Perfecting a passion is something that many individuals thrive on, whether it’s playing the flute in the school marching band or increasing your speed on the football field. And many young people in Cobb County spend a majority of their summers preparing for fall competitions by training intensely and/or participating in camps to better their skills. For example, about 7,000 athletes and as many as 2,000 band students from Cobb County Schools train and participate in camps each summer.

“These camps are school and program specific and provide students with an opportunity to learn and hone the physical and musical skills that will allow them the greatest measure of success in the fall marching band season,” says Christopher Ferrell, Cobb Schools supervisor of instrumental music. “Equally as important is that these sessions allow time for students to interact with one another, help to develop social and leadership skills, and provide a supportive environment for students to learn and grow.”

Ferrell says the camps are essential in offering students the opportunity to develop skills that prepare them to perform at football games, exhibitions and competitions. In addition, the marching productions, including drill and music, are specifically designed for that group of students, and the intricacy often necessitates intentional and detailed time in advance of the school year. Results of the hard work are evident in activities and events that marching band students are invited to attend as well. Ferrell says many groups have been invited to internationally and nationally televised parades, including both the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tournament of Roses Parade. “We have groups that have earned national champion and class champion awards, as well as regional champion titles across the country for the Bands of America organization and Music for All,“ he says. “We have countless bands that have excelled in state and local competitive and exhibition events.”

It takes quite a bit of planning, volunteer work and dedication on behalf of the students, teachers, families and friends to provide these summer experiences for students. “The quality and level of care of all of the parties involved is so important to every aspect of our programs,” Ferrell says. “I am very proud to be associated with not only an incredible community, but also dedicated, hardworking music educators that truly give everything they have because they know the value these quality programs have in a student’s life.”

Steve Jones, Cobb Schools’ athletics director, says nearly two-thirds of the district’s approximately 10,000 high school athletes train each summer. “Most of our schools have their major team sports go to camps each summer. Many of our football teams spend three to five days at summer camps at the  University of West Georgia, where they work on individual or team skill building,” Jones says. “When they are not in a camp, all of the football players, as well as most other sports, are lifting weights and conditioning three days a week.” He says most of the basketball programs attend college camps as well, and many of the baseball and softball teams participate in summer leagues, in addition to soccer and lacrosse players and cheerleaders. This type of training has been going on since about 1990.

“If our high school teams want to be competitive against all other schools in Georgia, they must train all summer, and once the school year starts, they usually train in the off season,” Jones says.  “Coaches, students and parents have to be on the same page for summer training to produce dividends. There has to be an extraordinary amount of effort and dedication. High school athletics has become very competitive and those that do this extra work are usually the ones who have the most success.”

That Extra Push

“Sports are not only physical, but they have become very mental and emotional when preparing to become one of the best on the field or court,” says Lilian Abdelmalek, CEO and head performance trainer for Dynamics of Speed and Agility Training. Established in 2009, DSA focuses on speed training, footwork, agility and power training with athletes of all ages. It offers year-round training for athletes, however, she says many train during their respective off seasons. Abdelmalek provides small group and private sessions for hundreds of middle and high school athletes throughout metro Atlanta, including some in Cobb. Training takes place at The Forum Athletic Club at Lenox Square in Buckhead, and DSA’s NFL Off-Season group is held mainly at Walton High School in east Cobb each year.

“DSA Trainers are here to take some of the pressure off these athletes in preparing for their season and preparing in a way to prevent injury in the future by using our structured speed and agility programs,” she says. “While training, athletes prepare for conditioning tests, competing for spots on the roster and so much more.”