Local trainer has been helping Ocean City athletes for decades

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OCEAN CITY — He’s trained some of the best: high school and college All-Americans, weight lifting champions, boxing stars, coaching icons and famous NFL players. Frederick “Fritz” Hastings has spent more than four decades helping to make them faster, tougher, stronger or more agile.

With a big heart, a warm smile and lots of encouragement, he’s helped them excel. His trademark one-on-one care is much more than a cure for what ails a struggling athlete.

“My number one passion is helping the kids,” Hastings said. “It’s true now and always has been about helping kids for me.”

After the closing of his Islander Gym, he’s back at work at the recently opened Local Gym at 908 Asbury Ave.

“I’m excited, it’s been a tough two years,” Hastings said. “It’s nice to be back up and running again.”

Hastings, a former Red Raider and 1970 Ocean City High School graduate, had big goals. The long distance runner dreamed of the Olympics, but found his real purpose in helping so many others achieve their goals.

“It was not by design. I started out thinking I was on my way to athletic glory,” Hastings said.

After graduation, he began training and coaching and never looked back.

“I haven’t missed a beat since 1966 when I was a freshman in high school.”

His career has taken many twists and turns. For more than 25 years he folded his coaching and training duties into a full time job, working as an assistant manager at The Flanders Hotel. In the 1990s, Hastings and a group of partners began planning to open Islander Gym at Eighth Street and West Avenue.

Hastings was born in Pennsylvania; his family moved to Ocean City when he was in seventh grade. He was one of the first two-mile competitors to compete for four years at that distance.

“There was only the mile to that point,” Hastings said.

His success on the track, positive attitude and enthusiasm caught the eye of OCHS track coach Ted Klepack and the late football coach Mike Slaveski.

“Ted is the reason, it’s all because of coach Klepack,” he said. “He nominated me for the National Honor Society, made sure I was a good student and never missed a day of school. He gave me the confidence to succeed. I loved high school because of coach Klepack and coach Slaveski; they believed in me, saw the potential.”

After high school, Hastings served as an assistant coach for Klepack and helped train football players.

Eventually he served as an assistant girls cross country and track coach under former coach Mike Naples. Working at The Flanders provided the needed flexibility.

“I was able to make all the practices, all the meets,” he said. “For a long time I still had dreams of going to the Olympics myself. I really enjoyed working with all those young people.”

Some of his early charges were Mark Impagliazzo and Russell Snow; the two were partners in the Islander Gym and now partners in the Local Gym.

“I was 23 and coaching Mark when he was 13,” Hastings said. “I moved from sport to sport, wherever I was needed. I touched a lot of lives; I’ve loved every minute of it.

“I’d get the ones who needed some specialized care, some extra help. We created a program to rehab injured athletes. Any athlete who needed TLC was sent to me, no matter what the sport,” he said.

In need of training space, Hastings created his own gym, known as “The Pit” in the 1970s.

“It was a very gloomy place, very dark and either really hot or really cold depending on the season,” he said. “Back then, they didn’t have real gyms; we had nowhere to train high school or college athletes out of season. I was also starting to work with NFL athletes.”

The Pit evolved into Iron Raider Gym in 1980. With his partner, OCHS physical education teacher Tony Galante, a former football and wrestling coach, Hastings was in business at 242 West Avenue.

“It was so much fun. We had police officers, firefighters and teachers. They went from The Pit to the Iron Raider,” said Hastings.

When it was deemed a larger facility was needed, the Islander was born. Over the years, several partners invested or moved on.

“That happened just as The Flanders was closing down,” Hastings said. “So I went full time at the gym and I loved it. We were there for 17 years.”

The large building that once housed toys for Stainton’s Department Store became impossibly difficult to maintain. When a church organization made an offer, Hastings’s partners voted to get out.

“They were afraid of the economy; it looked like it was time to get out,” Hastings said.

The resulting two years were some of the saddest and most difficult of his life, he said.

After the Islander closed, Hastings applied for jobs all over the country.

“I did not have that college degree. All the training meant nothing to people who didn’t know me,” he said. “It was rough, but the kids kept me going. You really find out who your friends are when you are down and out. There are some really good parents out there, parents of the kids I trained really came through and helped me out.

“You learn to be resourceful, you get motivated when you’re hungry and you keep moving forward.”

Now, he’s upbeat and optimistic about the future.

“We have sweat equity in the Local Gym,” he said.

Hastings also trains at Elite Athletic Performance in Seaville.

“I open the Local Gym at 5:30 and by 7:30 I’m in Seaville,” he said. “By 10, I’m back in Ocean City and training. I’m just so thrilled to be here.”

In addition to a large contingent of friends, clients like Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, author Gay Talese and a smattering of Oakland Raider football players have kept in touch.

“We’re not so much starting from scratch here,” Hastings said of the new gym. “We kept the culture of the gym, and we did it over right. We worked very hard for many, many months. We now have a spectacular facility.”

He said Facebook helped him keep in touch with many people over the years.

Hastings will turn 60 this year.

“I’m now training the grandchildren of people I trained,” he said. “A lot of kids have come through my doors and I hope to see a lot more come through. The kids, the relationships have been so important to me.

“I do truly feel blessed,” he said. “The kids like discipline and challenges, they work hard.”

Galante said Hastings touched, and blessed, hundreds of young athletes.

“We go way back, Hastings is the greatest,” Galante said. “He’s the most positive guy with kids that I ever met. He’s so knowledgeable, so encouraging. He always puts other people before himself.

“He’s just a really good guy. We had a lot of fun training the kids for a lot of years. He’s had such a big impact, and the impact he had will stay with those athletes throughout their lives.”

Hastings said he makes the most of every day.

“Life is a fleeting thing,” he said. “Coach Slaveski was taken from us. You have to reach out, stay in touch with people. You just never know.”


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