By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
MARGATE – If a high school boy is awake at 4:55 a.m., chances are he is bleary eyed and his fingers are cramping after five hours of manipulating a video game controller.
At 4:55 on Tuesday morning, six high school football players gathered at the beach in Margate, equally bleary eyed, but this was no video game. In 20 minutes they would begin one of the toughest hours of their teenage lives. An hour they have come to embrace twice a week. Not because they enjoy getting up at 4 a.m., but because they know Rob Fishbein’s Beach Workout Crew workouts will prepare them to excel in the fourth quarter – when other players are grabbing their kneepads and sucking wind.
Fishbein, 36, is a supervisor for the City of Margate Public Works. The former Holy Spirit High School quarterback is a fitness junkie, and in his free time he trains as many as 100 people during high-intensity beach workouts. Along with guys such as Dan Barbera, owner of Crossfit OTG, Yale Steingard, Dan Sheeler and Jimmy Barkalow, Fishbein does 5:15 a.m. workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer to accommodate the high school football players, who spend the rest of the day at their summer jobs and working out with their high school teammates. He also trains adults, some during the morning workouts and others on Monday and Wednesday nights, all free of charge.
“Ten years ago I really started lifting, and I’d see these younger kids with improper techniques. I started learning and I got certified in personal training,” said Fishbein, a 1994 Holy Spirit graduate who said he was recruited by such schools as Fresno State and BYU and played seven years of semi-pro football, including a stint with the XFL. “I started coming down to the beach and I found it was a lot harder on the beach and it was helping kids get faster. My first year, we had about 10 people here. Now we’re up to about 100 people training with us throughout the
summer. A lot of them are high school kids and they are seeing results. They are getting stronger, faster, leaner. We do different drills and we bring in new instructors all the time so it keeps the kids motivated and excited.”
Absegami quarterback Mike Dolan, a 17-year-old rising senior, said the workouts have really helped him develop as an athlete.
“It’s helped me out a lot with endurance. It’s a lot different running on the sand. Your hips, your legs, everything is different than running on grass. You get a different perspective,” Dolan said.
The workout begins with sort of a dynamic warmup, as the group runs around cones set up in a large square. Every 30 seconds two athletes peel off, one of whom has to do five box jumps while the other does shoulder presses with a log. From there it’s on to several exercises involving holes dug in the sand. “The surfer” starts out with the athlete flat on their stomach, arms and legs lifted off the ground. From there he or she must pop up into a surfer stance. Then there are squats leading into jumps out of the holes, and beach crawls.
Then, for the high school athletes, it’s on to resistance band training for explosion and lateral quickness while other members of the workout crew switch to abdominal workouts with sandbags. For the three high school football players who are not involved with the resistance bands at any given time, one must flip a huge tire about 30 yards up and back, while the other two carry a heavy pipe high above their heads the same distance.
“It’s pretty crazy to get up this early in the morning, but it’s fun,” said Tyler Flynn, an 18-year-old Margate resident who plays strong safety at Holy Spirit. “This workout, there are really no breaks, it’s just one thing after another. I’ve seen a lot of improvement working with Fish and the other guys. The toughest thing is getting up at four in the morning and doing all this stuff with very few breaks.”
Joining Dolan and Flynn on Tuesday were Absegami’s David Hood, a running back, Maurice Hubbard, a cornerback and wide receiver, and Christian Henchy, a defensive end, as well as Dylan Neustadter, a 15-year-old Margate resident who plays linebacker St. Augustine Prep.
“It’s a long summer right now. But the workouts feel good. Get an early one in, then go home and get some rest and then go right to practice afterward, so it’s like a non-ending grind,” said Hood, a 16-year-old rising senior who has committed to Temple University. “It’s helping my endurance, getting my hips stronger and making me faster. It makes me more energized. It’s the one workout I would really love doing for the rest of my life. I love it.”
Fishbein said the main focus during his workouts is helping players increase their speed and endurance.
“We want kids to get faster. I think if you can be fast in the sand, you can be fast anywhere,” Fishbein said. “I see these guys like Dolan, who plays quarterback, and Hood, who’s going to Temple next year, these kids are so much faster than in the beginning of the summer. You can see the sand is working.”
Fishbein has a good track record of success with athletes he’s worked with in the past. He’s trained former Holy Spirit standout Nigel Jones, who is now a running back at the University of Maine, and B.J. Bailey, a guard on the Lehigh University basketball team.
“The high school coaches call me and ask if they can send their guys down here. Atlantic City basketball coach Gene Allen, he’s called me; we get a lot of the Spirit guys. It’s word of mouth and it keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Fishbein said. “The workouts are free. My motivation is seeing these guys getting better and better every week. When I see these guys getting better and
stronger, that motivates me.”
Fishbein warns, however, that his workouts are not easy. Athletes who aren’t motivated won’t last very long.
“The first time they come out, most of them are in pain, they are throwing up. They see it’s the real deal and it’s different,” Fishbein said. “Every workout is different and I think that’s part of the motivation, they want to know what they are going to be doing each week. It keeps them pumped and excited.”
“The first time I came out here I was like, ‘you’re not getting me back out here,’” said Dolan. “It was rough, waking up at four in the morning to get down here. But then we convinced each other to get up and go. Hard work pays off.”
When Dolan’s alarm clock starts ringing at 4 a.m. and his body tells him to stay in bed, there is one thing that gets him moving every time – the Atlantic City Vikings.
“Last year we lost 34-30 when we were up 30-13. That game makes everyone in our program work harder,” Dolan said. “I don’t think I’ve ever suffered a loss like that. I look back at that whenever I can’t finish a rep. I look back and say, ‘if I had finished this rep last year, Atlantic City would have been a different story.’”
Maybe this year it will be a different story.
ROB FISHBEIN PROFILE: 36, Margate resident. Married to Sarah Sweeney-Fishbein, kids Robbie, 9, and Grace, 6…Supervisor for City of Margate Public Works…Holy Spirit class of 1994, played football, basketball and baseball…7 years of semi-pro football, including a stint in the XFL…certified personal trainer…has been doing free beach workouts in Margate for the last five years.