NEW PORT RICHEY — Polishing an athlete's skills to the maximum requires workouts that supplement their normal regimen. That's where someone like Justin Lawrence comes in.
The 25-year-old future fitness guru has been working at the New Port Richey Recreation Center for four years while he earns his exercise science degree at Pasco-Hernando Community College. After becoming certified by the International Sports and Science Association, Lawrence started up the center's Iron Kids program, a revamped version of the former Fit Kids program.
"Everything is goal oriented," Lawrence said. "It's basically a program built on workouts I've done in the past for sports and workouts that I do now, and I try to make them for kids. I want them to take these things and challenge themselves so they don't get bored. We'll be trying out different things and adjusting as we go along."
So far the program has eight participants. Because he only recently became certified as a strength and conditioning coach, this is the first class Lawrence has taught on his own. Every week, he says, he learns something about working with kids as they learn from him.
"I think if we get more kids, this class could be very successful and could be held at multiple facilities," he said. "My long-term goal is not necessarily to work with just kids, but it's been a good place to start. Every week I'm learning about coaching and I think this is a really good experience for me, and it's not intimidating for the kids."
For Allison Tengbelius, a freshman at Fivay High School, the class is training for yet another test ahead. In order for the 14-year-old to get her black belt in karate, she needs to add some cardio to her usual workout.
Lawrence's program is new, but Allison says she's confident it will give her the stamina to pass the 34-hour black belt test.
"I've got the black belt test in April but I don't have the endurance to make it through it right now," she said. "I think that these workouts are good for me cause they keep your heart rate up and work the legs. That's what I need more of to get ready."
Zac Thrabona is using the training for a different discipline.
Ballroom dancing requires grace and skill, but also strength from the male lead. The 16-year-old is using Iron Kids to help him train for the challenge of handling his partners smoothly. His mother was an employee of the recreation center for several years and knew just what Lawrence and the program could do for her son.
"Justin is good with the physical fitness stuff, and I think Zac can help get other kids involved," said his mother, Helen Thrabona.
"He does a lot of different types of dancing, so this is something that can help him be physically prepared for anything."