Mike Cox is taking offseason training to the next level.The Coal Ridge boys basketball head coach and CRHS assistant track and field coach has engineered a strength, speed and vertical camp to help middle school and high school athletes be stronger, run faster and jump higher. Cox is the husband of Post Independent photographer Kelley Cox.”This is different. I do this at basketball practice, too, where I don’t run the same thing over and over again. It’s boring for me, it’s boring for them, and they aren’t improving,” Cox said. “When I thought about this I said, ‘I’ve got to challenge them physically and mentally and they’ll come back.’ If you can get them coming back, you’re going to help them. And they are better in here than screwing around somewhere else or doing nothing.”The program, 15 years in the making, began Monday, May 29, at Coal Ridge and will be invading the new high school’s gyms, weight room and football field for nine weeks. It isn’t geared toward any specific sport, instead it caters to everyone’s individual interests. “Everything is different,” Cox said. “There are over 100 exercises, not eight. There is a big difference between what I believe in and what football coaches believe in.”Basketball, football, volleyball and soccer players fill the camp, not only coming from Coal Ridge, but DeBeque and Grand Valley as well. All athletes are welcome and just need to pay a one-time $40 fee to come as much as they want during the nine-week “I want to try and open it up to anybody that wants to come in. If you want to walk in here try it out, do it for a day or the rest of the summer,” said Cox, who sees between 20-25 kids at his camp each day. “It keeps growing. Every day there is more, and they don’t have to come.”
One aspect of Cox’s program that makes it especially unique, and that Cox is especially proud of, is the ACL prevention workout. Cox has the camp participants watch a video and then do a 20-minute workout twice a week, focusing directly on strengthening knees.”This ACL prevention, they did a study on it, they took 2,000 female athletes ages 14-18 and it cut the ACL injuries down 88 percent. All they did was do it twice a week. That is good enough for me,” Cox said. “I got my guys doing it because they are going to get injuries like that – it’s not just females. I’m kind of really thrilled that I’m putting that in.”As a coach, Cox has witnessed three ACL tears, and he also tore his own during his high school basketball career. Seeing high school athletes’ careers cut short and going through the long and painful rehabilitation process made Cox add the workout to his “Going through an injury like this (with players Cox coached) really made me want to say, ‘You know what, I really can do something about this.’ I knew I could do something for these kids, and that’s why I do it.”
Every day is different at Cox’s camp as he puts the campers through cardio workouts, ladder drills, jump roping, dynamic drills, abdominal drills, workouts with medicine balls (which range from 2-18 pounds in weight) and exercises with jumpsoles – two-pound weights strapped onto the athletes feet that not only work as strengthening devices, but as tools to improve balance as they have a semi-ball on the bottom they have to balance on. “I get out here with the jumpsoles and do one-dribble jumpshots,” Cox said. “I’ll do it for 30 minutes, and then I take the jumpsoles off and it’s like I’m flying. Then I measure myself – and I am 47 years old – and I get six inches more and I can touch the rim again. That’s how I know it works.” On each athlete’s first day at the camp, they are weighed and their vertical jump is measured. Both are measured again halfway through the camp and again at the end to test for improvement.”I did this conditioning program for my basketball team in the offseason in the fall,” Cox said. “Everybody lost weight, everybody increased their vertical 5-6 inches. I told these guys their vertical will increase six inches minimum. Some will get 12. It’s that good of a program.”Evan Wagstrom, a 15-year-old football and basketball player at Coal Ridge, attended the camp each day last week. Wagstrom said he has never seen a camp like Cox’s nor the results he is seeing.”It is probably the most beneficial camp I have ever been to,” Wagstrom said. “My vertical ability has increased already -and that’s just a week.”
When Cox started the camp, he expected athletes to come twice a week. But to his surprise, they are coming every day. With the majority of his campers attending Coal Ridge, Cox knows the athletes have to improve. It was hard enough last season when the freshman-sophomore teams played Class 2A varsity schedules. Now, with enrollment growing, Coal Ridge will bump up to 3A and will have to face even tougher competition -still without the help of seniors. “I’m talking to them about playing at a higher level, not just at college, but a higher level with us,” Cox said. “We need to do that because we are moving up to 3A and starting all over again. Everything is made in the offseason for us, and we just gotta work hard in here.”
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