Making strides: Local athletes training to excel

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With fall sports just around the corner, local athletes from middle school up are kicking their daily workouts into high gear at a local gym to prepare for the upcoming seasons.

As part of a program called Sports Performance Training at Freedom Fitness, local trainer Jess Campbell is offering three classes a day, Monday through Friday, and the response has been overwhelming. Now in its sixth summer, Sports Perfomance Training has more than 40 kids, ranging in age from 8 to 18, all committed to being in the best possible shape heading into their respective training camps.

“Every year, we run basically a summer sports performance camp,” Campbell explained. “It’s Monday through Friday. The kids can take a three-day pack, but most of the kids participating are taking a five-day pack.”

Every day of the week, participants do something different: Olympic lift variations, power lifts and a combination of power, agility, pure strength and conditioning are all worked through in a given week.

“Everything I do is all supported with sports science,” Campbell said. “All of the research is there. We’re going to apply the best methods that we know and research supports to create the most growth in terms of explosiveness, speed, agility, footwork, sprint mechanics and then we add in that element of injury prevention, especially in that female demographic.”

Campbell said the injury prevention aspect of the program targets the most common injuries for women, such as ACLs, and other types of injuries that target both genders.

“It goes up, from ACLs to a healthy hip, into shoulders. Especially with football and baseball players, all that stuff matters,” she said. “It really depends on which sport the athlete is training for, and we kind of define that out a little bit.”

As it gets closer to the start of the fall sports seasons, the workouts will move more toward conditioning, the idea being that athletes will go into their respective sports “worlds ahead” of where they would be had they taken the summer off.

“That’s when it gets really neat to see,” Campbell said. “It’s neat to see the results. The athletes test into the program and test out of it, so they can literally see the progress that they’ve made over the summer. The cool part is to see all of that.”

Soon-to-be Powell High School senior Hartly Thorington chose to participate in the Sports Performance Training program because of its variety. Preparing for her final season of volleyball, this is her second summer of sweating through the program.

“This program helps me with everything,” she explained. “It works on strength, endurance, conditioning, all of that stuff. It helps me prepare for the different aspects of volleyball, it’s different conditioning than a sport like basketball. It helps me get to where I need to be. I did it last summer and I definitely improved, so I thought I might as well do it again.”

Thorington also enjoys the laid-back atmosphere, as well as working with her fellow athletes.

“It’s a good environment, no one really judges you,” she said. “I feel like I’m improving every day.”

For PHS sophomore football player Geordan Weimer, Campbell’s program is giving him the opportunity to stay in shape during a time of year he and his family are usually traveling.

“We decided to do something different this year and stay home for the summer,” he said. “That forced me to do something over the summer to keep myself in shape for sports.”

Asked what he enjoys most about the program, Weimer said it’s that feeling of accomplishment after a hard workout.

“You don’t compare yourself to the other people in the room,” he explained. “You’re really just competing with yourself. And I like working with Jess and the other coaches, they’re very nice and friendly and enthusiastic. They’re also very knowledgeable, they know their stuff.”

Calling summer her “favorite time of year,” Campbell said she loves working with the kids and enjoys how quickly they immerse themselves in the program. The workouts are also designed to be adaptable.

“A lot of these kids will continue these workouts through the school year,” Campbell said. “They’ll go into the off-season and they’ll go into in-season programming as well. But what’s really cool is for me, how I look at it from assisting these coaches is, all they have to do is coach their sport. You don’t have to worry about the conditioning. You just take the mechanics of what I’ve laid down for everybody and apply it to your sport.”

Campbell said athletes who go through Sports Performance Training perform better.

“They go from not starting to starting, they develop better strength for sport, better speed for sport, they have that component for injury prevention,” she said. “It’s just all there.”

Feedback from parents and coaches has been generally supportive, though there are some in the coaching community who prefer their athletes to train according to their own programs. That said, the coaches of the non-traditional sports such as swimming, cross country, track and golf have thrown their support and promotion behind the program.

“It’s a hard sell for some coaches, because they’re often under the impression we’re crossfit,” Campbell said. “We’re not. This is a strength and conditioning program, and I have more education in this specific area than they do. I’m not saying by any means I can out-coach them. But I can provide you with an athlete that is utterly ready to go into your sport.”

Campbell said she’s always amazed at the dedication the kids put in every summer, and is proud to be a part of helping her athletes become the best they can be.

“These kids are hard at it all summer long,” she said. “It’s hard work. They come in and they attack each day and they work to get better. It’s a big deal. The first problem is, it’s not easy, and I tell the parents that from the start. It truly is the old cliche that if it were easy, everybody would do it.”

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