About 100 athletes from Atlantic County and the surrounding areas have gone through Ryan Ojeda’s Sports Performance program since his center opened in the Smithville section of Galloway Township almost two years ago.
Names like Oakland Raiders defensive end Jack Crawford, future Notre Dame football player Rashad Kinlaw, and 2011 Stanley Cup champion Dennis Seidenberg have all found themselves within the confines of the Ojeda Sports Performance training facility at 219 South New York Road.
Ojeda’s outreach now stretches to the state of Louisiana, and not just for one person. Ojeda has interacted with an entire staff at one of the NCAA’s elite college football programs.
Ojeda gave a two-day presentation to Louisiana State University’s (LSU) Strength and Conditioning staff on Monday, Dec. 3 and Tuesday, Dec. 4.
The Head Strength Coach at LSU is Tom Moffitt, the 2011 Strength Performance College Coach’s Choice Award winner who played integral roles in the resurgence of the University of Miami football program in the late 1990’s, the Miami baseball team’s 1999 national championship and the University of Tennessee’s 1998 football national title.
In his 12 years at LSU, Moffitt has played a role in helping the Tigers to the BCS titles in 2003 and 2007, and an appearance in the 2011 BCS title game.
“They were thinking they needed something fresh,” Ojeda said, adding he wasn’t the only sports performance expert they asked to come speak to the staff.
Ojeda met Moffitt two years ago when Ojeda’s friend was an assistant strength coach at LSU. He helped the staff with speed training.
“I told him to give me a cal if he ever needed anything in the future,” Ojeda said.
This year, LSU needed some help with efficiency training. Recent NCAA legislation has cut the number of strength coaches permitted from a staff to five from eight previously. Additionally, NCAA rules limit the amount of time a student athlete can spend working on their chosen sport.
“There’s still the same amount of athletes, but now there’s less coaches,” Ojeda said. “So they have less time, less reps with each one. Less reps to teach, see what they’re doing right and see what they need to work on.”
Ojeda, who began his career with the Parisi Speed School in 2005, received a phone call from Moffitt and was on his way to the Bayou.
Ojeda’s other credentials include Co-Director of the NFL Combine Training Program, the Director of the Parisi Speed School in Oceanside and the Director of Training for Tilton Fitness.
“My system helps make sure the players are faster, more explosive, make sure they’re able to come to a stop and that they remain injury free,” Ojeda said. “It’s not the be-all end-all. It’s just one of many ideas. I give them the basic idea, and then the players they work with dictate the style they’ll use to teach it.”
Ojeda used agility training as an example.
“You have your base support, which is your feet, and you have your center of gravity just above that,” Ojeda said. “There are three ways you can move. I provide a system to teach that.”
He says playing a sport is about movement skills. He teaches these skills, and hitting each mark in the process is part of putting it all together. His system is about progressions and transitions.
“Athletes train here every month for five-seven months,” Ojeda said. “As they get better, I get better.”
Ojeda doesn’t permit anyone to train in his facility once a week. Athletes must train three times a week, and show they are committed to doing so before they’re allowed to enroll. Each session runs under an hour in length.
“How often do you have to relearn something if you only go once a week,” Ojeda said. “If you go once a week, you get very little out of it.”
He said athletes who train three times a week learn more at a quicker rate, and it helps him develop and grow as a coach. He looks for athletes who will help push the class forward.
“You don’t have to have it all when you first come here,” Ojeda said. “I just need to know that you’re committed.”
He shows the athletes and their parents he is as committed as they are.
“We all have the same 24 hours,” Ojeda said. “I need to show you I can be trusted.”
Ojeda says athletes grow immensely in that type of training, and part of the goal is to be able to track their progression, step by step.
Ultimately, a half-foot can mean the difference between winning and losing.
For the Rutgers University football team, it may have meant the difference between playing in a BCS bowl game, generally worth tens of millions of dollars, and playing in a lesser game.
A season-ending win over Louisville would’ve made the Scarlet Knights Big East champion and BCS-bound. The loss means they’ll play in the less prestigious Russell Athletic Bowl, which pays out $4.55 million.
LSU was two wins away from the possible BCS title game, which pays between $44 and $48 million. Instead, the Tigers face the Clemson Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which carries a $6.9 million gate, on New Year’s Eve.
“LSU was looking at what they need to do to stay current and keep ahead,” Ojeda said. “I showed them the way to grow and learn, and what words to use.”
He learned from his athletes.
“What the kids do in here prepares me to be able to go down there,” Ojeda said.
If LSU decides to use his method, Ojeda will have another source to tap into.
“If they can progress what I’m doing, then I can call them and maybe get a different perspective,” Ojeda said.
Ojeda works with athletes from Atlantic and Cape May counties, as well as Toms River. He started with a core group of athletes when he opened his training facility, and added two newcomers the first week.
Currently, he’s working with 30 athletes, and has worked with up to 40 at one time. His business continues to grow.
He’s also worked on speed training with the Absegami High School football team over the summer.
He has a continuous program used mostly by athletes between 12 and 16 years old, but he also has older athletes who keep coming back and current college athletes who use his facility during the summer.