Body movement & mental mastery

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Former pro soccer player offers a new twist on training young athletes

By Mike McKenzie

At 16 she left home and Ferndale High School. Not as a dropout; rather, as college recruit-level soccer prospect bound for the elite IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in 2007. (Yes, we still call it soccer.)

What followed for Megan Manthey – some lows and disillusionment in college, and many highs as a professional fußball player in Europe (that’s what they call it) – led her to inspiration for her fledgling startup, Manthey Momentum in Bellingham.

Technically, it’s Manthey Momentum Sports Performance Training LLC. She has developed a unique methodology for physical training of young athletes, grades 4-12, especially on a soccer pitch. “It’s about how to move more efficiently, how to use your energy,” Megan said. “The key is in the hips.”

The other unique aspect of the business she began about a year ago extends beyond the fields of play. Her students engage in work on the mental and emotional aspects of competing at an elite level, including preparation for the rigors of having colleges recruit them one day. This stems from lessons learned, sometimes harsh, as she gradually moved along a path to an elite academy, through two college programs (University of Colorado, a negative, and College of Charleston, S.C. (a positive), and on to an illustrious career abroad in Denmark, France, and Iceland, paid to play.

“After retiring I decided I wanted to teach young athletes the things I learned,” she said. I wanted to create something with a bigger impact than just on the field.

Now married – her husband, Brent Richey, works on the facilities staff at Cornwall Church – and about to start her own family (their first child is due in July), Megan began by word-of-mouth. “I started with phone calls from parents who knew me from my soccer playing days. I’d work with their kids wherever I could find space.”

She has rented gym space, a studio essentially, at Synergy Fitness in the Irongate industrial park. There she conducts regular sessions either one-to-one, in small groups of 5-6, or with full teams. At this point, they’re all soccer players – about 25 individuals, in addition to full squads that she invites in 2-3 times a week – though she intends to expand to aspiring athletes in other sports.

Her work takes place after school hours between 3:30-7:30 p.m. “It’s crazy how fast it’s grown,” she said, “and the potential for growth is limitless.” She bases fees on individual consultations that determine the sessions: semi-private, private, groups. “We keep it in small groups so there’s more individual attention on each kid.” The business model also centers on long-term training, 2-3 times a week for six weeks up to a year, or even longer.

“I want slow, sustained growth,” she said.

She entered into this venture with “zero business experience…I played professionally six years.  I worked a year at Bellingham Athletic Club and learned some of how it operates. I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve studied.” She also seeks mentoring from a business owner friend, and other sources. Recently, for instance, she attended a week-long seminar in San Diego on the “why” of business rooted in the popular book, Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Megan’s ‘why’:

“Ideally, we create a space these kids can go to and feel safe, experience growth intellectually and emotionally, and learn about college recruiting. I want them to know the commitment it takes to attract colleges to an elite athlete.”

The precisely-designed program that she calls Manthey Momentum works in phases: strength and conditioning; speed and agility; sports nutrition and hydration, and goal-setting/mental conditioning.

“They learn that there’s far more to it in athletic development than on the field, and the off-field training lends greater impact,” Megan said. “I overcame so many obstacles, just in women’s soccer by itself. I’m providing an opportunity for change with a commitment to something I love to do, that I’m passionate about.”

One of Manthey Momentum’s out of the ordinary techniques: “A lot of the young kids, they’ve learned running and agility exercises, but not how to change direction efficiently,” Megan explained. “They’re approaching a point on the field, looping around, wasting valuable energy instead of making quicker movement using the lower body. We want them cutting from points A to B to C in a triangle with sharp angled cuts instead of round loops.”

She said she has drawn her techniques from her personal experience. But she’s also learned from many others in the functional training world and past coaches who encouraged, taught, and influenced her positively, such as IGM Academy and at College of Charleston.

So far, she’s going it alone in her business. “Right now I’m the only trainer, and I’m making sure I don’t get in over my head before I expand,” she said. “It’s growing quickly, so I need to be ready to find a larger facility and bring in another trainer. But it’s also hard because so much of it is in my head and instinctive, and I adapt the training sessions as they develop.”

Megan Manthey Richey said that her path through soccer was a love-hate-love path. And, she navigated it with continual support from family and her Christian faith. “I’m super strong in my belief. What I have is from God and through Him it grows. I’m doing what I was created to do.”

Her mother, Laura Nicholson (and now Howell), had been an outstanding cross country and track and field performer at Ferndale High. Her father, Randy Manthey, was an outstanding football player at Meridian High who worked at BP as Megan and her brother, Grant, were growing up. Her mother worked at Haggen.

Grant played college soccer, too, at Colorado School of Mines. “I trained with him and his men’s high school team,” Megan said. “I spent a lot of time trying to be better than him. It helped me toward my dream. I’ve always been a big dreamer ever since I was little – and that allowed me to become a pro athlete.”

After attending Ferndale High from 2005-’07, she graduated from The Pendleton School, associated with IMG, in ’09. She traveled to Uruguay and Brazil with national amateur groups on mission trips, and five seasons in the European Women’s Champions League; her teams in Iceland and Denmark won titles, and she played for a team in Paris.

Now, she’s converting it into energy for others who might aspire to a path through athletics to college, and beyond. “I saw an opportunity where the community needs this,” she said. “Usually athletes get what a community says it wants instead of what they need.”

Megan Manthey Richey’s Journey in Her Own Words

I will be the first to tell you it wasn’t a smooth road.

I graduated from the IMG Soccer Academy at sixteen as the female player of the year. I learned what committed coaches look like.

I spent two years at the University of Colorado being humbled and absolutely hating college soccer. I was ready to throw the towel in and give up on my dreams.

After transferring to the College of Charleston my college career ended as our conference’s leading goal scorer and overall point earner. Then came seven weeks with Athletes in Action in Paraguay. While there I learned I had landed my first professional trial in Denmark. I flew out, signed a contract and never looked back.

Over the course of the next 5 years I played 3 seasons in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, won a Danish and Icelandic championship, played with and against the best female players in the world, found my “it,” and am now living my new dream of owning my own business and transforming the lives of young athletes.”

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