Now in its 14th year of existence in Tacoma, Zach Smalls’ endurance and speed training program ZeeSpeed has become a mainstay in local athletes’ summer plans. And despite having run it every summer, Smalls noted a strong characteristic about this year’s group.
“The will to come, to work out,” said Smalls, who has run more than 100 athletes through his camp this summer. “Kids send me text messages about how if they miss a day they’re sorry. You don’t need to tell me sorry for missing one of my workouts. That shows me you care, which is really inspiring.”
Closing in on the final week of the camp on Aug. 7, at Stadium High School, male and female athletes from various high schools and colleges were once again busy running through Smalls’ array of drills and sprints early in the morning. And with a growing number of students catching on, it is clear Smalls’ program is having an impact.
“The whole camp just helps you with form, your stride and arm movement,” said recent Gig Harbor High School graduate Dillon Alexander, a first-year participant. “I never could really get that stride. I was quick out of the box but couldn’t get that top speed.”
“This helps with pretty much everything conditioning-wise,” added Lakes High sophomore-to-be Bryson Foster.
With the final day of camp on Aug. 16, students will have completed another grueling summer of more than 80 hours of work in 24 separate sessions. With many students focused on becoming faster and quicker, the amount of sports represented is almost limitless.
“It’s really fun, it’s good for you and it helps with track and soccer,” said 12-year-old Mason Middle School student Hannah Buckhalter.
“I go to my high school volleyball classes and can see I’m getting faster,” added Lexi Hormann, a sophomore at Curtis.
Along with the physical aspect, however, a main focus of the camp continues to be the instilling of life values and lessons that are applicable off the field.
“My dad tries to push everyone to do their best in everything, whether it’s sports or academics,” said Smalls’ daughter Hayley, a sophomore at Washington State University. “It builds character in kids.”
“This stuff carries over for life,” Zach Smalls said. “It’s not just football or not just baseball. And these girls are running as hard as the guys.”
Smalls’ program has even continued to support students heading to college in the form of scholarships, something it has done since the beginning.
“It’s a great environment,” said Wilson football and track star Devon Phillips, who is in his sixth year participating in ZeeSpeed. “People are working to get better not just in athletics but in life.”
“The first day four or five years ago, I came out here and after the first couple weeks I was like ‘this camp is getting better and better,’” said Frederick Crumbley, a junior at Stadium High and a multi-sport athlete.
With a growing number of good reviews and a continuously strong support staff as well, even college students are returning to take part for the first time.
“The dedication is awesome,” said Wilson High grad Taylor Gomsrud, a sophomore at Boise State University looking to join the softball team. “I’m so mad at myself for not doing it (earlier) because I could have been so much faster.”
With drills such as full-field sprints, stair climbs and shuffling and backpedaling stations – along with Smalls’ message of dedication – the camp offers athletes a chance to compete within the group in the offseason as well.
“With all the athletes out here, I see I’m not the standout best, so I want to step my game up and show I’m one of the best, or at least one of the top ones,” said Tre Brahm, a freshman football player at Bellarmine Prep.
“(Zach) says to never quit, work harder and stay in the first quarter, which motivates me to work harder,” said Christopher Faust, a sophomore at Lakes. “I take that into consideration and actually do it.”
“That’s really all it comes down to, is how hard you want to do it,” added Lakes teammate Kiyrie Simmons. “If you don’t apply yourself here or anywhere else, you’re not going to show it on the field.”