A hot new middle school sports club, offered to local sixth, seventh and eighth graders, is a hit with the kids (and their parents) who want to stay active in a safe, organized way.

Formerly known as Strength and Speed, the activity, coached by Nick Samarco, is now more accurately called Sports Performance and Enhancement.
 Samarco, who has a long list of certificates in sports medicine, nutrition, fascial stretch therapy, and neural organization/motor skills, is well-qualified to coach the younger set, and remains on the cutting edge of physical education.

And an education it is.
While most of us might thing of strength or speed as the most important part of most sports, Samarco breaks it down to safety and proper mechanics, so the class is not sports-specific, but rather, focuses on the two most critical aspects of all sports. With the exception of long-distance running, most sports are what he refers to as “explosive.”

Explosive sports, such as soccer, baseball, tennis and football, naturally involve a lot of quick starting, stopping, and changing direction, which is when injuries are most likely to occur. Samarco takes it all the way down to the basics, and says that injury prevention is built in to all of his sessions. One of his mottoes is “a car is only as good as its brakes,” and thus teaching kids the proper mechanics of stopping is one of the most important aspects of injury prevention, as most non-contact injuries are a result of stopping and turning quickly.

Regularly drilling and practicing quick starts, stopping, jumping and landing create life-long injury prevention habits at a young age, which carry through to any sport an athlete chooses as they mature, other than the aforementioned long distance running, where the training is, literally, long distance running.

I had the opportunity to observe on of Samarco’s sessions, held twice weekly at Green Field, which is also the home of Coronado High School and Coronado Middle School (CMS) softball.
Samarco, who created his first youth program in 2015, is a stickler for proper form, and oversees and demonstrates each drill before the student athletes have their turn. It’s a bit dizzying to watch Samarco lead the kids through the course of cones, as he is especially quick on his feet. He breaks it down for the kids step by step, as getting each step right before moving on to the next is especially important.

The kids worked their way through a series of “cutting” drills—jump cuts, speed cuts, and spin cuts, plus quick stopping, starting and turning, and he doesn’t move on until each athlete has it down.

Weight distribution is key, and his primary focus is keeping the the legs and feet centered under the body, which sounds easy in theory, but requires considerable practice and drilling before it comes naturally. He reiterates that good habits begin at an early age, and once the kids learn and hone this valuable skill, they eventually utilize it naturally.

Though the kids work hard and take the drills seriously, it’s also a lot of fun for them, and they’re able to compete against each other in a fashion, running the drills in socially-distanced teams.

Seventh grader Grace Barbera said, “Sports Enhancement is so much fun! I really enjoy getting to work out with my friends. My coach always pushes me hard, and challenges us each day.”

CMS seventh grader Stanlely Guymon also offers a glowing review of the camp/class, saying, “It’s made me faster and improved my running skills. I can tell it’s helping me with my base running with CMS Fall Baseball team. Sports Enhancement has also helped with my confidence in sports. Coach Nick makes it fun but also challenges us to keep working hard and giving it our best effort with every drill.”

Samarco works with people of all ages outside of coaching, and has launched his own business, ARK Fitness, with the “ARK” translating to Always Ready Kinesthetics. He offers personal training, as well as fascial stretch therapy and injury recovery.

To learn more about the camp, visit www.islandersportsfoundation.com, and to learn more about Samarco’s services, visit www.arkfitness.net

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