Summit Extreme changing local youth sports
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
FRISCO – Sure, the numbers are nice. Five championships in two years, national and state rankings, increased velocities on fast balls, batting averages going up, strike outs going down – they all demonstrate success in its simplest form.
But Mike Connors doesn’t like to look at it that way.
“Is it just championships? No, definitely not,” he said. “We have a whole system of measurements. It’s educating parents, players and coaches in a process, a process that works. The championships are just kind of the proof.”
Really, the titles may simply be the red flag going up to show just how different Summit Extreme is from most local youth sports organizations in the High Country.
In a county where the ski slopes dominate the attentions of most, Connors started the nonprofit three years ago with Bill Falcone to change the way youth athletes are trained in sports, particularly baseball.
“Baseball players in Summit County traditionally have an unhappy existence,” Connors said with a laugh. “We’d play 16 or so Little League games during the season, and then everyone would just put their heads down. The glove would go in the closet and collect dust.”
Now, Summit Extreme gives kids an alternative, it gives kids a chance to keep playing and keep improving.
In the last year, the program’s expanded into basketball, and Connors already envisions it going further.
“We called it extreme for a reason, that we wanted to bring youth sports to a different level,” he said.
This last spring, a local pitcher came to one of the Summit Extreme clinics. He’d been an above average hurler in the Summit County Little League since he first picked up a glove, hucking it 40 mph, straight over the plate.
In the local league, no one could hit him, but when he’d travel to Denver for games, he was getting hit, and hit hard.
“The kids down there can hit 46, 47 miles per hour,” Connors said. ” … He needed to learn control of a two-seem and four-seem (fastball) over the corners and have better mechanics, mainly of using his trunk to increase velocity.”
In one bullpen session with Summit Extreme, the kid added 4 mph to his fastball and picked up an off-speed pitch similar to a change up.
Far fetched? Well, as Connors likes to put it, the proof is in the pudding.
“In the semifinals (of the state tournament in Denver this summer), he made 15 outs on six strikeouts in five innings,” Connors said with pride.
Of course, nothing happens overnight with Summit Extreme – whether its the improvement of the athletes or the knowledge of the coaches.
Essentially, Summit Extreme is a sports club, providing kids with an opportunity to play more games and get more training in their sport. As a nonprofit, Connors said the fees are only what’s needed for uniforms and entries into tournaments and leagues. There are no try-outs, no recruiting and no divisions based on skill or experience.
If a kid wants to play, Summit Extreme wants to help make them better.
The club started with baseball three summers ago, picked up three middle-school aged basketball teams last winter, and Connors expects to branch out into more sports as the need arises.
Once kids are members of the Summit Extreme program, they not only participate in leagues and travel tournaments throughout the Front Range, but also have access to the numerous clinics Connors and the rest of the staff provide. This last year, kids participated in 112 batting practice sessions and 72 bullpen sessions, some athletes never missing a one.
Some of the clinics include things as simple as base running and advanced as confidence building and working on performance routines.
“If we just offered more innings, kids would go out there and just get more innings,” Connors said. ” … If you repeat the same mistakes over and over again, you’re actually going to get worse.
“The majority of our off-season clinics are about confidence, focus, having the right mentality, having what people call performance routines.”
Really, Summit Extreme is just as much about educated the kids how to become better athletes as it is about training their bodies to be more athletically adept.
“We have as much free structure as possible, because we’re trying to help them grow mentally,” Connors said. “And it you just put them in a box and every single movement has to be identical to the last and each drill has to be the perfectly structured drill, it really does limit the way a person thinks and the way a person is willing to take risks.”
Connors and everyone else involved in the club don’t claim to be experts or geniuses when it comes to what they teach. Most of them, including both Falcone and Connors, are parents of kids who were part of struggling teams.
And, Connors said, with Summit Extreme, they were far from building a brand new concept of youth sports training.
“None of us are gurus or baseball aficionados that anyone would call up and say, ‘We want to know what you know,'” he said. “But we know enough … to know how to train them physically and properly, then you add baseball strategy to the mix.”
And they are continually striving to know more. Part of being a good coach, Connors said, is continually improving and continually gaining more knowledge.
He’s pursuing a sports psychology degree and, a couple years ago, decided to quit his engineering gig to open Peak One Performance in Frisco, a sports training facility, which focuses on the same principles as Summit Extreme.
Some people may find Connors’ transition to be a bit strange, but he is still perplexed that no one else has done it.
“Where I grew up, the things we do have been done for 20 years,” said Connors, who’s originally from the East Coast. ” … I think a lot of people were just waiting for someone else to do it, and that just isn’t my drive. I wanted more for these kids the very first time I met them.”
Now, as the plaques and trophies continue to pile up, Connors is a little sheepish about discussing what success means to the program and to the kids.
“The point of the sport, if you love it, is to grow as a person, not just get out there and goof off,” he said. “That’s what we’re focused on, and that’s the only thing we really worry about. Everything else just kind of takes care of itself.”
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