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Thousands of eyes were tuned into the Broncos’ game Sunday—including those of many high schoolers who hope to play in the NFL someday. In order for these junior footballers, and other youth athletes, to fulfill their dreams, they’ll have to commit to more than just their standard team practices. At least that’s the opinion of Denverite Daniel Ward, the founder of a new sports performance-training program for the city’s young athletes.
Ward started Inward Fitness conditioning classes tailored to teenage skiers and snowboarders in May. The program has since expanded to include 50 participants ages eight to 18, from divers, to lacrosse players, and even theater kids who hope to take their performance to the next level. “We do things they’ve never done before that challenges them in a different way,” Ward says. “And that’s the good part.”
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Ward and the four other staff members customize the workouts for each sport—skiers, for instance, mimic slaloming by jumping onto and over a Bosu ball—but they always start with the basics. “One of the first things [to work on] is proper form and technique,” Ward says. “Because they’re young and still growing and developing, we have to use it with everything to make sure their bodies don’t break down.”
He gradually moves on to strength and conditioning exercises to build up the stamina of the athletes, who are often competing in a higher age group. The classes are offered one-on-one or in full teams. So far, he’s helped the Chatfield High School volleyball squad and has interest from a hockey team and several soccer clubs. This way, athletes can train with—and challenge—their peers. “I feel like competition is healthy,” he says, “even as a parent.”