WRITTEN BY RICHARD SEVEN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ROD MAR
In coaching kids, it's about core mechanics and confidence
At Velocity Sports Performance in Redmond, high-schooler Amy McLuskie does a training drill while Caitlyn Bell provides resistance. Velocity's program for young people focuses on conditioning rather than on specific skills.
TIMES HAVE SURE changed from when I was a kid so many years ago. That's what I'm thinking as I veer from a Redmond arterial one weekday afternoon and turn into a mall of warehouses inhabited by companies that teach kids dancing, martial arts and gymnastics.
Past those, I arrive at Velocity Sports Performance, where the kids make up about 80 percent of the clients working with personal trainers and learning competitive mechanical concepts like explosion and quickness.
Inside, I find four high-school lacrosse players warming up for their 90-minute training session with Sports Performance director Rick Huegli, who was strength and conditioning coach for the University of Washington football team for 18 years.
In an effort to get teenage girls moving again, Philadelphia-based Tearsa Coates has developed an interactive exercise program called MissFit.
The site, www.missfitvideo.com, offers answers to questions, mini-features and advice, such as "thin does not mean fit." It also advertises a packet that contains an exercise video broken down into three different styles: yoga, hip-hop dance, and cardio-kickboxing. The instructors are suitably young and hip. It comes with a mat and "missfit" wristband, and a booklet that shares tips on eating healthier, battling body-image problems and handling stress.
Kids from 8 to 18 begin showing up to work out in small groups and at the direction of coaches inside the 14,000-square-foot training facility. Two kids, perhaps 10 years old, trudge up an artificial-turf field while a coach restrains them in a harness. This drill helps them practice the proper running motion and build stabilizing muscles in the legs and core. Other kids move sideways up another part of the field, each focusing on pushing off the correct portion of the propelling foot.
Velocity's mantra of "Speed Balance Agility Power" is displayed prominently inside the gym. Coaches there don't spend time on skills specific to a sport, say kicking a soccer ball or dribbling a basketball with the off-hand. Instead, they work on mechanics such as how to quicken that first step, keep speed at a high level longer and move in ways that reduce the chance for injury.
Velocity coaches work with athletes such as former UW sprinter Ja'Warren Hooker and recreational athletes, but the core business is kids who want to improve their ability, whether it's so they can make a team, move up on the depth chart, get a scholarship or improve self-confidence.
More intensive youth coaching is a growing trend, and the Redmond Velocity club, which opened just more than a year ago, is part of a national company that has dozens of franchises. While youth sports are bigger than ever, school programs are going through continued cuts.
The concept of Velocity started with Loren Seagrave, a former Olympic track coach. He maintains that speed is a skill you can develop. Huegli agrees and follows a developmental pyramid in his approach to his young athletes.
"Between, say, 7 and 10 years old is about fundamentals, with FUN in capital letters," Huegli says. "Between 10 and 14, train them how to train. From 14 to 18, you train them to compete. And at 18-19, you train them to win."
As the after-school crowd rolls in, Huegli breaks down the mechanics of a stride to the lacrosse players and then sends them sprinting, two at a time, down a four-lane indoor track. Velocity guarantees that kids who go through at least 24 sessions (36 hours) will improve their scores in a series of athletic tests.
Clients usually employ packages in blocks of 12, 24 and 50 sessions. Prices range from $20 to 35 per hour; most sessions are 90 minutes. See www.velocitysp.com/redmond for details.
The value I see in programs like Velocity is that they help give kids a better chance of sticking with sports by developing good habits and building confidence. I've read where three-quarters of youth baseball players quit by the time they are 13. And the American Obesity Association says about 30 percent of youths are overweight. Part of me wonders how necessary all this is, but the kids seem to be there because they want to be. So if Mom and Dad are willing to spend the money and drive them to and from another appointment, why not the gym?
Richard Seven is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. He can be reached at email@example.com. John Lok is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top