Recently, I’ve had a chance to get in touch with my good friend and now professional basketball player Imad Qahwash.
You see, Imad is not your typical fitness bloomer. No way. His list of accomplishments far surpasses that of a normal 24 year old. He has done things and gone to places most of us will only ever dream of.
But his story is not just one of success. Not even close. His is a story of inspiration and undeniable passion. It’s a story where moments of victory are intertwined with moments of defeat. You see, we often look at people who have achieved greatness and think things just came easy to them – that everything was handed to them on a silver platter. We don’t see the blood stains or the worn out sneakers. We don’t see the stream of tears or the moments of sacrifice. We don’t see the real story.
With this interview, I wanted to get the story of the real Imad Qahwash. Knowing him and knowing what he has gone through to get to where he is now, I can safely say his story will inspire you to never stop chasing your dreams.
B2F: Imad, tell us a little bit about what’s going on in your life right now. I know a lot has happened for you since you finished your senior year at Central Arkansas earlier this year and I’m sure it’s been an emotional ride. What’s the word?
Imad: Well recently, I just signed a euro pro basketball contract with Spartak Vidnoye Moscowskaya Pro Club of the Russian Superleague, which is one of the best leagues we have in basketball in the world. The club is located in capital city of Moscow, which has 11 million people. I am pretty happy about this signing and looking forward to helping my new pro club.
Recently, I have been in the gym almost every day working hard and preparing for my upcoming pro season in Moscow. After my senior year was finished at UCA, it was kind of a relief, we didn’t have the best season, but I knew things were going up when I didn’t have to worry about NCAA basketball anymore and had to concentrate on my pro career. I signed with NBA agent Mike Naiditch, then graduated with my degree as a dean’s list student in Bachelors of Sciences and was selected once again to represent Jordan on an international level. Yeah it has been an emotional ride because I carry myself to a high level and if I achieve anything below that I challenge myself to do better. All in all, life is great right now and can’t wait to start my pro career.
B2F: How did you get started in basketball? Why basketball? Why not maybe wrestling – I remember you were a pretty good wrestler back in Junior high (only half joking lol)?
Imad: I got started playing basketball when I was 6. I wasn’t really into what normal 6 years old were. Instead of playing on the playground or playing games and stuff like that all I needed was basketball. I remember that is all I wanted to do. There was a community centre near my house so I would always be out there from sunrise to sunset challenging guys twice my age. I just fell in love with the game and it hasn’t escaped me since. When high school kids started telling me I could play pro when I was in elementary school that kind of stuck with me and I just ran with it. LOL Wrestling was a passion of mine since all my brothers were county champions; I just felt I had to win a gold medal in the county championships because my brother’s did it and I wouldn’t be teased about it at the dinner table that I didn’t. It wasn’t easy but I loved wrestling, however, I knew basketball was my first passion.
B2F: You and I played each other way back in elementary school and high school. I remember [no offense here] that back in grade 7, your game was wakkk. Let’s just say you didn’t really stand out. Then, out of nowhere, you came back the following year and literally tore up the hardwood. You transformed in front of our eyes. Your handles were tight, your jumper was rock solid and your confidence was through the roof – and I know you haven’t looked back since. What happened during that summer? How did you get so good in such a short period of time? What was it that clicked?
Imad: LOL I don’t think anyone really stood out in the 7th grade unless you were 6’5 or you were a young phenom going to the NBA out of high school. Yeah all that improvement didn’t come easy at all, I remember that summer vividly. I really started taking basketball seriously on a club level that summer. I was so motivated that summer because I had been cut from my first team. I think I was 13 or 14 and I was selected to try out for the All-Ontario under-17 Team as a 14 year old. I really didn’t care about my age and gave it my best. I was really disappointed I got cut but ended up making that team 2 years later. I played against good competition that summer and it helped me come back a better player. I always tried to play against University bound players because I knew my age group wasn’t too deep. When I saw that I could hold my own against these older guys it was an immediate boost of confidence when I went back to playing against my own age group.
B2F: You’ve become very successful at what you do. You’re driven and goal-oriented. From your experience, what are the three most important characteristics or qualities a person needs to have to be successful or to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves?
Imad: I think everyone has their own 3 characteristics to become successful or get where they want to be. For me these are the three I go by.
Firstly, I think DRIVE is a very important quality to have, which goes along with motivation from within. One has to have that fire or a chip on their shoulder like they have something to prove. I always think with drive it helps propel you to your goals and ultimately your success as an individual.
Secondly, I think CHARACTER is also very important, which goes along with resiliency to not be detoured from your main objective or goal. There will be obstacles in the way and it is important you show true character and resilience to get over those “bumps” and continue towards your destiny and ultimate goal.
Finally, I think READINESS is important. You have put all this work getting to your goal, I think that isn’t enough. My goal was to play division 1 basketball, but I wasn’t content just to be there I wanted to succeed at that level just like I want to succeed at the pro level. Learning and being ready to handle that opportunity to shine or become successful holds a lot of weight. It is not just enough to get there. How will you succeed if you’re not ready?
B2F: I know you train like a maniac during the season. How do you stay fit in the off-season? What are some things that you do?
Imad: I really don’t have an off season, so I have no choice but to stay fit, after I was done playing for UCA each year I would be with the national team so I had to stay in shape and continue to be in the gym preparing for another short season. I run a lot, lift, stretch and work on my game consistently.
B2F: As a professional athlete, I know you’re in the weight room a lot. Can you quickly outline what your typical workout looks like? What kind of training do you do?
Imad: Yeah, I am in the weight room a lot. Firstly, I don’t work on being the biggest guy, work on sports specific training but in the process I see myself getting some muscle as well. I call it lean muscle. I start off with a warm-up so I will do abs or treadmill. I am on the treadmill for 20-25 minutes NOT on cruise mode, I am almost sprinting but not. Then I head to the mat and work on my core. I hit about 300 crunches and 300 twists with a 10 lb medicine ball. I superset these workouts (no rests in between to utilize time better). I also sometimes add planks and do 3 sets of those and hold it for a minute, each week I extend the time by 10 seconds to challenge myself. After that, I hit 200 pushups, 100 shoulder width apart and the second 100 wide for chest. I then hit the weights and do 3 workouts per muscle on my upper body, super setting. Super setting helps with muscle endurance, which is important in basketball. That is a day of working out in the weight room/gym for me. It usually takes me an 1hr 30 minutes if you’re not distracted or messing around.
B2F: We all know how important a good diet is to optimal performance. With a busy schedule, how do you manage your diet? What do you eat to keep your body health and fit for action?
Imad: Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! After a game or before a game I really drink a lot of water and eat carbohydrates for energy. My schedule is busy but I always have to treat my body with good food. Don’t get me wrong it is nice to eat some junk food but I honestly burn it very fast because I am always working out. There is a bunch of calculators dealing with your calorie intake; I honestly have been consistent with my weight since I was a freshman in college. I always eat a good meal before the game, which consists of all those things. Post game/workout meal is just as important. It is important to replenish your body so you are ready for that next practice or sometimes next game tomorrow.
B2F: The road to greatness is a bumpy one. I know you’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs before you got to where you are now. How do you keep yourself motivated? How do you keep your mind on the prize even when things look bleak?
Imad: Yeah I think in any road to greatness you are going to have bumps. I think nothing is accomplished easily that is worth cherishing. I just have some fire within to keep me motivated. I think you have to be a self-motivator to not give up or be detoured from what you have to do and meant to do. I keep my eyes on the prize because it will feel that much sweeter when I get it. I just know not to give up on something I’ve worked hard for not just on the court but even academically. I remember one class I had in college, it was a science class. It was very hard and most people were failing. In fact, my first test I almost failed. Things were looking bad for that class but I didn’t give up even though things were bleak. I ended up working hard and doing any bonus assignment that came my way because I didn’t want to screw up getting on the Commissioner’s All-Southland Honor Roll. Right there, that was my motivation to get the grade I wanted and I took the steps to doing it because I didn’t want to lose that particular opportunity in front of me.
B2F: You’ve accomplished a lot in your career so far. What would you say was your biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome to get to where you want to be?
Imad: There has been a few but something that sticks out would be college. I had to be very patient my first 2 years of school even though I knew I could contribute and make a huge difference. Patience for me is tough because I always want to get things done especially if I am capable of it. Learning to deal with minimized playing time to prove myself was tough and frustrating. There were times where I felt like I needed to transfer but I knew I wasn’t like anyone else and I knew sooner or later my hard work would pay off and it did. I ended having a great career at UCA my last year and now I am going to be playing professionally. I think you have to go through those hard times to get where you want to be, it is sort of a test.
B2F: We all need to be inspired sometimes. What was your source of inspiration growing up? What about now?
Imad: I’ve always looked up to my father and older brother. My father is a very hard worker and I think that’s where my work ethic came from. My brother is a successful man in being a doctor of sports medicine and now runs two clinics in Cleveland, Ohio. I look to a successful core to keep me going and inspired. Of course, you look up to pro athletes growing that inspire you. I honestly, wasn’t too much into that. I had my favorite athletes growing up but to be inspired is a big deal and a big word. With inspiration comes motivation and I think I inspired myself in some aspects to be where I wanted to be. Now, grown up, I try reading a lot on things to get you to that next level, anything to make you better at what you do or other aspects of life. I always have turned to my family for guidance as I know many athletes have. I think you have to inspire yourself through what you do personally to try and be an inspiration to other people. I would hope I’ve inspired some people from where I’m from to do big things but in the end it’s all on you. There will always be people doing inspirational things or succeeding but to really be inspired is to see what you are capable of within yourself.
B2F: Basketball has taken you all over the world. You’ve had the chance to see some amazing places over the course of your young career. Can you tell us a bit about your travels? What are some cool things you got a chance to do?
Imad: I have really been fortunate enough to travel the world at the beginning of my career, which really hasn’t started yet. I have been to 20 countries through basketball around the world and haven’t spent anything. I am really grateful and thankful for where basketball has taken me but this is just the beginning and I am not satisfied. It really broadens your horizon, it is hard to explain. You can’t really put into words, the things I have seen are amazing and I will hold those memories for a very long time. I have been fortunate enough to be as far east as you can go and west in the world. It is an amazing experience to say the least, sometimes its tiring adjusting to the time differences but definitely worth it. There are 7 wonders in the world I have seen 3/7. I should of went to the pyramids this summer, it was only a hr plane ride from where I was but I should do that this summer coming up. I consider those pretty cool things to do on top of just soaking up the different cultures. I like learning about different cultures and the past architecture these people have left behind in ruins or priceless buildings. I think the most amazing place I’ve been would be the Great Wall of China. That was just amazing to see the length of the wall and how it was built on the mountain was breathtaking, along with the view.
B2F: I hear you’re doing a bit of modeling on the side. Your article in Localiez was really well done. I hear you’ve got the Versace look. What’s all that about?
Imad: I went to a meeting last weekend with Geoffrey Chapman who has been in Vanity Fair Magazine and has worked with Gucci, Givenchy and Dolce and Gabbana. I really went into the interview/meeting confident. He told me he wanted to meet me and knew I had the look but really wanted to see what my personality was like. He saw my photos in a magazine shoot I did with Localiez Magazine in the summer, which is based in Toronto. I was honestly confident because it is not my main passion; basketball is and always has been. I took another chance and went to the meeting. I thought it wouldn’t hurt and now they are sponsoring me for an event this coming weekend to meet with some big time casting directors. Directors who have worked with Whitney Houston and Uma Thurman will be there. So I want to thank him for that opportunity. I think it will be fun and maybe something will come out of it. He sure has a lot of confidence that something will. My only problem would be my availability, since I signed my contract, which lasts until the April. Anyways, I am definitely looking forward to the opportunity and have nothing to lose so why not? Plus I am sure there are many modeling opportunities in Moscow, Russia.
B2F: Thanks a lot for your time big guy. I greatly appreciate it. You’ve become an inspiration to a lot of kids and you’ve become a wonderful role model. I wish you all the best in your career and I’m sure you’ll make us proud back home as we follow you every step of the way. Is there anything you’d like to finish with?
Imad: Yes, I want to thank Bloom to Fit for letting me do this interview, I think Bloom to Fit is going to continue to blow up into a prime blog/site people can look to for informative health advice in their daily lives, which is important. I think Srdjan has done a great job engineering this site into a valuable product to help people out.
I am glad and honestly touched if I could be an inspiration or role model to kids because I was one of those kids. I really appreciate the support I have gotten and won’t forget people who have been behind me in this whole process. If you want keep up with me, you can follow me on twitter @iqahwash20, check me out on my facebook page or visit my website at www.iqahwash20.com. Remember,
“Success does not come to those who merely have great ideas. Success comes to those who have great ideas and who follow through on them.”
Thanks again and I wish all the readers the best of luck in their endeavors.