The next addition to our #ASpotlight Interview Series is Tony D'Itri, a Physical Education and Athletics Instructor at Allen-Stevenson. Read below to learn more about his teaching philosophy, passion for long-distance running, and upcoming workout series for the entire A-S community!
What do you enjoy most about coaching the Varsity Wrestling team at Allen-Stevenson?
Wrestling is an incredibly old sport, with an amazingly rich history, and has been a staple athletics offering at Allen-Stevenson for decades. Wrestling involves every major muscle group, builds functional strength, and cardiovascular endurance. More importantly, though, I find wrestling to be a mentally enriching endeavor. Wrestling forces you to be assertive, to be confident, to take risks, and then build from there. As a wrestler, you are the creator of your success or failure. When you’re taken down to the mat in wrestling, your main objective is to get back up, no matter how many times you go down. I find this to be a powerful message to send our boys as they prepare for life in the “real world” - they are directly responsible for and can positively influence their life outcomes. My students love the challenge, both physically and mentally, and our alumni continuously talk about their time on the wrestling mat when they come back to visit.
You started the Cross Country team at Allen-Stevenson. Can you tell me what inspired you to do this?
Long-distance running is my number one passion. I have run 11 marathons, including the New York City Marathon six times, and have completed over 400 races all over the world.
I’ve been a Track & Field coach at Allen-Stevenson for 12 years along with Mary Leonard, Jon Burgos, Sarah Luposello, Maya Jourieh, Emily Alletto, and Meghan Little. Track and field are fast and explosive – which has its appeal and excitement – but I wanted the boys to experience the joys and challenges of longer distances. Distance running is a sport that pushes you to your absolute limit and then asks for just a little bit more. It is the embodiment of mental toughness. I love watching a boy who doesn’t think he can run long distance shock himself. As a coach, I am not lighting the flame – the flame is already there. I’m just adding kindling to make it brighter and brighter.
There is also a mental cleansing quality to long-distance running. Two, three, or four miles into a run is the best time to hash through your thoughts. I deal in a loud profession – cross country is one of the rare times we athletes get to be quiet. Before each race, I lead a meditation visualization with the boys. I have them lie on their backs and close their eyes while I guide them through the racecourse. Our Upper School boys have so many things going on both academically and socially. Cross country gives them a rare chance to be quiet and listen to their thoughts.
Also, cross country running is a life-long sport that can be done anywhere, at any time, with just a pair of sneakers. Our goal here at A-S is to prepare the boy for what happens after he leaves, and cross country is one way of doing that.
Can you describe one of the practice sessions for a team you coach?
I usually start a practice with an intention and expectation to put the boys in the right frame of mind. Then the work begins. Work ethic is incredibly important to me, and I expect the very best effort from our athletes. You will never see a boy standing around for long because I like to keep the pace high. For cross country, and track and field, you'll see me running alongside the boys or waving my arms wildly to push the pace that little bit more. In a wrestling practice, I'm right there on the mat sweating and grappling with the boys. I like to coach by setting the example myself.
You’re currently working on creating an A-S workout video series for our community. Could you tell us a bit more about this project and what inspired you to create it?
We have an amazing Physical Education and Athletics department, and we value being physically fit and active. Our coaches all work out all the time together. We have competed in Spartan Races and Tough Mudders as a team. We run, lift, hike, and play sports every day in some capacity, and I wanted to spread the joy that we get from being physically active with everyone else in our community. Frank Peduto, Michael DeGennaro, Jon Burgos, Brian Alifano, Rich Alifano, Ray Seeback, Billy Dransfield, and Rob Wiseman are all incredible athletes, and being able to pass that on to our community is our goal.
Our community – ourselves in included – all have busy schedules, and sometimes we neglect our physical selves and the mental benefits we receive from exercise and fitness due to a lack of time or athletic resources. I wrote these workouts for myself as the busy father of two. The workouts are explicitly designed to be short (10 minutes) and are bodyweight workouts requiring no equipment. I plan to launch the videos in January. Look out for them then!
Do you have any advice for aspiring Allen-Stevenson athletes? What messages do you share with the boys?
Look at the challenges in front of you as opportunities to learn and grow. Obstacles are made to go over, under, and through. If there are no challenges or obstacles ahead of you, find some.
At Allen-Stevenson, we often say that “there are many ways to be a boy.” What does this mean to you?
Our individuality makes us great, and discovering what makes you unique is such a personal thing. At A-S our boys are free to develop that individuality, which is such a wonderful part of this community. I don’t think any one person knows how to be a boy because there’s no one way to act or think that makes you a boy or a man. It took me a long time to realize that it’s okay to be different, and that’s something I think we celebrate at Allen-Stevenson.
Describe the Allen-Stevenson community in 3 words: