THE STRUGGLE IS REAL: Absence of Adequate Training Leads to Injuries
My mom likes to joke that I was born on a tennis court. I was the ripe age of 5 days old when I attended my first match and by age 6, I was pounding balls against the garage and begging to be on the court. Age 10 found with me with a dedicated coach, steadily improving with eyes set on big dreams and my body experiencing even bigger growth spurts. I’m 6’1, so you can imagine I didn’t look like your average kid in fifth grade. I couldn’t keep up with the speed at which I was developing, I was uncoordinated and generally feeling a bit out of control. I was aware of my tennis abilities, but my body didn’t seem to want to cooperate with what I wanted and needed it to do on the court. Alongside my rapid development, I was battling injuries. I had to find a way to work on my athleticism while going to physical therapy. My parents searched high and low to find a solution and when a trusted family friend recommended The Sports Armory, we went to check it out.
“We couldn’t continue at the pace Madison was playing tennis without having to constantly deal with injuries, which were major setbacks. We knew something had to change.” – Mark Westby
THE CURE: sports performance training
“Take off your shoes,” said Coach Pace. Wasn’t this a training session, I thought? Wouldn’t I need shoes? From day 1, I had to learn to trust Coach Pace knew exactly what he was doing and the why behind everything he was asking me to do. He paid attention to every detail of what was happening with my growth, why I was experiencing injuries and how I needed to adapt to meet the physical demands of my sport while participating in physical therapy. He didn’t want to just help me heal, he wanted to prevent any injuries from ever happening in the first place. I was getting stronger, despite an injury, and experiencing less frustration on the court. Why the bare feet? I wasn’t stable enough on my feet from my growth spurt, which was causing joint pain and eventually spurred a knee injury. Being barefoot allowed me to focus on my stability, which eventually led to less pounding on my knees and injury-free tennis.
“Child and adolescent development is complex. It must be understood the body is experiencing rapid growth and requires patience during the pursuit of skill acquisition. If athletes are presented with a training system that focuses on the rehearsal of skills, they are better equipped to progress and compete. This is the reasoning behind the Sports Armory’s methodically developed system.” – Coach Pace
THE EXTRA MILE: not your average strength & conditioning coach
I think I was the first major tennis athlete to walk thru the doors of The Sports Armory. That meant I was different than other athletes and education was necessary. The trainers searched and read and watched every single thing they could get their hands on when it came to the world of tennis. Coach Pace even came to my tennis drills to see what skills I needed on the court and how he could program my training at The Sports Armory to complement each specific tennis skill. The trainers were always going the extra mile to stretch me out, warm me up and pay attention to my body. To say I loved coming to my sessions at the Sports Armory is an understatement. It was a welcome mental escape from the tennis world. I was working out with all different kinds of athletes – from soccer to baseball to volleyball and basketball. I was the tennis kid, but at The Sports Armory, we were all just athletes and that felt amazing. We were all working hard, but it was fun work. It was challenging and yet we were always laughing. The trainers have a keen ability to push you in a positive way. I was inspired by the athletes competing all around me and that transformed my own sports performance. I never left without a smile on my face and my feet prepared to conquer on the court.
“What sets the Sports Armory apart is the trainers. They leave no stone unturned when it comes to the research and work necessary to make athletes better. They don’t settle for ordinary. They constantly strive for excellence in themselves and their knowledge of adolescent development and youth sports training is incomparable. It’s not a job for them. It’s a way of life.” – Leslie Westby
THE WINS: developing champions on and off the court
Every Sports Armory athlete has a nickname given to them by their coach. To this day I am Mad Dog Westby. Coach Pace makes everything personal for his athletes. He not only shows up for your training sessions, he shows up at your matches. He invests 100% into his kids and instills this into every single trainer he hires. I not only wanted to achieve at a high level for myself and my parents, I wanted to make Coach Pace proud because I knew how much he cared and how much of his time he dedicated to help me compete at a high level. Every single one of my accomplishments was a marker of success and he celebrated those with me as he does with all of his athletes today. Every trophy, every state championship meant Pace wanted a photo of me showing off my win. It’s easy to work hard for coaches that care so much-they are extension of your family.
“I felt equipped to compete and wanted to succeed, but there was no pressure to perform like there is on the tennis court. I think a lot of athletes can relate to that, which is why they love the atmosphere at The Sports Armory.” – Mad Dog Westby
THE WORK: quickness, strength, stability, endurance, flexibility, agility + power
What’s unique about tennis is you’re constantly reaching. This equates to a lot of band work, a lot of reps with lighter weight to encourage long, lean muscles. Maintaining shoulder strength, agility, flexibility and especially endurance are key components. Tennis requires you to be in shape, but it’s a different kind of shape we refer to as tennis shape. When you play tennis, you’re constantly turning and hitting at the same time, so Coach Pace had me work on a lot of fast twitch movements. You also have to be able to react quickly, so I participated in a lot of explosive movement exercises. The trainers at The Sports Armory help you overcome your shortcomings so you can progress without limits. I stayed the course and trained with The Sports Armory from age 11-21 and that commitment made all the difference in my tennis performance.
“Madison was getting injured less and our tennis sessions were a lot more productive. I could see her training at The Sports Armory was elevating her performance on the court.” – Doug Boswell (Tennis Coach)
THE RESULTS: commitment is the glue that bonds you to your goals
I can unequivocally say that without my training commitment at The Sports Armory, I wouldn’t have competed at the level I accomplished in tennis. I went on to win four state championships during my high school years, ranked #1 in the Missouri-Valley conference, was rewarded a full scholarship to USC (who has the #1 tennis team in the country), named PAC-12 Freshman player of the year (2015), won the PAC-12 college championship (2015) and played pro for a short period following my college career.
Why did I stay committed to my training at The Sports Armory? The answer is simple. The Sports Armory equipped me with athleticism for life. I was able to compete in tennis at a level I would have not otherwise achieved on my own with just tennis drills/practice. It complemented my tennis training by making me stronger physically and mentally, it positively distracted me from the pressures I faced on the court and encouraged me to dig deep. I avoided injuries, I learned what my body was capable of and that serves me well even today. My training off the court kept my passion for tennis alive on the court. And to think it all began with two bare feet.
“The training sessions at The Sports Armory were the best investment we could have made during Madison’s adolescent years. It was a trusted space where we knew Madison was getting taken care of off the court. She looked forward to her group sessions and ultimately it was the component that took her tennis skills to the next level.” – Mark Westby
Do you want your athlete to experience less injuries and compete at a higher level? Sign up for your first session here and it’s FREE! Our coaches will sit down with you and your athlete to talk about your goals and a path to achieve success. We specialize in arming your athlete with the necessary skills to perform at their best. Whether you’re 6 or 16, there’s a place for you at The Sports Armory. Want to read about more Sports Armory athletes? Visit our blog to check out the stories of other athletes that have trained with us.
FOUNDER AND MASTER ATHLETIC SPECIALIST
Coach Pace has been working as an active strength and conditioning specialist since 1998 and has been certified with National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) since 2002. He also serves as a member of the NSCA Oklahoma Advisory Board and holds certifications as a sports nutritionist through the International Sports Science Association, certified C360 master trainer, and a certified USA Weightlifting Level 1Sports Performance Coach.