Carmel Valley couple’s Parisi Speed School builds up kids’ athletic foundation, confidence

Carmel Valley residents Joe and Trisha Virga have brought the Parisi Speed School to San Diego, a training facility for youth that has groomed more than 700,000 athletes nationwide in the past 22 years.

The Virgas opened their Sorrento Valley location on Nov. 1, just steps away from their kickboxing studio CKO Kickboxing.

Joe Virga said while there is lots of sports-specific training available for kids, there’s a need to focus on athleticism as a whole, building the foundations of a great athlete.

Parisi teaches kids ages 7 to 18 how to run faster, build strength and increase flexibility and endurance.

“At the end of the day, you’re building confidence, and you hope you’re not making just better athletes but better people, which is so important to me,” said Joe, a father of three boys. “There wasn’t a program like this when I was growing up. I was too scared to play sports when I was younger. I wasn’t coordinated, and I was so fearful of all sports because I didn’t feel capable of it. So now I hope to give kids an advantage and help change their outlook on life.”

Bill Parisi founded the Parisi Speed School in 1992 in New Jersey. Parisi was an All-American in track and field athlete, and to prepare for the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials in the javelin throw, he traveled the world to learn the best training methods. He took what he had learned and started Parisi Speed School in a $500 van he drove from school to school to train young athletes. And he didn’t just work with young athletes — one of his first clients was New York Giants quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion Phil Simms.

The first brick-and-mortar facility opened in 1993 in New Jersey, and in 2005 he began franchising. There are now 88 Speed Schools in 27 states — the Sorrento Valley location is one of only two in Southern California.

Virga first witnessed Parisi’s method when visiting a friend who is the strength conditioning coach for the UCLA football team.

“It was a masterpiece, watching him train these kids with what he had learned at Parisi Speed School,” Virga said.

A week later, fate seemed to arrive in his inbox — an email that Parisi Speed School representatives were coming to San Diego to do a presentation. Virga said “yes” to the opportunity to target the fastest-growing demographic in youth sports, became certified in the Parisi method and started scouting locations for his facility.

Virga is a New York native, betrayed by his Brooklyn-tinged accent. He spent an extremely stressful 11 years on Wall Street before he realized he didn’t want to live that kind of unhealthy life. He discovered fitness and never looked back.

The certified trainer said at 40, he’s in way better health, physically and mentally, than he was at 30, and admits that if someone told him then what he’d be doing today, he’d have said they were crazy.

With Trisha, he bought his first CKO Kickboxing franchise in New York and they ran it for five years before he and his wife decided to move to San Diego in 2012.

They started a CKO in Sorrento Valley — the noncontact fitness center has women hitting a heavy bag and doing strength training. At Parisi, Trisha will bring her 45-minute boot camp for adults featuring their TRX tools, medicine balls and push sleds.

The two facilities are so close to each other on Miramar that the pair will be able to walk back and forth all day, switching off just as they do in taking care of their three little boys.

“She does everything, I just show up,” Virga said of his wife and partner. “We’re very blessed to do what we love every day, and we wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

The new Parisi facility is a clean, sharp-looking 5,000 square feet. They have a three lane, 25-yard track where they teach kids the mechanics they need to run properly.

“You don’t have to be born fast to be fast — that’s a myth,” Virga said. “We can change one or two things about the way you run to get faster, it’s all in the mechanics.”

Next to the track is a large artificial turf area where they work on change of direction movements — how to quickly move side to side without getting hurt.

“Safety is the No. 1 thing we teach kids,” Virga said, noting that all sessions begin with an extensive 20-minute warm-up with lots of stretching.

The school has a weight-lifting station where trainers work with kids on strength, but Virga says they never have kids under a weight they can’t lift.

Parisi has a team of trainers, three of whom the Virgas met at their church, Elevate in Carmel Valley. Virga was eager for the school to be filled and for everyone to get to work, especially after a very fulfilling experience working with young football players from Torrey Pines Pop Warner this season.

“Working with kids is so empowering, to know the impact you can have on a kid,” Virga said. “Their whole world can change because of what we do. That’s why I’m here today.”

Parisi Speed School is at 7060 Miramar Road, Suite 209. First-time guests can receive a free class and a free performance evaluation. Visit parisispeedschoolsd.com.

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