The next time you see a talented athlete put on a particularly impressive performance in a gymnasium or at a stadium, take a moment to scan some of the faces in the crowd.
Inevitably, you’ll spot more than a few spectators who have a certain look of awe about them, as though they can scarcely believe they’re witnessing such an incredible display of athletic mastery.
LeBron James probably sees that look on quite a few faces.
Tom Brady, too.
It can only be described as the incredulous, admiring expression of a crowd whose collective thought is, “What raw talent! What natural abilities!”
But the top-performing athlete knows different.
There’s very little rawness or naturalness at play.
There’s mostly just hard work—years and years and years of it, spent training, practicing, honing and fine-tuning.
This is the essential origin of a burgeoning strength and training program at Tamarac, the Spectrum Health wellness center in Fremont, Michigan. The new program introduces student athletes to functional strength training and conditioning practices.
The program operates closely with each athlete’s school, addressing the needs of not just athletes but coaches, too.
Tamarac fitness specialist Matt Purtee said it starts with one thing top of mind.
“My No. 1 priority is safety first,” Purtee said. “That is the most important factor. From there, we teach them to move efficiently, move effectively, move fast and to adjust and adapt.”
The athletes learn to perform key movements as safely and effectively as possible, reducing the risk of injury while maximizing performance potential.
“They are exposed to a variety of resistance-training techniques to develop speed and explosiveness, as well as strength and durability,” Purtee said.
“I believe that our sports programs will thrive with the addition of the strength and conditioning program and maximize each of our student athletes’ athletic potential,” Walls said.
He has been especially impressed with the team-based approach.
“Team training is the best way to combine team-building opportunities, competitive drive and strength and conditioning improvements,” Walls said.
The program is designed to employ key techniques that help sharpen the athlete’s physical performance.
“The combination of these specific techniques gives them motivation to strive to get better each day,” Purtee said. “The athletes enjoy learning to work beyond their limits. And when they have fun, they tend to work hard.”
Fremont High School freshman volleyball coach Mackenzie Hall has seen the program’s upsides firsthand.
“They came to our gym, got right to work with the girls and did strength and conditioning that aligned with our sport specifically—volleyball,” Hall said.
It proved especially beneficial this year.
“This season, we had quite a few girls with minor pain in their shoulders and arms,” Hall said. “When we started this program, (Tamarac trainers) were able to answer any of their questions in regard to their pain and give them recommended stretches and skills to do at home, before and after practices, which really helped.”
As the volleyball players worked their way through the program, Hall and her team took note of the drills they performed.
“We were able to throw in some drills during our practices as well, which help foster skill growth towards the sport,” Hall said. “We also had some good conversation on how to add these drills into our conditioning next summer, before the season even begins.”