While the sports and fitness industries are filled with hype, flashy social media accounts, and short-lived personalities, Velocity Sports Performance is quietly continuing 2 decades of excellence by sending athletes to another Olympic Games.
When Velocity was founded in 1999 outside Atlanta, Georgia, Olympians from 5 countries were working with legendary coach, Loren Seagrave. Seagrave was an elite track coach and the founder of Velocity Sports Performance. In that very first Velocity facility, USA Bobsled athletes worked with Coach Seagrave to improve their speed for the 2002 Winter Games.
That tradition of working with elite Olympic athletes continued as Global High-Performance Director Ken Vick set up shop in Redondo Beach in 2005.
“Olympic sports were always a passion for me. I was a Weightlifting coach for several international level lifters and the intensity and passion of athletes pursuing their Olympic dream is unique,” says Vick.
He’d know something about that as he coached multiple athletes going to the Games and directed the high-performance team behind many others, even whole Olympic Committees. In the last decade under his watch, Velocity has supported 54 medal winners across 13 different sports.
In Vick’s view “For a performance coach, one of the unique aspects of many Olympic sports is that they are measured objectively. We time how fast someone runs, cycles, swims, or paddles. You measure how far they throw or jump, or how much weight they can lift.”
This means that the results of training programs are much more visible. “You can see if what you are doing with them is working. You can’t hide bad training behind a great team or tactics,” he adds.
This has been a major influence on Velocity’s methodology in training, sports medicine, and recovery. “Since we have always dealt with these Olympic athletes, we put added emphasis on measuring training variables and exploring the methods that produced the greatest results. Velocity’s methods have been based on science, proven in the field, and continually refined to stay on top.”
Today Velocity has brought many of these training technologies and methods to the average high school athlete walking through their doors. The elite-level devices, monitoring systems, and training methods are accessible to all.
Velocity has supported National teams and Athletes at the Olympic Games in these sports
- Athletics (Track & Field)
- Beach Volleyball
- Freestyle Wrestling
- Indoor Volleyball
- Modern Pentathlon
- Sprint Kayak
- Sprint Canoe
- Synchronized Swimming
- Table Tennis
- Track Cycling
Supporting Athletes Around the Globe
International Olympic sport has a history of top coaches being recruited to countries with budgets and looking to improve their performance. Working across borders is part of the game and one of the great opportunities to have a lasting impact globally.
Aspiring athletes and pros in the US weren’t the only ones to notice what Velocity was doing. With a steady international clientele, the word was getting out. Countries looking for better performance noticed.
In their build-up for the 2012 Olympics, Team GB brought their developing beach volleyball program to Redondo Beach and asked Velocity to help. It made sense since Velocity had experience training so many top AVP and international players. Now Velocity was tasked with helping them raise their game as the London Olympics approached.
The Chinese Olympic Committee had been a top nation in the medal count, but in 2013 they started working with Velocity in a few targeted sports and several of their provincial programs. A few years later Velocity was working alongside another performance company called EXOS preparing athletes across the entire Chinese Olympic Program.
“The experience of deploying Integrated Support Teams on the ground in China and advising their teams was incredible. We had challenges that we never imagined but an incredible opportunity to have an impact,” reflects Vick. “Making sure we could coordinate the sports medicine, strength training, speed work, conditioning, and recovery was a task. There was an outdated system there, language and cultural barriers, and we were trying to make a major shift. That’s a tall order, but we were able to see results.”
Years of working with elite performers have driven a methodology based on integrating these different domains. When the entire integrated support team works together to support the effort of the athlete and the plan of the sports coaches, the results speak for themselves.
Winter Olympics Too
Velocity’s expertise doesn’t stop when cold weather hits. Athletes and National Teams from the Winter Olympic Games have relied on Velocity as well. Olympic hockey players, speed skaters, bobsledders, skiers, and snowboarders have all been trained by Velocity.
“Many of the winter sports have incredible demands on the athletes. Take slopestyle and halfpipe events. The forces these athletes experience on jumps and landings are enormous,” says Vick. “We have to not only train for the event but sometimes, more importantly, to be durable and healthy. If you cant practice and develop your skills on the snow because you’re hurt, it doesn’t matter how good you are.”
That’s why Velocity has hosted several national teams in its elite centers. The impact was so visible that they’ve also deployed coaches and sports medicine professionals to work with teams and travel around the globe.
Managing Velocity staff working with teams all around the world in different time zones presents challenges. One of the solutions for Velocity is taking advantage of cutting-edge technology.
“Technology like our Athlete Management System brings together data from multiple sources so we can use our Integrated Support Team to assist those professionals out in the field. Those coaches and sports medicine professionals aren’t on their own.”
One of the tools that they have used for years is a device from Australia called Gymaware. Its measures vary biomechanical properties of athletes when they are jumping or lifting weights. This highly scientific data can be sued to make programming decisions or day-to-day adjustments.
“The Gymaware tool is a scientifically proven device that’s completely portable. While I love using force plates, they are big and bulky so not great for a team going from country to country every weekend,” laughs Vick. “We get to use the same device to both test and train the athlete and the data feeds right into our athlete management system automatically.”
Today this same technology that was refined and proven with the world’s most elite athletes, is being used in Velocity centers for athletes of all levels. Its also be used remotely by some athletes who follow digital training programs on their own. This lets coaches monitor their training and make precise adjustments to the plan.
Road to Tokyo
One of Velocity’s US locations is an 11,000 sq ft facility hidden away in El Segundo, CA. Once a site that once housed engineers helping send the mercury and Apollo astronauts to space, the spirit of innovation continues as athletes prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The sprint events in track cycling aren’t well known in the US, but they are known at Velocity. After hosting training camps for the US team before the 2008 Bejing Olympics, they’ve now helped cyclists from 4 different countries. One thing remains consistent for these athletes, being strong & powerful. Track sprinters need strength to get the fixed gear bikes up to speed and power to sustain the high speeds attained on the velodrome track.
In 2012 Velocity supported the US Sprint team as well as Trinidad & Tobago athlete Njisane Phillips. Then for the Rio Olympics, they supported the entire Chinese team including the eventual Gold medalists in the Women’s Team Sprint. They also hosted the Australian team in their Redondo Beach for a 1-month holding camp right before the Games.
Team USA athlete Maddie Godby is the latest track sprinter training with Velocity. The 28-year-old international competitor came to Coach Vick with the goal of getting stronger and more explosive.
Training 2-3 days a week in the gym, she’s used that same Gymaware technology to monitor and prescribe highly specific training that fits her unique needs as an individual and as a sprint cyclist.
“We are fine-tuning at this stage so there are targets and we want to hit the right zones. Just to have that feedback is really helpful. Sometimes that means adding more weight and other times it means less.” comments Godby.
So far, it’s working. She performed at a high level in May in Hong Kong at the only international event in over 14 months. She spent most of that time off the velodrome track since they were closed in the pandemic. However, putting in time, training in the gym, has made her much stronger and explosive. Qualities she’ll put to use in Tokyo.
But there is more than just training according to Godby. “I’m really good at pushing myself and training hard. So in order to do that I needed to find ways to recover better. So that’s a really big part of what I’ve been doing at Velocity.”
Other Athletes in Tokyo
Like many Americans, Velocity will also be excitedly watching the Men’s Basketball competition in Tokyo. This location and its Redondo Beach predecessor have also trained USA Basketball team members Kevin Durant and Draymond Green in past off-seasons.
Swimming will also be high on the list. Velocity was also under contract to support the Chinese Swimming Association for 2 years up to the Olympics Games. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, that plan got cut short in early 2020 after over a year of work put in. Still, several former Velocity staff members including Coach Zach Murray stayed behind to continue working all the way up to the Games.
The Olympic Dream
In the USA many athletes in smaller sports struggle to survive as they pursue their dreams. Velocity has made it part of its mission to support these incredible athletes who are willing to dream. Every year they provide sponsorships for athletes in smaller sports to help them on their journey.
According to Vick, this is something he thinks is important as a coach and as the CEO. “The Olympics, but more so the journey and pursuit of that goal, is inspiring. Athletes like these give us insight into the human spirit and what’s possible. That goes far beyond sport. That’s why we love doing what we do and want to give back to those who inspire all of us.”