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The Speed Science

National Fitness SAQ building the better athlete through biomechanics

Many area athletes are turning to speed, agility and quickness training from National Fitness Center instructor Chris Shepherd to improve their performance. Video by Brian Michaux and Josh Dudley

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

The play was beautifully run. The finish was playground cool.

William Blount sophomore Lindsey Roddy goes over a workout with National Fitness Center instructor Chris Shepherd. Photos by Katherine Fernandez

Lindsey Roddy’s alley-oop lay in of an Amber Click crosscourt lob in a Jan. 11 game at Heritage was easily one of last season’s more memorable plays.

Roddy caught and laid the ball in at the height of her jump, a head-turning, athletic display in its own right. The 5-foot-8 William Blount sophomore really got up. Way up.

Just wait, National Fitness Center instructor Chris Shepherd said. Roddy has only scratched the surface.

“He said if I work on my vertical max, I’d be able to dunk it by my senior year,” Roddy said.

He was not exaggerating, Shepherd said.

“She can grab the net already,” he said. “I’ve had guys from the Maryville High School basketball team increase their vertical max by two inches in two weeks.

Roddy works through a resistance drill.

“She (Roddy) has three more years, and she’s given up on softball to concentrate on basketball. If you correlate that over the next three years, she could easily get another 10 inches on her vertical max.”

Shepherd runs National Fitness Center’s Speed, Agility, Quickness program at the company’s Maryville facility. Based on core strength development and proper biomechanics, SAQ is designed to maximize each athlete’s individual potential, he said.

Shepherd grew up and played high school football in Texas, doubling as a 100- and 200-meter sprinter for his school’s track team. He earned a scholarship to Southwest Minnesota State University and enrolled in its pre-med program. In an exercise science class, Shepherd said he was introduced to biomechanics and was immediately hooked.

SAQ has long been a favored training regimen for professional athletes. What it can do for the younger, developing athlete, if properly scaled, is no less beneficial, Shepherd said.

“You have to target the age difference in a unique way,” he said.

Maryville defensive back John David Mitchell works on driving with his upper body.

At a recent class, Shepherd worked with athletes across a broad spectrum, from the budding basketball prodigy Roddy, to Maryville High defensive back John David Mitchell, to elementary-aged athletes Cody Hard and Cody McKee.

Each age group requires a different approach, Shepherd said.

Roddy emerged a player to watch after a breakout freshman season a year ago. An accomplished athlete naturally, she said she turned to SAQ to take her game to the next level.

“It improves areas of your game you didn’t think you needed to work on,” she said. “It makes you quicker if you change simple things.”

Hard said he began noticing changes within a month of beginning the program. The drills and exercises were tough at first.

“I didn’t like it a lot the first time I tried it,” he said.

Sticking with it, Hard said he soon began to see results.

Cody Hard works on his vertical leap.

“It helps you get faster,” he said.

Nick Hard, Cody’s father and former Multi-sport standout at William Blount, is National Fitness member and works out there regularly. He monitored one of Shepherd’s classes before enrolling Cody. He couldn’t be happier with the results, he said.

“I love what Chris is doing,” Nick Hard said. “I can see the difference just in the way he (Cody) runs.”

A lot of it has to do with Shepherd playing the role of teacher more so than instructor, McKee said.

“He’s really good at it,” McKee, a Middlesettlements third-grader said. “He expects you to do it right.”

The Rebels are one of the state’s most storied football programs, with one of the best the coaching staff, including strength coach Brandon Waters, to match.

“I love coach Waters,” Mitchell said. “He’s doing a great job. I just wanted something extra.”

Mitchell began working with Shepherd shortly after spring practice in May. He wasn’t looking for Shepherd to help him earn a scholarship to a Division I program, he said.

“I’m trying to be the best for my team,” Mitchell said. “I was looking for a lot more speed stuff. He (Shepherd) worked me out real hard. For a skill position player, he’s the best you can get in this area.”

Cautioning parents on what to expect from his program, and athletics in general, is a big part of the equation, Shepherd said.

“Parents always want their kid to be the next rising star,” he said. “Let the kid make that determination himself or herself. What does the kid want to do with athletics?”

Cody McKee, left, and Cody Hard are put through their paces.

Roddy already possesses much of the basketball acumen and athleticism that attracts college coaches. While the ability to dunk or even grab the rim three years from now would be impressive, it’s not the thing that will ultimately determine how far she goes in the sport.

“Lindsey Roddy is an unbelievable natural athlete,” Shepherd said. “She’s driven to get better.”

That, he said, is what SAQ seeks to promote with every athlete under his charge.

“To see their results really gives me goose bumps,” Shepherd said.

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