TRAVERSE CITY — Kelly Robinson made it a point to text Trevor Huffman 15 minutes after his first class at Swish House in Traverse City.
“My butt is officially kicked,” Robinson said after the one-hour basketball fitness workout Huffman created.
That’s because Robinson burned 890 calories by working out using the skills of basketball — without actually playing against someone one-on-one.
It’s the premise of Huffman’s Swish House when it launched in Chicago two years ago, now grown to a staff of 10 trainers and an annual membership of more than 100.
Fittingly, Huffman, the former Petoskey great who went on to be Kent State’s all-time leading scorer, picked Traverse City as the first out-of-state franchisee. He’s hoping his hometown sees the businesses potential, which has attracted eyes from marketing agents representing multiple NBA personalities including Shaquille O’Neal and Danny Green.
Chuck Schuba, the former Kalkaska standout who played three seasons with the Washington Generals — the team that traveled with the Harlem Globetrotters — is the general manager of the Traverse City locations.
Perhaps a better fitting title: “Coach.”
That’s what Jeff Joslin, a high school teammate of Schuba’s at Kalkaska, shouted out to Schuba midway through a drill when he asked a question.
It’s a team atmosphere Joslin, 40 who lives north of Elk Rapids, gives back into. He shouts out a casual ‘Let’s go fellas!’ to the other five members of the class toward the end of Tuesday night’s class in the gym of Immaculate Conception elementary school.
“(Schuba) started talking about this opportunity and I was ready to get myself back in shape,” Joslin said. “Personally, I don’t go to the gym, I don’t run. But when I get a ball in my hand I’m ready to go.”
Justin Jorkasky, a monthly member, said Swish House gives him a purpose. He believes the classes build comradery when other members cheer on each other even though they’re not competing against one another.
“I have always enjoyed the process of preparing for a season or game. This gives you that feeling,” Jorkasky said.
Ryan Barkovich, also a high school teammate of Schuba’s in the late 90s, said he’s played basketball all his life, but running his business pulled him away from the sport. He’s trying to get back in shape and saw an opportunity where it didn’t matter how well he could shoot the ball.
“First day I was here I don’t even think I made a shot,” said Barkovich, who’s 41 and lives in Traverse City. “But the time flies by and you burn a ton of calories so it’s a great exercise with a little mental stress and fun along the way.”
Huffman returned from a 13-year stint in European professional leagues, most recently the head coach of a team in Belgium. Prior to that, he was invited to work out with a few NBA teams after college, but never was signed to a team or appeared in a game.
He said he was inspired to create the business after hearing from people who felt like they weren’t good enough to play basketball and lack motivation to get up and work out.
The classes he’s designed typically involve running and shooting hoops on one end of the court. They also incorporate elastic-band work and a tailored “23-90” sprint-and-score competition at the end.
It’s for athletes that Huffam feels are just like him: adults would be okay with picking up a basketball and shooting hoops, but don’t want to go to a brick-and-mortar gym.
“I’m a basketball player, I didn’t really know where to go to stay in shape,” Huffman said. “I didn’t want to run marathons, I always just wanted to train and shoot like a basketball player.”
He opened the first Swish House at Cermak and Loomis in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood in 2018. The business became a hit without spending dollar on marketing, in part because Huffman thinks the team-centered atmosphere attracts others to join.
“People just told other friends. It was a very organic, grassroots, community-driven business,” Huffman said. “In terms of selling people, it really sold itself.”
The trend continued. The first Swish House class in Traverse City, on Oct. 19, sold out just by word of mouth.
It’s pretty clear Swish House won’t end its expansion with northern Michigan.
Huffman said friends and former teammates in Atlanta; San Diego; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Las Vegas were interested in opening Swish House locations of their own.
“People are like, ‘Wait, what is this?’ ‘You guys are turning this into a business?’ ‘Basketball fitness for adults?’,” Huffman said. “I got people all over the world emailing me and texting me: ‘Hey! Can we start one?’ And I’m like ‘no.’ Traverse City is literally our beta test.
“We’re trying to systemize this and automate this so we can become a global or national brand as a start.”
Classes begin at $25 with an unlimited membership at $99 a month.
Swish House offers five sessions for $110 ($22 per session) and ten sessions for $195 ($19.50 per session) as well.
Classes at the Immaculate Conception Elementary School location and the West Side Community Church locations occur daily.