Navy skills find a new role in training athletes

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Admiral Jim Symonds bases his technique for teaching youth sports on what he learned from landing on carrier decks.          – Wrangler News photo

By Luke Ottinger

In this day and age we find ourselves saying “they’re just kids,” but for one local organization, expectations are elevated to the next level. Sports to Serve is a local group in West Chandler helping revolutionize the way that young athletes and coaches are trained and developed.

Starting around 2014, the non-profit was the brainchild of Bill Gateley and former Navy Admiral Jim Symonds. In just a few years, through trial and error, they have 11- to 13-year-old athletes playing high school-level baseball. Actually, not just playing but excelling.

These boys aren’t being trained necessarily in baseball-specific skills but more so in discipline, teamwork and sportsmanship through the program’s FOCUS system. The system, which employs techniques used by Navy pilots, is all about teaching the little things outside of the game with the same

precision needed to land a plane on an aircraft carrier.

“It’s a simple idea…getting these kids to look at the right place at the right time,” said Symonds, who has put together a seven-step method of fundamentals for the kids to become knowledgeable in.

Included in the regimen are precision, health, routine and prep, which Symonds says allow these players to carry out plays and the small things on the field which allow them to play at such a high level.

Sports to Serve has not just revolutionized the way players are trained and coached but the basic recruiting process for high school players.

The organization is also the founder of College Baseball Association, where athletes are helped in developing strategies to get recruited for college as well as choosing a college.

As to the future, Symonds and Gateley say they’ll continue to be giving back to the community—and producing results. As Gateley says:

“We’ve got all sorts of new things in the works.”

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