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Jerron Tatum, left, and Jeff Johnson, right, train young athletes at Jackie Robinson Park. They use various types of bands, cords, cones, and other equipment to maximize a player’s quickness, agility, core stablilization, and balance. To train with Johnson, contact him at 310-243-0466. Photo by Jason Lewis Johnson Elite Sports takes professional, college, and youth athletes to the next level.By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
Becoming a great athlete is no longer about simply having great genetics. With specialized training many athletes who did not start out bigger, stronger, or faster than their opponents at an early age, are developing into greater athletes than individuals who do not put in the extra work to perfect their craft. Relying on head coaches of high schools or club teams may not be enough for a young athlete to get to the next level. Professional athletes use specialized training from personal coaches, and many youth athletes are taking that same route. The athletic training services of Jeff Johnson and Jerron Tatum, of Johnson Elite Sports, are becoming highly sought after by NFL and NBA players, as well as athletes from other sports. They also have worked with numerous UCLA and USC athletes. Johnson and Tatum worked closely with Boise State wide receiver Titus Young, who attended University High School, and USC wide receiver Ronald Johnson. Young was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, and Johnson in the sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers. Clients of Johnson and Tatum, such as NFL stars Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Bush, Plaxico Burris, and Dante Stallworth, have greatly benefited from their athletic training services, and many youth athletes are receiving similar types of instruction. Young started working with Johnson and Tatum as a sophomore in high school, and he came home every summer while at Boise State for training. High school football, basketball, and baseball players are receiving training from Johnson and Tatum, and they also train children as young as eight years old. These youth athletes are receiving nearly the same training as the pros. “We have the same coaching intensity and enthusiasm,” Johnson said. “The warm ups are all the same. The majority of the drills are all the same.”Training sessions are mostly geared towards making the players better physical athletes. “We’re developing quickness, agility, core stablilization, balance, and basic hand eye coordination,” Johnson said. “We work on their coordinating skills in motion. We try to simulate the game at practice as much possible. We do that by having functional drills.”A lot of the training can be applied to all sports, but Johnson and Tatum also offer specific training to the sport that the athlete plays. “It’s sports specific training, so even though all of the sports needs agility, they need accelerating and decelerating motions,” Johnson said. “But we still classify each workout by which athlete we’re training and for what sport.”Workouts for basketball players are usually performed on the basketball courts, while football training is normally on the football field. But at the core, athletes from every sport can benefit from similar types of training. “We take all of our players to the sands and to the hills,” Johnson said. “We use a lot of resistance training. We use this machine called the vertimax. We do a lot of plyometrics. We do a lot of functional training all the way around for each sport, but it is tailored to each sport.”For basketball, Johnson said that players need fast feet and flexibility.“With the fast feet, it will get them around their defender a lot quicker, it will get them to cut off of their defender quicker, and it will get them to promote faster and more illusive moves with quicker feet,” Johnson said. “But then you talk about flexibility, we’re talking about each step. Gaining a few inches on each step, which allows them to get from point A to B faster.”Both Johnson and Tatum have a strong background in football. Tatum played at Westchester and went on to earn a scholarship to Utah St. He went on to play in the Arena Football League, and then he served as the offensive coordinator at University High School. After playing for numerous years, and coaching since his athletic career ended, he can see the benefits from the smaller group training that he and Johnson offer. “We’ve had a lot of success from the smaller groups,” Tatum said. “The kids are able to learn from each other, but they are also able to get more individual attention from us than they would a coach.”Tatum also believes that with the smaller groups, the individual athlete can obtain skills at a faster rate than with his or her team. “We really focus on all the little small things,” Tatum said. “If you focus on the small things it will make it easier to obtain the bigger things. We really break it down to a science where we can really focus on all the minor details that a coach may not have time to work on.”Young athletes have seen fast results in a short period of time while working with Johnson and Tatum. “We’ve seen kids come in with no form or running technique become the fastest in their class,” Johnson said. “We have other kids who have been running track for a couple of years, but never qualified for nationals or Jr. Olympics, and we have two who qualified this year for the Jr. Olympics and the nationals.”Johnson has a strong background in several sports. He attended Westchester High School, and he graduated from Hamilton High School, where he played baseball and basketball. Out of high school Johnson was drafted to play baseball in the Seattle Mariners farm system, but three days in he tore his ACL. After coming back home he decided that he wanted to play football, which his mother never allowed him to play. After training with coach Charlie Collins, who also trained NFL stars Steve Smith and Chad Ochocinco, Johnson played football at West Los Angeles Community College. He had never run track, but he learned how to run with proper form from West Los Angeles track coach Milton Qualls. With the skills that Johnson obtained, he was able to earn a football scholarship from Arkansas St., where he played for two seasons. He later became a coach at Western Oregon University before coming back home to become an athletic trainer. Johnson and Tatum are making big names for themselves with professional and big time college athletes, but they are able to pass their knowledge on to young athletes with very reasonable pricing. “We’re both from the inner city,” Johnson said. “We learned skills at a later age that we wished we learned at an earlier age. At the Pop Warner age, or the AAU basketball age. When I played baseball they didn’t teach me the proper way of throwing the ball, or catching it. They just threw us out there and told us to hit and catch the ball.”Parents at a recent football training session at Jackie Robinson Park were extremely pleased with the results that their children were getting. The fathers hanging around the sidelines commented on how their sons were much quicker and stronger than before they started working out with Johnson and Tatum. The next step for Johnson and Tatum is to find investors and sponsorship. They want to obtain a training facility to enhance the training for their clients. Visit www.johnsonelitesports.com for training information.
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