TIPP CITY — In the same way he encourages the athletes he works with, Zach Vargo made his dream of opening an athletic training facility a reality through years of hard work and determination.
He and his wife Janelle Vargo opened The Athletic Proving Grounds in Tipp City earlier this year, offering sport-specific training to area athletes as well as fitness classes for all ages.
Their highly individualized approach allows the pair to boast that their athletes have achieved a much higher rate of success than many others.
“The national average for kids going from high school to playing college is 7 percent,” he said. “Ours is 84 percent.”
Vargo has been pursuing this dream for the past five years, all while working as a public school teacher and earning a master’s degree.
While still in college, Vargo worked as an assistant coach for the Troy Christian football team and started a strength and conditioning program for those athletes.
Vargo started working as a gym teacher and furthered his coaching career, as a varsity football defensive coordinator and then as head coach.
Eventually, he started training individual students at their houses.
“I’d go to their house around 5 a.m. and we’d train in their basement,” he recalled. “Just by word of mouth, I started having more people.”
As his client list grew, Vargo started to consider opening his own training business just in case he ever lost his job as a physical education teacher.
“So we put a garage gym in,” he said. “We got to the point where we had cars parking all over the yard and the garage was starting to get full.”
Before finding their current location, the Vargos would have about 25 athletes training in their two-car garage at one time.
The Vandalia couple searched for a year and half for just the right place to house the business.
“We got bought out from under at 11 o’clock at night. We put in an offer on a place that had been on the market for two or three years. Somebody else got it the next day,” Vargo said. “This place was definitely meant to be.”
Located directly across from the Kyle Park entrance, the building that now houses The Athletic Proving Grounds was once a machine shop.
Purchased in September 2015, the building has been transformed into a sports training facility housing a variety of uses including athletic testing, speed training, group training for men and women, sport-specific training for athletes, and field rental for soccer, baseball, and football.
Both Zach and Janelle work as trainers in the facility and both are still full-time educators.
“This has been a monster of a project,” Vargo said. “But I enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like work.”
Their athletic training program, Vargo Trained, offers highly individualized, sport specific training. Another of their programs, Volt, focuses on speed training. They also started an athletic testing company for athletes.
The Athletic Proving Grounds isn’t just for athletes looking to move to the next level, the group fitness classes are open to anyone looking to get fit, they added.
“It’s not about ability,” Vargo explained. “Our philosophy is one brick. Will Smith said you don’t set out to build a wall. You lay one brick as perfectly as you can lay it every day, and someday you’ll have a wall.”
The facility is located at 475 S. First St., just across the street from the entrance to Kyle Park. For more information, visit their website, www.athleticprovinggrounds.com, or like them on Facebook.
Reach Cecilia Fox at [email protected]