By Luke Baynes
If you watch enough sports on television, sooner or later – typically after a stolen base or a kickoff return touchdown or a breakaway layup – you’ll hear an announcer croon: “You can’t teach speed.”
Michael Porter, program director of the Williston-based Parisi Speed School, begs to differ.
“We teach speed. We feel speed is a skill,” said Porter. “Just like there’s a proper way to swing your baseball bat or your hockey stick, or throw a football, there’s a proper way to run.”
Founded in his parents’ basement in 1992 by New Jersey native Bill Parisi, the franchise now has over 75 locations in 27 states. The Williston location, which opened last June in The EDGE sports and fitness facility, is the first and only Parisi school in Vermont.
While many of Parisi’s famous athletes are football players – such as Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice or New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch – Porter said that Parisi schools have produced first round draft picks in every major sport.
“It’s foundational. We’re not specific to one sport; we’re specific to every sport,” Porter said. “The philosophy behind it is it’s an athletic-based training and education system that is utilized by children and adults, and it’s for enhanced performance.”
Although Bill Parisi’s first client was Super Bowl champion quarterback Phil Simms, Porter said that the program is designed for athletes of all abilities, beginning as young as 7 years old.
“It’s about confidence, self-esteem (and) building good habits in kids,” said Porter. “(It’s) empowering kids to maximize their individual potential (and have) short-term success in sports but long-term health and wellness in life.”
Parisi schools evaluate athletes based on an eight-tiered system, known as the “Cat Club.” Like a martial arts belt system that ascends from a white belt all the way up to a black belt, the Parisi Cat Club begins with a bobcat ranking and progresses to the ultimate goal of cheetah – the world’s fastest land animal.
Caleb Martin, a 10-year-old Williston resident, joined Porter’s school shortly after placing fourth in his age group in the 50-meter dash at the North American finals of the 2011 Hershey’s Track and Field Games in Hershey, Pa. He said that despite achieving the immediate rank of cheetah, he has seen improvements in his speed in the past year.
“My score card gets better every time. My speed only gets better,” Martin said. “(The Parisi coaches) teach you what things to do at certain parts of the sprint. They teach you about your center of gravity and how it will help you in every sport if you keep your center of gravity.”
Martin’s mother, Erin Carmichael, who is one of the coaches for the Williston summer recreational track and field program, said she will be joined this year by Parisi coaches.
“It’s a win-win for the track program and for kids to get really great coaching and try to help improve their speed over the summer,” Carmichael said. “Those Parisi coaches will be terrific for them.”