Competitive Edge

Remember that summer camp that you attended as a child? Marshmallows roasted over an open fire, peaceful hikes through the woods, endless hours on the beach? If you are a NFL player, or want to be one, you can kiss those memories good-bye. The only camp you'll be attending is more like boot camp.

˜This facility is for the player who want to become the best he possibly can be at his particular position," said Chip Smith, founder and president of Competitive Edge Sports in Decatur, Georgia. "To achieve that goal, a lot of work is involved. We train athletes from a number of professional sports. Right now in the pre draft time frame, a lot of our people are concentrating on football."

Smith's facility was founded twelve years ago. The theory behind the program is that by taking an individualized approach to training, an athlete can enhance his speed, strength, and flexibility for an overall improvement in his sports performance.

Smith himself is recognized as one of the foremost speed and strength experts in the United States. After getting a degree in exercise, Smith went to the Soviet Union to do post graduate work at the world renowned Soviet Sports Institute. To date, he has trained over 200 NFL players and has also worked with numerous college level athletes who are preparing for post season bowl games as well as for the NFL combine.

"A lot of the college players will come here starting in mid December," Smith said. "We get those whose teams were not in BCS games, the good players from not so good teams, a little earlier than those who were playing until early January. The pros come here during the off season to work on their skills and to be in prime condition for training camp."

One of the examples of Smith's enthusiastic college players is Lake Forest College senior linebacker Casey Urlacher. Urlacher was recently selected as a member of the D3 All-America Team from after leading the Foresters to a school record nine victories and securing the program's first Midwest Conference Championship since 1983.

"My brother (Bears linebacker) Brian told me that I should work out at Competitive Edge Sports about 2 years ago. I came to Atlanta to give it a try and I saw immediate results. My weight, speed, and strength increased measurably. It gave me a real edge when our Forester season began."

Casey Urlacher found not only a top ranked fitness and conditioning program at Competitive Edge, but an extended family as well.

"This is a special place," he said. "Brian mentioned that it was much more than a training facility but it was hard to understand until I actually was here. Chip treats all of us like members of one huge family. We have grown very close during the time that I have been here. I was recently invited to participate in the Hula Bowl, which is a very exciting thing for me. The best part of it is that Chip will be at the game cheering me on, then he'll stay for Brian's Pro Bowl game as well."

Brother Brian agrees with Casey's view of Competitive Edge.

˜I spent 3 months in Atlanta working at Competitive Edge with Chip and with Robby Stewart, who is one of the best strength coaches in the country," Brian said. "My weight went from 242-262. My forty time went from 4.69-4.49. They did wonders for me, but more importantly, they encouraged me to send my brother Casey to train for 6 weeks."

The Competitive Edge program takes place in a newly opened venue located near the heart of Atlanta Georgia.

"This is a spectacular facility. Now we are truly state of the art," Smith said. "We have about 96,000 square feet here. There is plenty of room to work one on one with a number of elite athletes."

Football players practice with others who play the same position, then work individually with weights. Days are long and the work is intense.

"Everybody tends to go all out in their training while they are here. That's the whole reason they come to Atlanta." Smith said. "One of our most difficult routines is resistance weights in the water. Not many of the participants like that part of the program very much. But the difficulty of that particular drill is what yields such spectacular results."

Players who meet at the camp often become lifelong friends.

"Casey Urlacher is staying right now with Keith Brookings, who is a friend of Brian's. They met here several years ago. I think that a ‘we're all in this together' bond develops while the players are working out here."

"When they are playing for their respective teams against each other, the friendships started here may be temporarily tested by the emotions of the game, but once the final down has been played they are friends once more. That's true of our staff and the players as well. We stay in touch and look out for each other. It's a bond that can last for years."

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