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Batavia grad an emerging Force for Tri-Cities athletes
By John Lemon | Daily Herald Staff

Trainer Chris Browning, pictured last year, works with Dave Bollweg on the Vertimax. Browning runs ProForce training and will be opening a new facility in Batavia in August.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/30/2009 12:01 AM

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While Chris Browning is a Batavia graduate and former star player for the Bulldogs, in his post-high school days he's playing a large role in helping athletes improve not only at his alma mater but throughout the Tri-Cities.

That means St. Charles of course, and even Geneva. Yes, a Bulldog helping a Viking.

Browning is in his second year running Pro Force Sports Performance Training, a facility located in downtown Batavia that is moving to a 6,000 square foot building on the east side of Batavia in August.

Over 300 high school athletes train with Browning, and the testimonials come from all corners of the Tri-Cities as to how the program has helped. Whether it be increasing quickness, building muscle, putting on weight, taking weight off, starting a healthier diet, improving agility - or all of the above - Browning's Pro Force is becoming a force in the workout arena.

There's Brian Krolikowski, one of the many Batavia baseball players who worked with Browning before the Bulldogs' sectional championship season last spring.

"He does a phenomenal job," Krolikowski, now at Miami of Ohio. "I strongly thank him for (me) staying strong and staying healthy and my fastball increasing three, four miles an hour."

Or Geneva's Cory Hofstetter, who graduated in May and is getting ready for football this fall at Western Illinois. He's been working with Browning since the beginning of the summer.

"It's been great, probably the hardest thing I've ever done," said Hofstetter, who often trains with Batavia grad and current North Central player Tharryn Wright. "It's pushed me really hard. This is like college level training, and I knew a bunch of high school kids come here. It gets you ready, it gets you ready for college."

St. Charles? One of the first things new Saints football coach Mike Fields did earlier this year after getting the job was get his entire team working with Browning.

"It's been awesome," said Fields, who knew of Browning from Chris' brother Andrew when both Fields and Andrew worked at Geneva.

It took two weeks after Fields was hired before he had Browning out for a demonstration and then got his whole program signed up.

"One of the first things I needed to do was get conditioning going," Fields said. "There was a lot of down time for the kids (from when coach Ted Monken left to when Fields was hired). I knew it would be something new for the whole program, really getting a workout and pushing themselves like they've never been pushed before."

Fields' football team isn't the only program at St. Charles East working with Pro Force. Jennie Kull's Saints volleyball team also trains with Browning as they prepare to defend their state championship.

Browning played at Batavia from 1996 to 1998 before graduating from Western Michigan with a degree in sports management. He got a shot in a couple NFL camps before playing in the Arena League for four years for Chicago, Columbus and New Orleans.

That college and pro experience and what he learned provides the base for what Browning teaches area athletes. After working with a partner in Naperville, Browning opened his own Pro Force 18 months ago in Batavia.

His brother Andrew, who coached basketball at Geneva before moving to Metea Valley this winter, helped Chris the last year. Chris Browning will have a new assistant and runs the rest of the training himself.

"I thought, 'I'm going to come out to my hometown and try to give back to these kids through what I learned from my professional days,'" Browning said. "We have exploded.

"A lot of it is what I learned, learning the right way to progress these kids, from proper running form to speed form, explosive movements, really teaching them how to get faster, more agility, side to side. Nutrition is a big key with me. Every kid is on plan whether they want to gain weight or lose it. It's all hard work."

The 300-plus athletes include plenty of football players but also sports from swimming to basketball to girls volleyball to baseball and softball.

Browning, now 29, married and expecting their first child in January, works either with big groups like the St. Charles East football program or Batavia baseball team, or one-on-one sessions.

"It all depends, we customize to each athlete what their parents want and what's good for their finances," said Browning, who also has a pair of professional players he works out, Dan Brewer (baseball) and Mike Rose (basketball).

The level Browning pushes each athlete can get their attention, and it also usually winds up making a difference in how much they improve.

"It's all more intense. He does what you need," Hofstetter said. "It's almost perfect for what I need. A lot of speed. I only do lower body, conditioning, lifting legs, all around."

Fields, whose players train twice a week at Pro Force, is a big fan of the Vertimax program Browning uses, one that is popular with Division I schools and NFL teams.

"I watched a couple Geneva guys train at Pro Force and I thought, 'What a great workout,'" Fields said. "They said, 'Coach, I think the guys would get a lot out of it.'

"I think the Brownings are great guys. They are very passionate. They worked with the boys tremendously well. The kids have loved it."

It isn't just the training that has helped athletes perform better. It's the nutrition.

Browning works with each athlete to get them on a better diet, one that either will help them gain or lose weight depending on their need.

Browning also holds camps for younger kids, where he covers more basic training skills. He trains a few seventh and eighth graders but mostly high school age and older.

His message isn't just performance based. Browning said it is just as important to him to help develop character in addition to improved physical skills.

"I want to be the man of the Tri-Cities," Browning said. "That's what my passion is, from what I learned from my experience and what I can teach these kids. I want to give back and teach them not just to be great athletes but to be great people. Get your grades."

Hofstetter and Krolikowski both said they can see that passion.

"Chris is pretty motivational, he gets you going," Hofstetter said.

"I like how close he is with his clients. He loves his athletes," Krolikowski said.

A typical athlete will work out two or three times a week with Browning, then continue the program on his or her own.

"A (new) kid will come in with parents, I take them through a workout, what's expected," Browning said. "I have parents talk to me, we set up a program, I talk to kids one-on-one, go over nutrition, goals, go through tests. They work out with me 2-3 times a week, but they do have homework. We're big on motivation. These kids love what we do. If they meet us halfway they will see results."

Browning is looking forward to moving to the new facility. It will have field turf and opportunities to work out with tires and chains, along with the traditional weightlifting equipment.

But does he ever feel guilty helping Geneva?

"No, it's real cool," Browning laughed. "All the bad blood between Geneva and Batavia, these guys see each other all the time, they see each other working and they are very nice to each other when they are in here. They are grown men and they are mature. They all want to get better, they want to improve. They know it is going to take hard work and learning to be responsible young adults."