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Training for that extra edge

Posted: August 17, 2013 9:34 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2013 9:34 p.m.

Jim Wagner, right, adjusts Grant Weiss's form at Throwzone Academy in Canyon Country on Monday. Private training continues to become more popular in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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 Today marks the first in a five-day series in which The Signal looks at the influence of money in our sports. 


As youth and high school sports become more and more competitive and specialization becomes a norm, parents and athletes are increasingly turning to outside resources in order to gain a competitive edge.

This is no more true than in the booming business of private athletic training.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, private coaches in a variety of fields, from strength and conditioning to tennis, are continually seeing large numbers of athletes willing to pay big bucks in order to become more competitive.

But does it pay dividends?

Private coaching in the area can range in price from the “affordable” to services that charge more than $1,000 for a single month of training.

Two of the more recognized local operations, Phenom Speed & Agility and Velocity Sports Performance, list prices on their websites.

Phenom charges $135 a month and requires a $405, three-month commitment, while individual sessions at Velocity are $70 to $100 depending on different packages. Velocity also offers a free trial.

And while just about all of these private trainers are offering the same results - the ability to be bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled - it is the expectations of the parents and the athletes that vary.

According to Jim Wagner, who trains up to 200 baseball players a month as young as 6 out of his Throwzone Academy based in Canyon Country, in most cases, parents are looking to help their kids be as competitive as possible when moving up to the next level of competition.

“I think that parents are always looking to help get their kids to the next level,” said Wagner, whose star pupils were Cleveland Indians and former Hart pitcher Trevor Bauer and Hart grad and Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguer Tyler Glasnow. “Youth kids are looking toward high school, high school toward college and college toward the pros. I don’t think that usually parents of a 10-year-old kid are already looking at college.”

Adam Davidson, a former professional tennis player and a highly respected private tennis coach in the SCV, generally agrees with Wagner’s view that most parents are not looking too far ahead into their kids’ futures.

However, Davidson, who has worked with kids as young as 3, says that he has experienced times when parents were very serious about getting their young kids to the college level.

“Some parents are definitely very serious about it,” said Davidson, a Hart High graduate. “I’m here. This is my investment and I want my kid to get a college scholarship.”

Certified personal trainer Mike Yudin works with athletes across the Santa Clarita Valley, specifically at Valencia High School with its baseball team.

Valencia baseball head coach Jared Snyder said that Yudin has made a significant impact on his players and feels more comfortable with a certified trainer showing his players weight training than teachers who have other areas of expertise.

Yudin also runs programs that are open to athletes of all sports and focuses on the strength and conditioning aspect of sports rather than technique specific training.

Yudin recommends private training to all calibers of athlete, as there is a byproduct that comes from it.

“Not only are you going to be bigger, faster, stronger, but it’s also a huge confidence builder,” Yudin said.

To the question of whether private training can be the difference maker in gaining opportunities to compete in college, some former high school athletes believe that this is in fact the case.

Recent Hart High graduate Ben Basher, who is headed to the University of La Verne for track and field, credits most of his success to his time spent training with current College of the Canyons assistant track coach and three-time Olympic medalist Denean Howard-Hill. Basher said that he began working with Howard-Hill at the start of his senior year and that by the end of track season, he had dropped his 400-meter time by about three seconds.

“I reached my goals and definitely if I didn’t have (Howard-Hill) I wouldn’t have been anywhere close to as fast as I was,” Basher said.

At the same time, however, Basher does not recommend private coaching to every athlete.

“You have to be able to put in the work,” Basher said. “(Trainers) are going to give it 100 percent when they are training you, but you have to be able to give it back.”

Davidson shares Basher’s sentiment, saying that in his experience as a private coach, he has learned that private training is not for all athletes.

“Ten to 15 percent of the time people just can’t do (private training) - Whether they don’t have the commitment or they just aren’t skilled enough,” Davidson said. “You want to be honest with the parents because it is a big investment.”


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