Feb 20, 2017

Bryan Watkins.jpgBy Craig Rybczynski -- The Friday night before home games, the Rochester Knighthawks have established a tradition of sitting down to have dinner at the team hotel. It’s a chance for the players, coaches and staff to relax before a game day. On many occasions, it’s also an opportunity for the team to meet motivational speakers and sports moguls from across the United States and Canada.

On Feb. 10, Knighthawks Owner and General Manager Curt Styres introduced Bryan Watkins to the packed room at the Marriott Hotel. Styres met Watkins during a January trip to Hawaii and was so impressed with the entrepreneur, fitness owner and motivational speaker that he invited him out for the week.

The Harwich, Essex, England native began his foray into the fitness industry back when he was just 17 years old. His journey has taken him from the small fishing town to various stops in between before settling in Hawaii, where he has remained for the past 11 years.

“I had an aptitude for sports, always loved sports and being around sports,” said Watkins. “So naturally it progressed into wanting to learn more, educate myself and educate other people on how they could improve in their sports. That in turn got me into the fitness industry.

“Along with that, I had a great thirst for traveling. Combining the two, I left England and moved to Bermuda and did some work over there with athletes. Then it was off to the U.S. mainland and I ended up in Hawaii. I have always wanted to reach out to more people and pass along my knowledge.”

The 32-year-old Watkins is currently one of the co-owners of Clark Hatch Fitness. With his business partner and former client, Phil Martin, the duo manages a fitness facility and training system in downtown Honolulu. Watkins passed along his ethos to the Knighthawks players as they listened intently. He explained that he focuses on creating a winning dynamic and winning concepts. That begins with setting up a priority hierarchy and basing it into sport. Simply put, it’s planning for your life through your sport. The main question he asked the room was, “What's important to you in life?”

“When you can anchor something that is important in your life, everything becomes that little bit more important to you,” he said. “You start being more aware of situations and what you can do to improve. When it’s with a sport, (you think about) what little things can you do to help you achieve your goals. If you think about five things you want to achieve and are important to you, then you start thinking about the little things you are doing throughout your day to achieve them.”

After the talk, several players including Joel Matthews and Kyle Jackson stayed behind to ask follow-up questions and learn a little bit more about their guest speaker. The interest was noticeable for Watkins.

“It seemed like it was very well received,” he said. “I had a lot of feedback and a lot of people asked me more questions. I am excited to be able to help the team. I think these little tweaks are the fine margins that help with winning.”

Knighthawks alternate captain Dan Dawson appreciated Watkins taking time to address the team.

“Curt has always done a fantastic job of bringing in special people to speak to us,” said the 16-year NLL pro. “We can get a different perspective on what it takes to mentally prepare yourself for not only sport, but life. “Curt cares about you more as a person than as a lacrosse player. It was nice to hear Bryan talk and get some great philosophies on bringing aspects of sport into your life and vice versa.”

Andrew Suitor, who is in his first season with the Knighthawks, used the speech as motivation. It showed on Saturday as “Suits” netted his first goal in a Rochester uniform Saturday night.

“You have opportunities like this to gain knowledge about different things,” he said. “It introduces you to take different approaches and gives you a better understanding on what other athletes do. With professional athletes such as this, it’s a learning process; the only way to get better is to always keep learning.”

Watkins is a new lacrosse fan, having worked with athletes in basketball, soccer, sailing and boxing over his 14 years in the sports industry. Watkins said the common thread that binds every athlete is winning.

“People will remember you if you win,” he said. “What's important to you will help you in the future. Sports is short lived, but your life will be long.”

On Feb. 11, Watkins was introduced to his first National Lacrosse League game as the Knighthawks hosted the Saskatchewan Rush. The game, which had everything from spectacular goals to big hits to great saves, was an adrenaline rush for Watkins.

“I loved it. The game is so fast-paced and exciting. It has all the components for a spectator and has you on the edge of your seat,” he said. “I really enjoyed meeting the players and coaching staff. It’s a great group of lads very dedicated to the team, fans and the collective goal of making it back on top.”

Although his interaction with the team was a brief 24 hours, he made an astute observation about the Knighthawks’ business model.

“The franchise itself has a very family-oriented feel to it. Just observing the interaction between the players and the fans at the end of the game showed me how much the team means to the people and city of Rochester,” he said. “It is very hard to find loyalty like that in any personal, business or sporting arena. The idea of setting up a meet and greet at the end of the game shows me that the owner, Curt Styres, really wants the Knighthawks to be a franchise that includes the fans as part of the team. It really felt like the people of Rochester were the seventh man in the arena on Saturday night.”

On Feb. 11, the Knighthawks played their best half of the season as they led the Rush 8-7 after two quarters. In the second half, Rochester battled for every inch of turf but fell short to Saskatchewan. Despite the outcome, Watkins was impressed with the grit and tenacity displayed by the Knighthawks players. Their willingness to sacrifice for each other convinced the self-proclaimed Tottenham Hotspur F.C. fan to follow his newest favorite team in the NLL.

“I had to admire the passion and intensity the guys played with, literally fighting for the game,” he said. “I look forward to following the team more closely and helping where I can in the process of winning. I can proudly say that I will be a lifetime fan of this fantastic sport and team… Go Knighthawks!”

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