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Student Athlete Training in Carlsbad

NAKOA has innovative approach to train Pacific Ridge athletes

NAKOA coaches are working with Pacific Ridge athletes to incorporate strength, conditioning, speed, and agility into the school’s PE classes.

CARLSBAD – In December, Carlsbad resident and Pacific Ridge School sophomore Kai Kelly were playing for his club lacrosse team when his hip suddenly tightened up during a game.

“I could tell right away something wasn’t right,” he said.

Kelly and his family turned to Carlsbad’s NAKOA Fitness and Physical Therapy for help and he soon started an extensive rehab program for what turned out to be a labral tear in his hip. After 12 weeks of physical therapy and a platelet-rich plasma treatment (PRP), he is well on his way back to scoring goals for Pacific Ridge’s lacrosse team. Much of his physical therapy takes place right at school, thanks to a new partnership between NAKOA and Pacific Ridge.

NAKOA performance coaches are working with Pacific Ridge athletes and competitive teams from middle school through high school, and are working with the school’s Physical Education staff to incorporate strength, conditioning, speed, and agility into the school’s PE classes. They also work in coordination with the school’s staff athletic trainer on injury recoveries. For athletes like Kai, the relationship is a big win.

“They’ve been so supportive; they help me warm up, they come to my games and watch my movement,” he said. “If they see anything wrong, they come up and ask me if I’m okay.”

According to NAKOA’s founder and owner, Jason Waiton, NAKOA’s holistic approach is ideal for young athletes. Getting to know the Pacific Ridge students through the partnership allows his trainers to deliver a comprehensive service.

“The foundation of our program is mindset, movement, nutrition, and recovery,” he said.

NAKOA\’s approach works well for students in middle and high school who are learning specific athletic movements for sports teams, sometimes for the first time. NAKOA educates students about the proper mechanics that generate athletic movements and can be applied to virtually all sports and physical activities.

“We want to teach them global movement patterns the correct way so they can take them to any sport in the future,” said Erik Johnson, NAKOA’s Director of Coaching, who has been working closely with the Pacific Ridge students. The foundational patterns include breathing, squatting, lunging, hinging, pushing, pulling, twisting, and gait.

“This approach to sports-transferable movement is different from how athletic trainers used to work and how many sports coaches still train their teams,” Waiton said. “There’s a paradigm shift taking place that looks at training and fitness differently.”

A forward-looking philosophy that prepares students for both specific sport performance and general athletic movement resonates well with Don Collins, Pacific Ridge’s Director of Athletics.

“Having access to a staff of coaches who address so many aspects of athleticism and fitness is extremely beneficial to our whole student body. Whether or not they are interested in competitive sports, they can learn fundamentals they can apply to any kind of fitness program, now or later in life,” he said.

Another Pacific Ridge student who is taking full advantage of NAKOA’s program is senior Vivianne Steer. A soccer player, Steer wanted to stay fit and gain strength after her high school season ended and before the summer club tournament season starts. She began working with NAKOA at their Carlsbad studio but now trains with them after school on Pacific Ridge’s campus. According to Steer, NAKOA’s coaches gave her a higher awareness of her mechanics and strength.

“When I first began, I didn’t realize my right leg wasn’t nearly as strong as my left,” she said.

“We’ve been working on building up my strength and the balance is much better. It’s been great to get stronger and maintain my level of fitness. Now when I go out for club soccer, I’ll have an edge and can just focus on my ball touch.”

For NAKOA, which offers science-based performance training and physical therapy for clients of all ages at its Carlsbad studio, helping athletes like Kelly and Steer is only part of the partnership’s goal. Going forward, Pacific Ridge plans to incorporate NAKOA’s expertise into health classes and other activities that educate students about fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle choices.

“Sports performance, health, and overall wellness require a multi-disciplinary approach,” said Walton. “Proper coaching can help to bridge the gap to ensure goals can be reached safely and effectively.”

“For Pacific Ridge, we have a huge opportunity to reach out beyond athletics and expand how we care for our students’ well-being,” agreed Collins.

For more information about Pacific Ridge School, visit

This article was originally published on the Carlsbad Patch by Abby Adams

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