all NJ high school classes, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and ultimately took the state record away from Ron Dayne at 218’4″. He also won 2 high school nationals.
2. He went on to set the Ivy League and American Collegiate record with a toss of 221’3″
3. He holds the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th farthest throws by an American Collegiate thrower.
4. He’s the only Ivy Leaguer to win the Heps 4 years in a row and holds the Conference record
5. He won the 2015 NCAA Division 1 discus throw at 205′
6. In 2018 he took a proud third at the USATF Nationals
7. This year, 2019, he won his first USATF Nationals with a toss of 218’9″. This qualified him for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar in October. He also surpassed the 2020 standard for the Tokyo Olympics. Additionally, it afforded him to travel to Europe from August to September to compete against the world’s best discus throwers.
So, this testimonial is not about Sam, it’s about what having the right early coach and mentor can do for your dreams. Mark could have easily told Sam on that day in 2009 that his dreams were unreasonable. Mark never thought about doing this for a millisecond. He said what all great teachers say “Let me teach you how to achieve your dreams!” For that simple, yet thoughtful statement, I will always think of Mark as the best first mentor we could have ever dreamed of connecting with.
Dream big, aim high, work hard, focus and listen well but get the right teacher to keep the competitive fire hot. Not all coaches are created equally and not all coaches are mentors. Sam could not and would not have achieved his dreams without mentor Mark Mirabelli. I am 100% certain of that fact.