Andrew “AJ” Jackson spots Palisades running back Malcolm Creer, who is headed to Colorado on a football scholarship, on the bench press. Photo by Jason Lewis
Jackson instructs an athlete on the proper form of the exercise. Photo by Jason Lewis
AthruZ Sports Training and Fitness strength and conditioning coach Andrew “AJ” Jackson helps high school athletes become part of the six percent who receive college scholarships.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
The band around Andrew “AJ” Jackson’s wrist says “Passio Bellator,” which is Latin for “passionate warrior” or the “suffering warrior.”
Jackson explains that it means that people see the finished product of an athlete on game day, but they do not see the hard work that the athlete puts in to prepare for the game. People will tend to think that a great athlete naturally obtained greater abilities than his teammates and opponents, but for many young athletes they developed those superior abilities through proper training and a sound nutrition program.
There are roughly 316,000 high school athletes in the United States. Only about 15,500 of them will receive a college scholarship, which is about six percent. With the high amount of athletes participating in sports and the low amount of scholarships available, becoming a superior high school athlete by training hard is crucial to becoming one of the six percent.
“If you’re not training then you’re going to get passed up,” Jackson said.
Jackson has the credentials to improve an athlete’s strength and speed. He is a certified trainer with a gym on Crenshaw, just south of Coliseum. He was a star running back and defensive back at Manual Arts High School in 1982, and he went on to play football at USC before transferring to Iowa St. He played in the NFL for the Houston Oilers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jackson started his career as a personal trainer as a side job. Along with training athletes, he also built their sports résumé. He would put the athlete through tests specific to his or her sport and then he would make a report which would be sent to college scouts.
While at USC Jackson saw that there were many athletes that he grew up with that could have competed on that level, so he thought that if he was ever in a position to help others get to where he was, he would.
“I played at every level of football that high school kids would ever dream to play at,” Jackson said. “So I started to study, and with all the things that I learned from every level, I put it together and got my strength and conditioning certificate, and the Lord blessed me with a lot of athletes that are talents, and I helped them reach their potential.”
Jackson trains athletes from many different sports. Washington Prep’s girl’s basketball team, which featured Reshanda Gray, who is heading to Berkeley on a basketball scholarship, trained at Jackson’s gym.
Oregon running back Kenyan Barner, who was a key member to their high-powered offense that went to the BCS National Championship game, was trained by Jackson while he was in high school.
Other football players trained by Jackson are Fresno St. linebacker Kyle Knox (St. Bernard HS), Nebraska cornerback Dijon Washington (Leuzinger HS), Washington linebacker Victor Burnett (Culver City HS), and West Virginia running back Mark Rogers (Leuzinger HS).
Currently Jackson is training running back Malcolm Creer. The Palisades running back started working out with Jackson leading into his senior season. Creer was a 185 pound back who rushed for 600 yards as a junior, but as a senior he bulked up to 200 pounds with the help of Jackson, and he doubled his rushing totals his senior season while averaging 10 yards per carry.
Creer, who is heading to Colorado to play football, is now at 210 pounds.
Jackson is also training track and soccer athletes, as well as a rugby athlete who attends View Park High School.
Jackson has the strength and conditioning game figured out. Most young athletes want to get in the gym and work on their upper body, the glamour muscles. But Jackson concentrates on the lower body more.
“When you’re playing football you can’t bench press anybody,” Jackson said. “Now if you’re an offensive lineman you have to pass block so you have to have punch. But the power comes from your glutes, your hamstrings and your quads. I like to start off with the lower body, the building blocks. Build from the bottom up, you’ll have that lower body explosion and power. I’m not saying that you have to exclude the upper body, but you have to do a full workout. You have to hit all muscles.”
Athletes who train with Jackson tend to get better results than they get with their high school team. That is because he gives each athlete a workout plan that is tailored to their needs, and he works with them to make sure they are doing the workout program properly.
Jackson says that a major problem at a lot of high schools is that a coach hands the athletes the same workout and leaves it on them to do it. One reason is that one coach cannot monitor 30+ athletes in the weight room. Many of the athletes will not be corrected on improper form, and without a coach giving them attention they may not see results from the training, which in many cases leads to the athlete quitting the workout program, or not working hard at it.
Jackson does not only focus on weight training, he also trains athletes for speed, and speed endurance.
Speed is important for any sport, and Jackson teaches the proper form for sprints, such as the 40-yard dash. But being able to run fast on a single run is not very helpful. Jackson says that being able to consistently run at the same speed, over multiple runs, will take an athlete much further.
Many athletes get tired and they lose their form, so Jackson teaches them how to keep that form even when they are tired, making them a better athlete as the game goes on.
Jackson has been working with athletes on Saturday mornings at Locke High School to improve their speed mechanics. All athletes are welcome to attend the sessions, which are only $10 per week.
Proper training is important, but Jackson also believes in the right nutrition program for his athletes. High school coaches do not promote proper nutrition often, which Jackson believes is half of a sound program.
“Strength and conditioning workouts are great, but nutrition is 50 percent of it,” Jackson said. “If you don’t have a consistent diet, you’re not going to gain any muscle. Nutrition is very important, and a kid should never be hungry as an athlete. You need to eat six times a day, and maintain anywhere from 2,500 to 3,500 calories a day to get to that next level.”
As much as becoming a superior athlete is important, Jackson points out that there is one thing that is not negotiable when it comes to obtaining a college scholarship. That is grades.
College scouts will consider players who may not be strong in certain areas, as long as they are strong in others. But if an athlete does not have the grades, he or she will not even be considered.
Jackson assists the athletes that he trains with finding tutors in various subjects so that they will be academically eligible to receive an athletic scholarship.
Jackson points to Creer as the model athlete.
“A model student athletes is someone that has his or her priorities straight,” Jackson said. “When it’s time to go lift weights, he’s on time and he’s coachable. If you have homework, you make sure all that is done before you hang out with your buddies. They do everything that they’re supposed to do.”
Jackson has partnerships with B2G Sports (football clinics), and the National Football Academies.
For more information about AthruZ Sports Training and Fitness contact Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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