Athletic club adds speed school

Riverside Athletic Club has brought a prestigious athletic training program to Merrill in the Parisi Speed School. Developed by All-American track athlete Bill Parisi, Parisi Speed School has become nationally recognized as the leader in performance enhancement training.

Preparing for the addition of Parisi, Riverside Athletic Club hired two performances coaches and installed 2,500 square feet of artificial turf on what was a sport court.

Performance coaches Ryan Branham, a former college hockey player, and Eric Filipiak, a former college football player, are both originally from Wisconsin, but were in Florida when they saw that Riverside was seeking trainers to head the Parisi program.

“We see this as something we lacked as kids,” Ryan said. “We want to help kids with what we didn’t have growing up.”

To be certified to run the speed school, Eric and Ryan spent a week at Parisi’s home base in New Jersey learning the system.

“I wanted to come back and coach hockey,” Ryan said. “Then I saw this opportunity to teach all athletes and empower kids.”

Eric is a certified personal trainer whose degree is in exercise physiology. Ryan, the Parisi program director at Riverside Athletic Club, has a degree in business marketing.

The biggest target for Parisi is the 7-14 year old athlete. The focus is on teaching the proper fundamentals of accelerating, changing direction and stopping.

“We work on the base fundamentals of what makes an athlete,” Ryan said.

Each athlete undergoes an evaluation before entering the program. And, during the program, athletes get a report card after each session for immediate feedback on their progress and some areas to work on.

“We can see their strengths and weaknesses and it allows us to monitor their progress through the program,” Ryan said. “It’s good for them to see their improvement.”

While Parisi has helped elite athletes, the program is also for the kids who are struggling.

“We want the kids who don’t have success,” Ryan said. “That’s when we can make the most impact in a kid’s life.”

The Parisi Speed School obviously emphasizes improved athletic performance, but even more importantly, it heightens an athlete’s self-confidence.

“Seventy five percent of kids drop out of sports by high school,” he added. “We’re trying to bring a fun atmosphere and build self-confidence. It’s amazing how much you can do with confidence alone.”

During the school year, Parisi Speed School will be offering sessions from 3:30-8 p.m. on weeknights. Each session lasts about an hour and includes warm ups, skills training and strength training.

Parent orientations are offered every Monday at 7 p.m., including a free demo class.

Parisi Speed School began franchising in 2005 and currently has 75 locations. Franchise rules effectively preclude another Parisi school from opening within a 50-mile radius of Merrill. The only other Parisi location in Wisconsin is in the Milwaukee area.

Riverside Athletic Club owner Paul Kienitz said he did a couple years of research before pursuing Parisi, which turns down 70 percent of applicants.

“We’re going to be known for sports enhancement,” Kienitz said.

Parisi has also become a force in the NFL Combine, helping more than 130 players make it into the draft in the past 10 years. Green Bay Packers players Nick Collins and Ryan Grant both got a boost from Parisi.

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