With a baseball training academy led by MLB player Jack Cust and a softball training center led by Olympian Jennie Finch, Diamond Nation hosts a staff of professional players and coaches who cull their collective NCAA, MLB, and Olympic experience to refine the hitting, pitching, and fielding skills of burgeoning legends. The Jack Cust Baseball Academy and Jennie Finch Softball Academy share a well-equipped space and employ staffers who personalize player instruction.
Adrenaline-pumping fitness and thrilling combat come together in Rising Star Fencing Academy's classes. The United States Fencing Association-member studio's lessons are suited to children as young as 6, and every level teaches creative strategy as it hones stamina, agility, and mental discipline. On a long, rectangular dueling area, coaches and students practice the complex foot- and hand-work for all three fencing styles?foil, sabre, and epee?all using the traditional scoring system. This intensive training is possible, in part, because of the academy's rigorous adherence to safety standards: all students are outfitted with a steel mesh mask and clothed in standard-issue force fields.
Every child starts out with a blank slate of abilities. But as they progress from newborns to toddlers and children, the skills they master can affect their self-esteem and level of success. That's why the staff at CATS: Children & Adult Sports & Yoga has spent the last 30 years creating programs that help kids aged 1 and older master life skills. Each of the center's mobility-focused classes is divided by age. Staff members lead babies in fun, playful activities that help improve coordination and spatial perception or kids aged 5 and older in noncompetitive sports. The competencies they teach in these specialized sessions are fleshed out during cross-training activities, which help kids master backhand swings or telling people soccer is way cooler than football.
Rain delays and snow-outs are never an issue within Hudson Baseball Center, where instructors lead baseball and softball lessons atop the indoor facility's evergreen turf. Working in individual practice lanes or in group clinics, players focus on improving distinct aspects of their game, including hitting, pitching, and fielding. Regardless of the specialty involved, every lesson places particular emphasis on critical thinking and physical discipline, valuable skills for both playing baseball and wrestling other jury members to settle an impasse. Comprised of former high school, collegiate, and professional athletes, the faculty includes the likes of a Class-A pitcher for the Reds, a high-school All-American with 14 years of coaching experience, and a softball player who spent 13 years with the Hoboken Shockers' traveling team.
The family-run Astoria Sports Complex offers batting cages and indoor soccer, and has one of the largest fitness centers around. The facility got its start more than 30 years ago, when owner Steve Poliseno converted an abandoned ice house, purchased at auction, into the gigantic sports complex it is today. The most recent addition to the facility is a gigantic, Olympic-sized swimming pool, where kids can take lessons and prepare to be the Model U.N. delegate from Atlantis.
JCM Baseball Academy fosters the game's future stars under the guidance of owner Justin McKay—an assistant coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University who, in 2012, played a major role in leading the team to its best record since 1994. McKay has recruited a staff of fellow Division I–level coaches and players that, together, run numerous programs and camps throughout the year. The JCM's junior- and high-school camps, for instance, focus on the skills and mechanics required to play each position on the field, and also emphasize the importance of remembering to enjoy the game. The camps unfold at FDU's Naimoli Family Baseball Complex, which features state-of-the-art turf to prevent injuries and rival players from planting poison ivy around second base.