Training sessions at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex feature NFL down to youth athletes.
By Jason Lewis
The high school football season wrapped up about a month ago, and this is when athletic trainers Jeff Johnson and JerRon “Speedy” Tatum go to work.
The duo are co-owners of Elite Athletes, which provides high-performance training to athletes who are looking to dominate on the football field. The bulk of their clients are high school and youth football players, but they also train NFL and college athletes.
The type of training that Johnson and Tatum provide is vital because high school and youth coaches only have limited practice time during the week and on weekends. Elite Athletes fill in the gaps by providing specialized speed and skill training that is highly sought after by professionals down to youth level athletes.
On the professional level, their client list includes Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Brown, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Reggie Bush, Plaxico Burress, Julius Thomas, Shareece Wright, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Donte Stallworth.
They have also helped a number of local high school athletes obtain college scholarships around the nation. For the younger athletes, they are getting the same type of training that the professionals receive.
“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.”
Both Johnson and Tatum have a strong background in football.
Tatum played at Westchester High School and went on to earn a scholarship to Utah State. He went on to play in the Arena Football League, and then he served as the offensive coordinator at University High School.
Johnson was a star baseball player at Westchester, and he was drafted into the minor leagues right out of high school. He decided to play football, which led him to Arkansas State.
After playing for numerous years, and coaching since his athletic career ended, Tatum 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,” he 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 team.
“We really focus on all the little small things,” he 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.”
The young athletes greatly benefit from the clients that Johnson and Tatum attract. At some training sessions, high school players are in the same training session as NFL athletes.
“We are visual learners, so being able to watch a professional guy, or being able to be coached up by Jeff or I, or being able to be coached up by the professional guys, I think it’s definitely beneficial,” Tatum said. “Also, the college guys are peers, so they are able to coach each other.”
Johnson and Tatum have held their training sessions at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex for years, and they also get off the field to give their athletes a change of pace.
“We take all of our players to the sand at the beach 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.”
Johnson and Tatum have some young athletes show up with no experience, and then go on to be stars in their sports.
“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. After training with us, two of them qualified for the Jr. Olympics.”
Johnson and Tatum take great pride in working with children from areas where they grew up in.
“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.”
During the football offseason, Elite Athletes has 7-on-7 football teams, and they have taken groups of kids to football camps around the nation so that scouts in other regions can evaluate them.
Call Johnson at (323) 243-0466 for more information about Elite Athletes, and find them on Instagram.