Parisi Speed School
by Tom McCullum
The Parisi Speed School has been training amateur and professional athletes in northern New Jersey for the last decade.
The school opened in 2000 in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and added a second location in Morris Plains in 2005. Upon entering the Fair Lawn location, you will be amazed by its enormous interior. It has 15,000 square feet of offices and work-out space. There is a 65-yard long track, which is six lanes wide, and a replica football field forty yards long and twenty-five yards wide covered in field turf. There are also a full weight room and cardio-vascular area, open to the public by membership.
Steve Leo is the director of this facility. He oversees staff and is in charge of programming and running day-to-day operations. A personal trainer, he has a college degree in Exercise Science. He also has degrees from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Steve Leo: Training the Trainers
Trainers at Parisi have similar qualifications. "It varies a little bit", Leo said. Some of them have a coaching background as well. They might have coached in high school and college."
Work-out programs are customized according to the athlete and the sport they play. "We focus on speed training, linear movements, ability to run to first base, steal a base, score from second, and we work on acceleration techniques," he added on training baseball players. "Depending on whether a player is an infielder or an outfielder, the program would be tailored even further. If we are training an infielder, we will focus on short bursts, side-to-side quickness. If it’s an outfielder, we look at opening their hips up and running backwards for fly balls," he said. "For baseball players we concentrate on the upper body, bench presses and pull-ups, but we modify it a little bit so we protect the shoulders. We do a lot more rotator-cuff work and rotational work, getting their hips and core a lot stronger, so they can generate torque to throw and hit," he went on. "We have a lot of kids that come in here wanting to throw harder. It comes down to getting their legs and core stronger so they can generate that force down low to help their arm speed, make the arm like a coil."
The trainers try to work in conjunction with the players’ throwing programs. "The biggest challenge of my job is designing programs that they can execute while playing baseball," Leo explained.
He points out that trainers consult with coaches when putting together a training program for athletes. "It depends what they are looking for. We customize the program to meet the player’s objectives."
Parisi also focuses on the nutritional aspect of training. "Sometimes we’ll spend an entire one-hour session talking about nutrition." Depending on the time element, a trainer will sometimes follow a guideline nutritional plan for an athlete. Parisi has registered dieticians they can consult when they’re putting together a program for an athlete with a health issue, such as diabetes. The trainers have been schooled in nutrition but are not themselves registered dieticians. "A lot more kids are on medications than ever before. We pre-screen everyone who comes in and check their medical history," Leo said. "There have been times when something was a big concern, and we’ve told kids, "You’re not ready for this yet."
The school has trained baseball players who have been, or still are in the minor leagues. Leo has personally worked with Ron Villone, a left-handed pitcher currently on a rehab assignment in Syracuse, New York. He has worked with Eric Duncan, whose poster hangs on the wall at the Fair Lawn school. Current minor leaguers include Ryan Crespy, who plays for the New Jersey Skyhawks in Sparta. Another New Jersey product is Corey Hammond, who played for the Detroit Tigers organization at the triple A level.
Parisi gets professional athletes to train at the facility in the off-season. "The most common thing that happens is that the players are here sometimes, and they begin talking to kids randomly," Leo said. He has worked personally with Chase Blackburn, a linebacker who plays for the New York Giants. Recently, Ray Rice, a former Rutgers University running back and current Baltimore Raven, trained at the school during their winter combine. "It’s pretty cool for young kids to be working out next to a professional athlete," Leo added.
Parisi is very active with local educational facilities. "We work with a lot of high schools in Bergen, Passaic and Morris counties. We train a lot of teams-- football, soccer, lacrosse and baseball. As far as colleges, we get interns from the local schools as well as recruit athletes to train here."
The greatest reward for Leo is the positive feedback from the parents of his students. "The most frequent thing parents tell me is how the trainer has made a connection with their child and greatly boosted their self-esteem," he said. "We’re unique in the sense that this is not a sports team, we’re not worried about playing time or who’s going to start. It’s probably one of the few things in their lives that the kids get that’s just for them," Leo concluded.