At Naples’ Athletic Republic Sports Performance Training, young football players fine-tune their footwork, quickly weaving through short-speed hurdles on the 25 yards of turf, while baseball players run on treadmills, working to improve their speed before their next game. Trainers encourage the kids with commands, keeping cadence with the sound of feet rapidly tapping on the plyometric floor. This is a Youth Ignition training session, part of a program geared for 7- to 11-year-old athletes to develop correct form and motor skills, so they can excel in their specific sport.
Upon joining the program, kids participate in a series of tests and assessments to measure baseline skills, evaluate performance and develop individual goals. Trainers follow programs based on the child’s specific sport—whether that’s working on multilateral movement for a hockey player or helping a sprinter increase their speed and agility. While they grow into their sports and learn how their bodies move and function, kids remain engaged through games like sled relay races and plank competitions. “We always try to tie the game into what we’re teaching,” owner Carolyn Homberger says.
The fun often simulates what kids experience on the field. During hurdle drills, coaches might toss a football to a group of prospective wide receivers. The group also brings in athletic speakers and hosts discussions to help parents and kids navigate topics like athletic burnout.
Class ratios are kept small with no more than seven kids to one instructor, so trainers can offer undivided attention. All of the coaches have bachelor’s degrees in sports and fitness training, and many have other health specializations, as well as being athletes themselves. “We really go out of our way to make sure our trainers bring experience the kids can relate to,” Carolyn says.
Progress is tracked through an app that outlines individual accomplishments. Often, skills and perks carry over to life off the field. Carolyn recognizes that with training, as with many things, showing up is half the battle. Reports help keep the kids motivated and accountable, “Because that’s often the fight,” she says. “If you don’t come, well, then you don’t get the results, right?”
Bringing Their A-Game
Here are five more training programs to fuel your budding champion’s success.
Skip the stress of having to drive your kiddos from one activity to the next. Certified USA gymnastics instructor Sierra Beaver brings gymnastics, tumbling and dance acro (a fusion of dance and acrobatics) directly to your home, teaching kids as young as 2 with Gypsy Gymnastics.
LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Club of Estero
With 12 years as a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) pro under her visor and a Best Young Teachers in America nod from Golf Digest, Katie Dahl advocates for girls to get into the male-dominated sport. She teaches ages 6 to 17, weaving personal development with technical skills at LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Club of Estero.
Naples United FC Youth Development Program
Naples’ semi-pro soccer team, United FC, has an elite youth program, led by former pro player Enoch Showunmi. The program employs the same coaches and principles as the pro team, teaching kids the techniques and mindset needed for high-performance play.
My Pickleball League Youth Program
Addam Shand applies his 38 years of experience coaching kids to the fast-growing sport of pickleball. Clinics for My Pickleball League Youth Program, held at nine locations across Naples and Estero, teach the fundamentals of dinks and drives, as well as scoring and tournament play.
Kirby’s School of Wake
Pro wakeboarder Kirby Liesmann leads these adrenaline-fueled lessons, where kids hop on Ronix boards and strap on BbTALKIN Bluetooth helmets to safely learn handle pass spins and flips.