The reasons for starting a sports training business can be varied: filling a perceived hole in a town’s landscape, a desire to share one’s knowledge and experience and even frustration.
In the case of Newtown’s Salomé Sports Training (SST), it was all three.
“Both of my boys have played baseball in town for a long time, but they outgrew it,” said Paul Genna, a longtime restaurant and bar owner who bankrolled SST. “They were working with fathers who were volunteering — and I give them a lot of credit for the time and effort those guys put into it — but they didn’t have everything that was needed to take the kids to the next level.”
Even after visiting several training facilities nearby, Genna said, “I was still not happy with the quality of the coaching I was seeing.”
Genna’s search eventually led him to the Connecticut Rage in Fairfield, which bills itself as “Fairfield County’s elite baseball training program,” and its founder and head instructor Chris Sharma. A short time later he connected with Ángel Salomé — a one-time catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers — and his wife Johanica Coronado-Salomé, both of whom had been involved with sports training businesses in the past.
“What we want to provide is a one-stop shop,” Coronado-Salomé said at the 15,000-square-foot facility at 31 Pecks Lane. “It’s not just about improving your skills and running drills, but we also have a health and wellness component. We include nutritional guidelines with our physical training to help our athletes reach their potential both from inside and outside the body.”
“There’s the knowledge and experience we all have,” affirmed Salomé. “Chris and I have been doing this for a while — we’re both used to working with kids at every level, from Little League and high school to college and pro ball. But we also want our students to grow not just athletically but in other ways as well — through healthy living and tutoring if they need help at school.”
“There are a lot of places where you can learn skills,” Sharma said. “But what Angel and I also want to do is prepare them for what it’s like as they move up in their (athletic) careers.”
In addition to the Rage — which offers instruction to 9- to 18-year-olds on both an individual and team basis — Sharma’s background includes five years on the coaching staff of Western Oklahoma State College.
“We treat each player as an individual,” Sharma declared. “With us, it’s not all about the team or about winning, but about teaching them the skills they need to advance, and what they need to know at each level as they advance. Angel and I have both been there.”
Sharma said he and the Salomés run SST as co-owners, while Genna is “the silent partner who made this possible for all of us.”
The SST facility “kind of fell into our laps,” Genna said. Formerly the home of Rise Above Athletics, the space became vacant in August, when the SST team moved in. It formally opened in November.
Salomé noted that SST’s training is not limited to baseball and includes lacrosse, rugby, soccer and football programs. Offerings include the “Tiny Prospects Project,” an eight-week program geared for 5- to 8-year-olds at $299; the “Brain & Brawn Program,” six-session after-school programs that combine speed and agility lessons with homework assistance from Reed Intermediate School teacher Drew Hall at $120; and private lessons available a la carte at $65 for a half-hour and $100 for an hour or in packages that top out at $900 for 10 hour-long sessions.