Skills and performance work together on the field, but the development for each are two separate processes.
Skills training is designed to enhance the abilities and instincts of a player and can be translated to in-game situations. The way dribbling drills improve a basketball player’s ball handling skills, gauntlet drills improves a receiver’s catching ability and batting practice improves a hitter’s pitch recognition.
But how much are skills worth if you don’t have the quickness to get by your opponent, the strength to hold your position or the endurance to make that final push at the end of the game. That’s what performance training is, and for Michael Butler, founder of Champion Performance Training, believes that it is even more important than skills training.
“You need to have some skills training,” Butler said. “But what good is having a great skill if you don’t have endurance, lateral movement, explosiveness on the floor, or if you’re not strong.”
Champion Performance Training was founded in 2003 and their focus is to “fulfill the demands of athletes desiring to enhance their athletic abilities by providing a unique and comprehensive fitness program that offers state of the art, science based athletic training.”
“I try and keep everything science based,” Butler said. “The research is done for you, but it’s how you apply it in your program and how you make it fit to satisfy the needs of your athletes.
This year alone, Butler has nine NCAA Division I signees that have trained with him. Athletes such as Tremayne Anchrum (Clemson), Taylor Trammell (Ga Tech), Alex Speas (Auburn), C.J. Windham (Middle Tennessee State University), Xavion Curry (Ga. Tech), Allen Cater (North Carolina), Ajani Kerr (Ga Tech), Julian Rochester (UGA), and Sam Jackson (SDSU) are just a few of his clients that signed with a school this year.
Butler’s program uses drills that are relative to the field of play to prepare his athletes. He firmly believes that the work he does enhancing his athletes performance ability is more valuable in the long term than relying on their skills and talent alone. Butler also debunks a couple common development myths.
“The most progress will be at that age where they are growing into adolescence at 13, 14 and 15 years old…It has a lot to do with what they’ve done coming into their sports, which is a lot of times nothing and they just relied on athleticism,” Butler said. “And if they have worked with a trainer, a lot of times they don’t work with trainers that really put a lot of emphasis on the science.”
Butler enjoys getting athletes in the 13-15 range so he can begin working them through his strength training program to prepare them for the next level. His strength training focuses on explosive lifts and gives them a head start in the weight room when they get to high school.
“By the time they get to high school, they clearly know the explosive lifts and a lot of times become leaders in the weight room,” he said.”It helps them grow that much more even outside our facility because they have a clear understanding of what to do.”
One major point of concern that Butler addresses is the physical toll that year round amateur athletics can take on a developing athlete’s body. The non-stop, cyclical schedule doesn’t give the athlete’s body time to rest, recover and rebuild.
“Seasons last so long now, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s up to the parents to take one of those periods, if no longer than just 90 days. That kid needs to have a good, solid, quality 90-day program that could just get their legs under them. Get them strong and jump back into the sport after that. The break away from the sport will also help with the rigors of playing everyday.”
Another myth that clearly bothers Butler, is the idea that what was good enough in the past is good enough today. Butler specifically mentioned times where his players reported back to him that instead of accepting a different approach, their coaches would leave them with the “it worked for me so it should work for you” approach.
“The coach will have the deer in the headlight eyes and then resort to the same answer most of the time,” Butler said. “That’s one of the myths right there. You cannot do what’s been dated and continue to do that in an industry that’s ever-changing. The athletes are bigger, stronger and faster now than they were 30 years ago. If you have somebody that is trying to train a kid the way they were trained without some type of foundation or background that is relevant to todays athletes, then in my opinion they’re going to miss the boat.”
Butler has been training young athletes for more than 15 years and his growth is tangible. He now has two locations where he and his instructors train. The Baseball/ Softball Skills Development Center in Austell, Ga., and the Champfit Grindhouse in Powder Springs, Ga. There are three different training levels (Junior, Advanced and Elite) which suit the needs of the athlete in training. At all levels, Butler and his instructors teach form above all else.
“Without proper form, it’s all for nothing,” he said.” And you won’t get any growth without proper form.”