Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

C.J. Spencer of Inderkum High School practices a coordination drill last week at Game-Fit, a sports performance facility in Sacramento that is geared toward helping young athletes maximize their potential.

Sacramento's Game-Fit training strives to give athletes an edge

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1D
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2013 - 2:57 pm

The name of the business may be Game-Fit, but the young men and women who walk through the front door are hardly here to play around.

They show up because they want to be better. Some aspire to greatness – a college scholarship, a career in big-time sports, fame, millions, the whole thing.

When they work out, they know it's going to hurt. They will push to the point of exhaustion, drenched in sweat and gasping for air. They'll run, jump and sprint. They'll do footwork and reaction drills. They'll work on explosive moves. They'll lift weights.

And when they mess up – when their hips are in the wrong position, or their arm work is sloppy or their knee lift isn't quite right – the guy who runs the place is on it in an instant, explaining what went wrong and how to make it right.

"We tell everyone that this is not going to be easy," said Lemuel Adams, a 34-year-old former pro quarterback best known for his years in the Arena Football League. "If you think it's going to be easy, this is not the place for you. The training here is intense."

Adams is the founder, owner, motivator, analyst, taskmaster, role model and force of nature behind Game-Fit, a sports performance business that opened in September in a 10,000-square-foot converted car dealership on Del Paso Boulevard. And yes, that huge expanse of green carpet made to look like a football field – he vacuums it.

Adams' mission is to take good athletes and make them significantly better. Middle-of-the-pack players in high school can become stars. Stars can get to the next level and land Division I scholarships. That can translate into big money. A four-year college scholarship – Adams himself played football at Washington State and Florida A&M – can be worth $100,000 or more and open the doors to a whole new world.

Though Adams made his mark in football, Game-Fit will train any athlete to get better, faster and stronger. The facility has batting cages, studios for yoga and massage, and a weight- training room. There are programs for people of all ages, including bootcamp training for adults trying to get back in shape and tailored programs for weekend athletes.

Beyond the athletics, Adams also insists on shaping his young clients into successful students and good people. Anyone training at Game-Fit with a grade-point average below 3.0 is automatically enrolled in Life-Fit, a sister program that offers tutoring and related skills for long-term success beyond the gridiron or hardwood court.

They'd do well to follow Adams' example.

He rises each day at 4:15 a.m., gets to Game-Fit at 5:15 and is often there until 9 p.m. or later.

What's his motivation?

"I have a passion to do this," he said. "I want to help people get better."

Often, his wife Briana, a fitness enthusiast herself, comes to the facility to watch her husband in action. She even works out in some of the classes.

"He doesn't do this just to do it," she said as her husband barked instructions to two dozen high school athletes 50 feet away. "He does this because he loves it."

The couple have been married four years and have a blended family of five children.

Asked if he shifts gears at home, Briana laughed and said: "This is all he talks about – this is all we talk about."

Lemuel Adams' obsession is paying off. While he has yet to groom a start-to-finish success story, Adams says many of his current client-athletes are destined for big things. Even pros and would-be pros have begun seeking him out. One of the performance packages offered at Game-Fit is geared toward prepping for the NFL combine, a bare-bones test of athleticism.

Malik James, a cornerback who recently signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys, sought out Adams while visiting his agent, Jason Dillard, who lives in Sacramento. Adams trained James to strengthen his injured knee, focusing on reaction, footwork and conditioning drills.

"I was instantly impressed. He's a go-getter. I love the way he trains," James said. "He really pushes you, but he understands the needs of your body. He was an athlete and he focuses on you from that standpoint."

Adams, with his upbeat personality and an intense focus, comes across equal parts motivator and technician. He'll pump you up one moment and correct your footwork the next.

An eternal optimist, Adams can also give the over-confident athlete a harsh reality check.

"If you're running a 5-flat 40 (yard dash), I'm not going to have you running a 4.3 – but I can get you to 4.8," Adams said. "If you're a big tight end, maybe you're not going to run a 4.5, but I can make you very agile. I can make you look the part, get you in and out of your breaks or cuts, teach you how to drop your butt, and we can get that 40 time down to where people say, 'Wow.' "

To watch Adams in action is to witness a mix of joy, intensity and focus. On a recent Wednesday night, as several area high school football players worked out under the guidance of Adams and fellow trainer Reggie Johnson, Adams concentrated as if he were leading his offense downfield for a score.

He demonstrated the proper footwork. He squatted and watched the drills. He barked instructions. He motioned. He pointed. He jumped to his feet to correct the stance of one of the athletes. He never let up for the entire hour.

This is what the athletes sign up for – to be pushed to that elusive next level. There's plenty riding on it. Quarterback C.J. Spencer, for instance, will be a senior at Inderkum High School, and is expected to land a Division I scholarship, and how he performs in the fall will determine plenty about his future.

Adams' son Kier, an incoming 15-year-old freshman at Grant High School who plays defensive back and receiver, has also shown potential.

Several others working out at Game-Fit are potential Division I players. Many are hoping to get to that level, including Willie Johnson, 16, a running back at Mesa Verde High.

Why is he at Game-Fit after a long day at school?

"To get better," he said with a smile, "so I can stand out more. Everything needs to improve."

Johnson's mother, Tiffany Dedrick, arrived at Game-Fit to watch the workout, shortly after getting off from her job as a hospice care worker. She sat with her sister, Monique Johnston, whose son, Le Kayle Johnston, a running back at Capital Christian, went through a series of grueling drills – everything from running around cones to doing leg raises until they could go no longer.

"It's not just about football or basketball," Monique Johnston said. "It's about being a student-athlete."

Game-Fit charges a nominal fee for its services – from $30 a month to $190 for those prepping for the NFL combine. Those who can't afford it are not left out.

"We make it very affordable. I sponsor 12 kids a month, and they don't pay a dime," Adams said. "If they can't afford it, I'll have them do volunteer work so they get used to understanding that although I'll give this to you, you have to give back to the community in some way."

As that recent Wednesday workout came to a close, Adams gathered the athletes in a huddle and gave them one parting piece of encouragement.

"There are two things that can happen," he said. "We can get better or we can get worse. Today, we got better."


GAME-FIT

What it is: A sports performance facility geared toward student-athletes aiming to improve and possibly earn college scholarships. Training is done in a groups and one-on-one. Adult programs are also available, from bootcamps to sport- specific training.

Where: 1201 Del Paso Blvd., Unit A, Sacramento

Hours: Appointments available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends

Information: (916) 550-0658 www.game-fit.com


Gallery: Game-Fit


Call The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.

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