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Sprint trainer Jon Gilmer (right) helps a track athlete with his drive phase out of the starting blocks. Photo by Jason Lewis
The Academy of Speed makes an athlete faster by teaching proper technique, and they also strengthen the athlete’s core to generate more power, which translates into more speed. Photo by Jason Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
It goes without saying that being fast is a key attribute to any sport. Getting from point A to point B as fast as possible can be the difference between being a good athlete and a great athlete. And in many sports, it does not stop at point B, as athletes need to then get to points C and D.
There are other attributes that make up a great athlete, and some athletes have figured out how to get by without great speed. But looking at the top athletes in any given sport, most of them have it, and Jon Gilmer, a speed coach at the Academy of Speed, places great importance on it.
“Speed is the determining factor in all sports,” Gilmer said. “Somebody who is fast who goes out for baseball but can’t swing a bat, they’re going to get a shot. If they’re testing for the 60 yards and some kid comes out there and runs a 6.5, he’s going to get on the team. Some coach is going to teach him how to play. Why? Because he’s fast. That’s with any sport.”
Gilmer does not believe in running an athlete to the brink of exhaustion to make him or her faster. He looks at it from more of a scientific viewpoint. Everybody knows how to run, but running properly will allow an athlete to run faster.
“If your feet are on the ground we’ll do what we can to move you more efficiently and faster,” Gilmer said. “We believe that sprinting is a skill that can be taught. We teach how to move the body faster through biomechanics.”
There are athletes that are naturally fast, and Gilmer says that by learning how to run properly that athlete will become even faster. And he also says that athletes who do not have good speed, they will also get faster with the proper techniques.
Gilmer was a star sprinter at LSU, where he ran a career best 10.21 in the 100 meter dash. He has experience running extremely fast in a straight line, but he sees how speed crosses over to all “land based” sports. A sport like basketball uses different speed than track and field, but Gilmer believes that speed is just as important in basketball as it is in track.
“You have to be able to jump fast and move fast and react fast (in basketball),” Gilmer said. “Sprinting within itself will help you with that. But along with that we (Academy of Speed) do a lot of proper plyometric training. Being able to jump higher and faster, and be able to react faster. Also working on hand speed, because I believe you live and die with how fast your hands can move along with how fast your feet can move. So we jump a lot because you cannot jump slow, you cannot float. There is a direct correlation between being able to jump and being able to sprint.”
Gilmer pointed out that while at LSU, some of the fastest guys on the team when it came to top end speed were the jumpers.
Most sports are games of inches, or split seconds, which is why it is important to get as much speed as possible, and it is not as simple as running harder or pushing yourself more. Obtaining the proper instructions from a qualified speed coach is of great importance, and it could be the difference between an athlete becoming a standout performer or not.
“We teach proper force application to the ground,” Gilmer said. “Teaching the athlete how to apply force to the ground through proper biomechanics allows the body and the hips to move forward faster. This is something that generally does not come naturally.”
The Academy of Speed, which is located in Rancho Cucamonga, trains some of the top high school track athletes in the nation at their 37,000 square foot facility, which is the largest of its kind in California. The indoor facility has a 150-meter track that includes a 60-meter straight away. They also train professional athletes, such as Mickey Grimes, who has run the 100-meter dash in the 9.9-second range.
Along with track athletes, Gilmer and his partner Richard Holmes at the Academy of Speed trains numerous athletes in football, soccer, basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Their athletes are some of the best in the nation.
According to Gilmer, any athlete can benefit from a qualified speed coach.
“If you’re fast, you can be made you faster,” Gilmer said. “If you’re slow, you can be made faster.”
For more information about the Academy of Speed, visit their website at www.academyofspeed.org or contact them at (855-267-7733)
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