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June 28, 2018

by John N. Harvey III

Every athlete searches for an edge on their opposition. Culpeper Sport & Fitness Club is giving high school athletes that opportunity with its summer strength and conditioning program.

The program, led by exercise specialist Marcus Haywood, allows athletes an opportunity to train locally and improve their strength, skills and agility.

“This is supposed to be a strength and conditioning class to help promote stability, balance and range-of-motion for the young athletes who don’t quite get the concept of that,” Haywood said. “It then allows them to build the strength and stability on top of that.”

A former All-American safety at James Madison University, Haywood has spent nearly a decade learning the importance of training the entire body. He learned from current University of Charlotte strength and conditioning Coach Jim Durning and current Virginia Tech strength coach Greg Werner

“Your range of motion, your stability, and your balance has a huge play in the field of sports, football, basketball, tennis, soccer and lacrosse.,” Haywood said. “You have to be able to move and have the range of motion and flexibility before you can build off that and if you don’t, you just risk injury that much more.”

In college, he spent three months shadowing current University of Charlotte strength and conditioning Coach Jim Durning and current Virginia Tech strength coach Greg Werner to learn different approaches to training from both sides of sports.

“It was a different perspective,” Haywood said. “It was good to get a view from both sides and try to put them both together.”

That prompted him to pursue a career in athletic training. After college he had a short stint in Charlottesville before he joined the Powell Wellness Center in 2010. Since then, he’s worked with many athletes in the region helping prepare them for the next level.

“I love athletics,” Haywood said. “My biggest thing is I want to show these young athletes exactly what you need to do to get where you want to go.”

Haywood has been in these athletes shoes. As a high school freshman in Williamsburg, he was projected to be the next big thing to come through his small school. But it took a confrontation with former Virginia Tech quarterback Bryan Randall during a weight lifting session to cause him to think twice.

“When I was young, I just thought I could do whatever I wanted and just be as good as I wanted,” Haywood said. “It took a wake-up call. It took somebody at that level telling me that I’m not doing it right and I need to change because I want to be like him so I’m going to do exactly what he said. That kind of turned it around.”

He started working out with a personal trainer the summer after his sophomore year and he said that opened his eyes to where he needed to be from where he thought he was already.

The program, which is open to athletes ages 13 to 18, incorporates everything he has learned as an athlete and as a personal trainer.

The session begins with foam rolling which is a self-Myofascial release, where you apply body weight pressure to certain muscle groups to help loosen them. That is followed by a series of stretching exercises that improve stability, range-of-motion, hips, knees, ankles, shoulders and back muscles. The session then wraps up with work on strength and core exercises.

Each session is dedicated to different areas. One day the focus on upper-body work outs and they will come back later in the week and focus on lower-body areas, including power and speed training and footwork.

Culpeper Sports & Fitness Club manager Preston Will said he’s seen similar programs like this one produce great results state-wide. He noted that former Seattle Seahawks safety Cam Chancellor opened a similar program in the Virginia Beach area and it’s really taken off. That prompted him to want to bring something like it to Culpeper.

“Currently, there’s no sports performance here,” Will said. “I saw the stuff that (Chancellor) is doing and said, ‘We’ve got to offer our kids here the same kind of thing’. Our parents and our kids need to realize that training is constant. We’ve got to work and tons of effort has to be put in (to training).”.

The early response has been positive. Eastern View’s boys tennis team and the girls varsity basketball team have been regular participants this summer in the program. The Cyclones football and lacrosse teams have also taken part.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Haywood said. “ When they built this facility, that’s what I saw. A way to reach young kids, a way to reach teams and coaches to kind of show them there’s a certain way to (train) to progress and to succeed. Not being sedentary, they need to educate themselves on who they are.”

Haywood said this program is good for all high school athletes. He said they’ve had success with several teams and can modify programs to fit an athlete’s need for a specific sport. The ultimate goal is to see athletes in Culpeper, Madison and Orange counties succeed and continue to grow.

“That I’m hoping is that even once sports get in season, it’s got to be offseason for some sports, so those kids realize it’s not time for me to take time off,” Haywood said. “If you’re not playing another sport then you need to be actively working at your craft, trying to perfect your craft.”