Reed City student athletes improving speed, agility

REED CITY – The whistle clasped between Shawn Jackson's lips blares loudly, echoing throughout the gym.

Dozens of Reed City Area Public School middle and high school student athletes stop in their tracks, turn their attention to Jackson and await instruction for the next drill.

It may be the off season for many of the student athletes, but that hasn't deterred them from wanting to improve their speed and agility from Jackson, of Elite Speed Now.

“I want to get faster for football and basketball next year,” said sophomore Preston Johnson before Monday's hour-long session.

Johnson said he's already able to tell the difference in his body from participating in the after-school drills.

“I've gotten faster from the training and I can jump higher,” he said. “He works us pretty hard, but it's worth it.

“When I saw they were offering the sessions for free, I wanted to do it. I like the training.”

For the last month, the Reed City Sports Boosters has brought Jackson in twice a week, offering the training sessions free to student athletes in seventh through 12th grades, sports boosters president Clayton Sims said.

“We heard Tri County was doing this and thought it was a good idea,” he said. “It's a great opportunity and service to provide to the kids to enhance their athletic abilities.”

Sims said many of Reed City's student athletes do not have the opportunity to see a personal trainer like those in Grand Rapids and other areas in the state.

“Hopefully, the sessions build coordination and fluid movements to make sure the kids can control their bodies,” he said.

Sims credited coaches for the spring sports teams for allowing their athletes to participate in the program.

“It is a busy time for them,” he said. “It's awesome they are letting the kids come here.

“We've been talking about having something like this for a while,” he said. “Right now, it's the only time the gym is free, with basketball and volleyball earlier in the school year. Everyone is here to work together for the kids to do this.”

As someone who is helping the Coyotes football team in the fall, Sims said it's a great opportunity for the student athletes to improve.

“The sessions are not about skill and not specific to any one sport,” he said. “It's improving their abilities to move and that is huge.”

Using precise, coordinated techniques through jumping, sprinting, shuffling and stretching, Jackson said his focus during the sessions is to improve the overall athlete by increasing speed and agility, something a lot of younger athletes lack.

“I hope they get a better feel for their body and are able to get faster, more agile,” he said. “I hope this increases their confidence for when they get on the playing field, whatever that is.”

Jackson said the overall goal of all of his drills is to help the athletes find and reach their maximum potential.

“It's a big thing right now, to get them there when they're young as fast as you can,” he said. “There's a lot of athletes who compete in sports and they might actually not be ready for it. Their bodies are still growing.”

Jackson, who makes the trip from Holland twice a week, said he hopes the student athletes continue to do the drills.

“It comes down to the whole athlete,” he said. “Everything, from speed and agility and talent and everything else, it's all about the complete package.”

Eighth-grader Rachel Hope looks to use what she's learned from training to help her next year for volleyball, basketball and track.

“It's going to help me with coordination and speed,” she said, following Monday's session. “It helps us in all the sports we play.”

Junior Parker Ward said he has attended the sessions to better himself.

“I think it's a good opportunity to get better and improve as an athlete," he said.