Tupac Shakur bumps softly in the background as the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics battle it out in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on a muted 110-inch flat screen hanging from the wall. In the middle of this scene are nine youth athletes from Lewis and Pacific counties fighting another opponent — themselves.
The athletes are at Thorbeckes in Chehalis late Wednesday afternoon, pushing weighted sleds and sprinting through yellow agility ladders. They’re testing their own mental and athletic mettle as their friends watch the NBA playoffs from home, prepare for dinner or do whatever it is teenagers do during a global pandemic. But these kids are here for another purpose: to push themselves to a peak they never knew existed.
They are all a part of the Thorbeckes Athletic Performance (TAP) program, which provides both athletic training and development for athletes, as well as adult group fitness workouts. The program, which was started in 2015 and built on a previous training regimen at Thorbeckes, uses a different format than most institutes, said Efrain Sanchez, Thorbeckes general manager and TAP director.
Typically, programs use either one-on-one personal training or group workouts with a single coach. TAP uses a more specialized approach. On Wednesday, all nine athletes present were each doing their own custom workout that was written specifically for them, with two coaches on hand: Sanchez and Lauren Fisher.
The individualized training programs are based on a variety of factors. Thorbeckes tests each athlete and analyzes their goals, strengths, weaknesses, the sports they compete in, their age and previous injuries to come up with a diagram for success.
“We try to individualize and progress it as much as possible so they can reach whatever their athletic goal is,” said Sanchez, who has a master’s degree in exercise science from Eastern Washington University. “We try to give them a blueprint of what exactly their training is going to look like, then implement it to improve them as much as possible.”
Thorbeckes can accommodate any type of athlete in every sport, though its primary customers are youth athletes in the 11 to 21 age range. A typical day sees 30 or so athletes come through and the program currently has between 55 and 60 people in total.
With the state COVID-19 guidelines, TAPS can train up to 18 people at a time in its 6,000-square-foot facility. There are never usually more than 12 people at once as athletes are broken up into two different groups, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday section and a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday group.
Most of the youth athletes are using the program to vault onto varsity rosters, then hopefully earn all-league honors, possibly turn that into a college scholarship and then, for some, garner a professional sports opportunity.
Wednesday’s group included Brock Jones, a 2019 W.F. West graduate who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 16th round of the MLB Draft in June 2019. Brock, a lefthanded pitcher, has been training at Thorbeckes since he was 9 or 10 years old, at the time a goofy kid who didn’t always take the workouts seriously. Once he did, however, the results were staggering.
“My strength and everything I did in sports just went through the roof,” said Jones, who is in his fifth year of weight training at TAP. “My explosiveness in pitching and improvements on the mound have just been through the roof. TAP has definitely helped me.”
Also in Wednesday’s group included Willapa Valley boys basketball standout Logan Walker, who led the Vikings to an upset of the top-ranked Class 2B team at the state tournament in March.
Walker has been training at Thorbeckes for five or six years and has been in the TAP program for four. He’s seen consistent improvement since he joined, even though he’s only able to travel to the facility three or four months out of the year.
“I’m gaining three to four inches on my vertical every year,” Walker said. “You see change really quick, which is cool. It’s not like a normal place. It’s self-motivated. You go up in weight when you’re ready. Obviously Lauren and Efrain are going to push you, but if you push yourself, you’re going to get better.”
Other Thorbeckes athletes who’ve found success include 2020 W.F. West graduate Ava Fugate. Sanchez saw her progress go from earning varsity softball minutes, to cracking seven home runs as a junior while picking up an all-state nod, and eventually earning a scholarship to Colorado Mesa University.
Hodges Bailey, a 2017 graduate of Centralia High School, led the state in scoring his senior year with a school-record 28.5 points per game and now plays at Lewis-Clark State College. Five or six members of the W.F. West girls basketball team that won the 2018 2A state championship also trained at TAP regularly leading up to their title win, including Erika Brumfield, who first entered the training program as a freshman.
“TAP has helped me improve my overall strength,” said Brumfield, who recently joined the Central Washington University women’s basketball team. “I was able to improve my overall basketball game, in every aspect of it. Especially rebounding. I’m very thankful for TAP. I wouldn’t be a collegiate athlete today if it wasn’t for them.”
Sanchez said, sure, athletes can work out on their own, do burpees, lift weights and see some improvement in their athleticism. But TAP’s aim is to tap into an athlete's full potential and maximize it in every way possible.
“Anybody can put together a paper airplane and it flies decently,” Sanchez said. “Someone who is trying to build a jet that’s going to move precisely and be very high-performing, it takes a lot of engineering, work and science. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s our goal to make athletes high-performing machines.”