Parents Report: How to Raise an Athlete

According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 20 million kids register each year for youth hockey, football, baseball, soccer and other competitive sports, but about 70% quit by age 13 and never play again.

The number one reason: “It stopped being fun,” according to Michael Pfahl, executive director of the National Youth Sports Coaches Association.

So, how does one help his or her child retrain the joy of something known to be so good for not only the body but for developing leadership skills and self-confidence, reducing stress and improving sleep and concentration, among other things.

Give them the tools and vocabulary to succeed, says Phil Dozois, founder and co-owner of Breakthru Fitness in Pasadena, which operates a youth sports training program called Parisi Speed School.

Started in 1992, Parisi Speed School has branched into roughly 85 franchises across the country, including the one owned by Dozois and his wife Michele, and claims it is “the fastest way to become a better athlete.”

A self-described “industry leader in performance enhancement,” Parisi Speed School promises to improve speed of movement and increase strength in character “regardless of ability or economic status.” They have more than 600,000 athletes and youth across the country enrolled in the program.

The Dozoises sought out the system online, having had both of their children drop out of sports.

“We wanted a unique component for children,” says Dozois, who brought the youth program into his already-existing health center, Breakthru Fitness, which opened in 2009.

The Parisi system of training starts with a performance evaluation to assess and group young athletes into the appropriate training program, accounting for different ages and abilities.

“We get the kids that are struggling in sports but want to be faster and we get the kids who are doing really well and want to take it to the next level,” says Dozois.

So, what advice does he have for the struggling kids?

“Before you let your children drop out of sports, make sure they know that there are a lot of things they can do to improve their game, things that don’t directly involve the sport itself.”

By “things” he’s referring to “strength, flexibility and speed.”

To succeed, kids “need both the skill of the sport and the knowledge of how to apply speed, strength and coordination to whatever sport they play.

“If they don’t know why they’re good at sports, it’s hard to continue when they have challenges.”

In other words, a child may simply need a sports mentor who can point out problems with his or her overall movement, like running on the heels instead of the balls of the feet, or who will say things like, “Watch that other guy pump his arms when he runs.”

“I don’t know that there’s an awareness about it. Not everyone believes speed can be taught. But I’ve seen it,” says Dozois.

He mentions how his son, who played soccer from ages 6 to 13, stopped playing when puberty hit and he “turned slow.”

“Who wants to be bad at something when everyone is watching?” Dozois empathizes. “Some kids are so naturally good. It’s hard to compete.

“At a younger age, if kids have the long-term goal of being an athlete, they need to feel self-confident in their sport to stay with it.

“They just need to learn this stuff.”

The next season, his own son became one of the fastest players on the team, if not the most skilled.

The Parisi Speed School in Pasadena has about 100 students, ages seven through 18, and designs programs based on members’ needs.

It’s located inside Breakthru Fitness, a full health center with a performance room with turf, which operates from 5 a.m. till 9 p.m.

“The adults love the turf,” says Dozois. “Former athletes that like to train like athletes come here and use body weights, kettlebells, ropes and TRX Suspension Trainers. We appeal to people who don’t just want to use machines like the bench press.”

Breakthru Fitness offers more than 120 classes, from body sculpting to indoor cycling and adult turf training. They also have an 8-week weight-loss program.

“We’re somewhere between the big gyms and the niche studios; we’re big but specialized.”

For more information, contact Breakthru Fitness at (626) 396-1700 or go to Or drop by the studio located at 345 South Lake Avenue, Suite 201, in Pasadena.




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