Writer: DANNY MOGLE // Phtographers: SARAH A. MILLER & ANDREW D. BROSIG // July/August 2015
At APEC in Tyler, Texas, Caleb Stennis is running so fast on a treadmill that it looks like he could go flying off at any second. His legs are moving in hyperdrive speed, his arms are pumping and he’s gasping for air. He nearly falls as he steps off the spinning belt.
Owner Bobby Stroupe, who has a special knack of turning young athletes into sports champions, doesn’t like what he sees.
“Do it again,” he tells Stennis, a talented running back at Tyler Junior College who bench-presses 335 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in a lightning fast 4.34 seconds.
“This time don’t lose control. Work it up. When you hit 30 (seconds) sprint and maintain for 10. … Don’t try to run too fast.”
Stennis executes the command to perfection. He runs with power and excellent form to the very last step.
Sweat dripping from his nose, Stennis waits for, hopefully, Stroupe’s approval.
“Nice work,” says Stroupe. Stennis nods and smiles.
At 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, Stennis is lean, muscular and extremely focused. “I want to be the best player,” he says with all the determination in the world. “I want to play in the NFL.”
While attending Southeastern Oklahoma State on a football scholarship, Stroupe became obsessed with unlocking the secrets of helping athletes reach their potential. He earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education and then studied the most innovative training techniques available.
At the Gray Institute in Michigan, he learned applied functional science, which uses biomechanics, physics and psychology to create effective and efficient exercise plans tailored to specific results.
From the National Strength and Conditioning Association and National Academy of Sports Medicine, he learned the role of exercise in physical therapy and the best practices for improving strength, conditioning and athletic performance. He studied with speed training experts, worked in fitness and injury recovery programs used by professional athletes and earned a master’s degree in sports psychology.
Ten years ago he opened Athletic Performance Enhancement Center and incorporated all that he had learned into what he calls spherical fitness — patterns of exercises based on science that challenge the mind and body and achieve fitness and sports-specific goals.
As word spread that APEC was making athletes stronger and faster and helping them recover from injuries with less down time, others turned to Stroupe for advice. Sports teams hired him as a consultant and pro athletes came to him for one-on-one training. Sports apparel corporation Nike commissioned Stroupe to teach his spherical fitness curriculum to the training staff at its world headquarters.
APEC now boasts that it has trained more than 100 college athletes. Among professionals who use its specialized services are Josh Tomlin, a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians; Matt Flynn, who has played quarterback for the Green Bay Packers; Kendall Hunter, a running back for the San Francisco 49ers; and major league pitcher Philip Humber.
“Bobby is a true genius in his field. He could work for any number of pro teams but he chooses to be in East Texas,” Humber praises in APEC promotional material.
Minta Spears, a standout basketball player at Texas Tech University, was a junior at Bullard High School when she began going to APEC. She already was on her way to setting school records in points scored, 3-pointers, assists and rebounds.
Although scoring an average of 33 points per game, Spears knew she had to get even better to compete on the highest level in college. “I needed to get faster and stronger. Everybody said I needed to go APEC.”
Trainers at APEC put her through drills to improve foot speed and core strength.
“I loved (the workouts),” Spears says. “I always had a good work ethic.” She packed on 15 pounds of muscle and gained confidence.
She credits APEC with helping her develop explosive bursts of speed to move the ball down court, the quick-pivot agility to catch, turn and pass the ball, the strength to take on defenders determined to muscle her away from the basket and the endurance to power through a grueling season.
Last season at Texas Tech University, Spears averaged 8.5 points per game, led the team in 3-point scoring and started in all 30 games.
During the summer break, she was back at APEC working on conditioning and further rehabilitating a knee that was injured during her freshman year.
A photo of Spears shooting a basketball in a Texas Tech uniform is one of dozens of photos of athletes posted in the lobby at APEC.
“That’s cool,” says Spears. “It’s nice having earned their respect.”
THE NEW APEC
It is a mid-May afternoon and Stroupe is ready to show off his new $1 million training center on Grande Boulevard in Tyler. At nearly 21,000-square-feet of indoor and outdoor space, it is nearly three times larger than the previous facility.
“After serving East Texas for 10 years we have decided to go all in on a new facility,” Stroupe said in a news report announcing the center’s opening. “East Texas deserves the very best, so, we have scouted the country and even looked internationally to ensure we are bringing the most elite combination of equipment, facilities and training systems available. We are confident that this will be a place that East Texas is proud of and one that connects many athletes to their dreams.”
The new APEC has a restricted-access, second-floor lounge where professional athletes can hang out, a classroom on an observation deck overlooking the training floor and a futuristic looking cryotherapy chamber that uses short exposure to cold temperatures to help the body recover from soreness and muscle inflammation.
Performance improvement zones are stocked with specialized equipment including pneumatic resistance stations at which the air pressure is adjusted with the touch of a button. Monitors provide athletes and trainers with instant feedback.
APEC has indoor and outdoor sprint tracks, a multipurpose turf field, basketball court and sand volleyball court.
“We were handcuffed by our lack of space (in the old facility),” Stroupe says. “This is great on a worldwide scale. This stacks up with the best anywhere.”
Stroupe also claims to have the best staff in the nation. His trainers often are snapped up by bigger organizations. The Dallas Cowboys recently hired one as a strength coach.
Although Stroupe works with superstars, he says he gets just as excited helping all kinds of people become healthier and happier. “It’s the personal improvement that’s important. It’s the hard work … reaching goals. Those are the things that stay with you all your life.”