by Haley Cahill
photo by Julia Mason
“Believe you are capable. Be your own advocate. Fight for yourself.”
If you’ve ever taken a power hour class with Emily DeSalvatore at Title Boxing Club Green Hills, you’ve probably heard that mantra before. For the energetic trainer, though, these words pack a punch in her life outside of the gym as well.
In 2010, Emily began classes at Ohio State University with a love for physical health and helping others rehabilitate their lives. She would go on to pursue an education in human development and family sciences, with an emphasis in middle childhood education and psychology.
Remaining true to her active, competitive lifestyle, Emily thrived as an OSU cheerleader and even found her husband on the cheer team. A true fit couple, they were always looking for something new and fresh to do together, and on a whim, bought a two-week trial of boxing classes they saw on Groupon. Emily was hooked after the first class.
Upon graduation, DeSalvatore and her husband were ready for a change of scenery though, so they packed up and moved to Nashville to remain close to her husband’s family.
Emily immediately found a job as a behavior coach with Centerstone School Based Services at Murrell School in Nashville. Emily describes it as “A school for kids who can no longer be in a traditional school due to them having certain behavioral issues that need modification in order to go back to traditional schools and still have their Individualized Education Programs.”
Unfortunately, many of the children at Murrell are often labeled as the “bad kids” at traditional schools. “The kids aren’t bad though,” DeSalvatore explains. “They’ve just been put into bad situations or have seen horrible things that have changed their behavior. Nothing happens without cause.”
“Most of the behaviors are learned from stressful environments no child should ever have to go through. Some of my kids have experienced things that I’ve never even experienced, nor that I probably ever will.”
During her classes, “A lot of times I have to tell my kids ‘Yes, I’m the mean one. I’m the one who has to blow the whistle and tell you ‘No.’ But I’m also the person who’s going to explain to them why they can’t exhibit a certain behavior or why we’re modifying it. They don’t often realize we’re here to help them.”
Once a child’s behaviors are modified and he or she performs at a certain level every day for nine weeks, he or she may be eligible to “graduate out” of the school and return to a traditional school. Unfortunately, many of the children who “graduate out” end up coming back to Murrell shortly after they begin attending a traditional school again.
Seeing a child denied a second chance is just one challenging element of her job, and it can take its toll.
“Sometimes when I come home I have so much emotion. I’ve witnessed some very horrific things that have either happened to a child or that a child has done, and it’s hard to just leave it at the door.”
Seeking out activities to ease her mind after work, Emily was able to rekindle her love of boxing at Title Boxing Club Cool Springs shortly after moving to Nashville. She spent so much time at Title that the lead trainer and co-owner of the gym, James Fuertes, approached her about the possibility of becoming a trainer at the new Green Hills location.
At the time, DeSalvatore didn’t have any training certifications, but said it was a dream of hers to become a trainer. Excited about joining the team, Emily worked diligently to master the art of boxing, while also obtaining a certification from the National Federation of Personal Trainers. Shortly thereafter, Emily started leading classes as one of the first trainers at Title Green Hills. Training at Title is not just a job for her, though; it’s much needed therapy after a long day of work as a behavior coach.
“I don’t know how I would do what I do without Title. It saves me to go straight from work to Title and interact with people who don’t need you to save them. It lets me know the whole world isn’t bad.”
Hitting the heavy bag is not the only way Emily knocks out the emotions she brings home from work. There are some days she goes for a run and tells herself she will not stop until the negative emotions have left her. It’s not uncommon for her to go for a nine-mile run, when she only intended to run three miles. That is what she says makes her a runner – and her self-proclaimed passion for finish lines.
Her work ethic may be intense, but that’s what makes her so good at both of her jobs. She doesn’t just inspire the people in her classroom and gym to accomplish a goal, she coaches them through the whole process.
As big of a cheerleader as DeSalvatore is, though, she said she also enforces her students and clients that they have to believe they are capable, be their own advocate and fight for themselves. She is not afraid to blow the whistle in classroom or yell heavy bag combinations in the boxing ring, but she is also the first to dish out a healthy dose of praise when she sees students or clients excel.
“All I want to do in life is help people be the best they can be. And if I’m not doing that, something is wrong.”
Emily constantly seeks new ways to better herself professionally and personally as well. Since April, she has completed two half marathons. She is looking forward to a triathlon with her husband this summer, and she plans to go back to school to further her education in mental health counseling. Long term, Emily said she hopes to find a way to intertwine her love for fitness and therapy into a new career. In true fashion, she will surely knock out anything she sets her mind to.
About Emily DeSalvatore:
Graduated from The Ohio State University, 2014
National Federation of Personal Trainers certification
Leads the Power Hour Sessions at Title Boxing Club Green Hills Mondays and Fridays at 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.