McALLEN — The idea that the body can be manipulated led Jaime Cavazos down the path he is on now. That path has helped advance some of the Rio Grande Valley’s premier athletes.
In 10 years, Cavazos has helped 36 high school student-athletes attain NCAA Division I scholarships. In all, 90 have earned opportunities to compete at the collegiate level.
It was during an exercise-physical class during his junior year at UTPA in 2004 that Cavazos had an awakening.
“That’s the class that did it for me, knowing you can make your body do whatever you want it to do,” said Cavazos, who’s initial goal was to become a history professor. “Whether training or conditioning, muscle size, muscle strength, muscle speed … that class really, really interested me.”
Cavazos, now a certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells his story inside a cozy office at his 20,000-square-foot training facility, the Cavazos Sports Institute in north McAllen.
Since 2005, Cavazos, a 1999 graduate of Mission High, has worked with some of the Valley’s finest athletes. He started his career training one client, for free — former Edinburg Economedes standout Esteban Cardenas. Now his clients include professional boxer Eric Molina, Major League Soccer’s Mikey Lopez, former McAllen High football star Joshua McGowen, UTSA track and field athletes Cierra Peña and Randy Bermea, Big 12 baseball player of the year Eric Gutierrez, and others.
The reason they abide by Cavazos: the trainer’s methods are fresh and progressive.
“Everything is researched. Everything is pinpoint accurate,” said Lopez, in his first season with New York City FC and third as a Major League Soccer player. “What sports science does is proven scientifically, and any training that’s not has the potential to hurt an athlete. These high school kids training with Jaime are doing what a lot of pro athletes are doing.”
‘ON ANOTHER LEVEL’
Cavazos’ facility is mostly an eye-candy display of the latest equipment in sports science training.
One of his top training tools is the “Run Rocket,” a resistance running harness used to correct form and enhance acceleration.
During one drill, Peña, a former sprinter and jumper at Harlingen South, ties it to her waste and sprints. The harness pulls back as she runs, and forces her to sprint at the angle she should be running at. She is forced to have proper arm swings and knee height to sprint correctly.
“The workouts accommodate improvements specific to the athlete,” said Peña, who has worked with Cavazos since her junior year of high school and even had him organize home workouts.
There are air-pressured weights, plyometrics (speed-strength power exercises) and medicine balls used for balance and core work. There is a motorless treadmill for lighter running, laser-timed 40-yard sprints and, a favorite of the clients, a wireless sensor device composed of eight mobile LED lights. Athletes deactivate the lights through physical contact with their hands or feet.
“My definition of sports science is mimicking and training movement patterns that the athlete will go through in their event or in their position in their sport,” Cavazos said. “It’s not necessarily about skill work. It’s about doing training that can transfer movement-wise into their sport. Mimicking movements, not mimicking skills.”
During a busy Wednesday afternoon, Sharyland Pioneer incoming junior Kaitie Watson ran through stations of resistance running, medicine ball work and footwork drills. RGVSports.com’s All-Valley Newcomer of the Year as a freshman in 2015, Watson was named All-Area Player of the Year this season, crediting a difference in strength and speed after she began training with Cavazos last summer.
“It’s rigorous as far as the amount of sets we do, and it helps you mentally as much as physically,” Watson said. “There are some coaches who you feel make you work out just to say they put you through a workout. But here, it’s specific to athletes and there’s a purpose. The training is demanding, but he’s very positive.”
Molina started training with Cavazos before his April fight against Tomasz Adamek in Poland. He beat Adamek — who entered with a record 50-4-0 and promptly retired after the defeat — for the vacant IBF inter-continental heavyweight title.
“I felt like I was on another level with my strength and conditioning,” Molina said. “I had worked on strengthening muscles, and (Cavazos) had me working on muscles that I’d never even strengthened before.”
When Cavazos started his business 11 years ago, it was met with dismay by area high school coaches.
“In the beginning, there was a lot of negativity to what I do,” he said. “I don’t know why. I’m here to help. I’m not here to take over or replace. This is just the icing on the cake.
“I’m the type to never tell a kid how they’re training is wrong. I want to supplement it. But now I have head coaches’ sons and daughters coming in here, so the respect is getting there.”
One of those head coaches is Rio Grande City football coach Aaron Garcia. Garcia’s son, Michael Aaron, is an incoming freshman at Edinburg Vela and has been training with Cavazos for two years.
Garcia said he has seen significant improvement in his son’s vertical jump under Cavazos. Michael will be a basketball player, so Cavazos has designed his workouts to help facilitate explosion and power.
“He’s come a long way athletically and confidence-wise,” Garcia said as he watched Michael train on a recent afternoon.
Garcia recognizes Cavazos’ training as an aide to the programs high school coaches use.
“With everyday training as a coach, you’re preparing for a massive group of kids,” Garcia said. “Here, the individual athlete can be looked at, and where that athlete needs help is where they target. It’s different as far as scope. They both go hand in hand. This is something extra to benefit athletes to get an edge over the kid that doesn’t use this.”
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