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When Bobby “Jet” Rodriguez watches developing Sunnyside wrestlers Audrey Jimenez and Jesse Ybarra train in his facility on the southside of town, he can envision himself with the same drive when he was in middle school.
When Sunnyside wrestling legend Roman Bravo-Young is pushing himself to the limit, Rodriguez is right there, sweating alongside him. Bravo-Young, a four-time state champ with the Blue Devils, is a two-time All-American at Penn State entering his junior season with the Nittany Lions.
Los Angeles Chargers receiver Jeff Cotton, formerly of Mountain View High School, and Missouri defensive lineman recruit Daniel Robledo, a Cholla grad, also trained this summer with Rodriguez at his facility JET Sports Training.
A few Arizona players, including Sabino grad Drew Dixon, took advantage of workouts with Rodriguez as well.
Rodriguez, nicknamed “Jet” for his speed on the football field as a receiver and tenacious defensive back during his Sunnyside playing days, knows of the path Bravo-Young, Cotton, Robledo and Dixon took with their Tucson background because he lived it himself.
“When I was in the seventh grade, I started training seriously for a whole bunch of sports — I played a lot of them at that age — and I had a youth football coach named Art Olivas whose son went to school with me at Sierra Middle School,” Rodriguez recounted his background while trying to catch his breath mid-workout with Bravo-Young.
“We ran the Santa Cruz River and Tumamoc Hill and went to the gym. Obviously, when you’re in the seventh grade, your body starts changing a little bit. You start seeing some definition. That kind of motivates a young kid.”
Rodriguez, also an accomplished wrestler at Sunnyside, said he “got addicted” to training before reaching high school and that has left an impression on him to this day.
Before COVID-19 hit in March, Rodriguez was able to stage large group workouts at his facility that included only a $99 monthly fee for adults to have unlimited access to the gym and training regimens.
Because of the pandemic, Rodriguez has moved the training of the younger athletes to Quincey Douglas Park for a reduced fee. Jose Felix, the strength and conditioning coach at JET Sports Training who has been with Rodriguez since the facility opened in 2017, helps administer the workouts at the park.
“We meet three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — and there’s no equipment involved,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously, social distancing is in effect. As of now, that’s all we have to offer for youth and high school training.
“It’s been difficult but like I say, ‘Champions always adapt and find a way.’ That’s the best part.”
Some of the regimen that takes place includes running mechanics, including lateral movements, running side-to-side. Conditioning is an important part of the workout because “you want to be able to have the mental and physical endurance to last the entire competition,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez preaches to parents the importance of building and maintaining that endurance in their children into high school.
“When you start adapting skills to your talent at a young age, that’s when you’re able to create separation from the competition,” Rodriguez said. “I tell parents that in the long run, if their kids are consistent with their effort, once their kids develop proper skills, they will stand out from the rest.”
Observing Bravo-Young’s individual workout recently with Rodriguez at JET Sports Training it was plain to see that Rodriguez knows how to get to the core of a world-class athlete’s mental and physical endurance.
Bravo-Young and Rodriguez performed a series of leg drills, including a step routine in which they attempted to touch the top of about a 2-foot high wooden block with their feet in continual running-in-place motion in a span of a minute.
Both became drenched in sweat and sometimes grunted loud, but they never relented, pushing hard to the end.
“Bobby’s made a big impact on my lifting, my strength training, just working out,” said Bravo-Young, who started training with Rodriguez last year. “If I want to go work out, he’s always down. He never he tells me no.
“He’s always going to push me and I like to push him.”
Proof that Rodriguez has that continual energy within him:
— After excelling for Richard Sanchez’s football program at Sunnyside, Rodriguez attended Arizona and walked on to Mike Stoops’ program despite being 5-foot-7 and about 155 pounds.
— Over the last decade, he moved to Brazil to train jiujitsu while living with an aunt there. He entered into mixed martial arts competition. He said he combines the training techniques of what he learned from jiujitsu with the regimen he experienced with wrestling and playing football.
— The competitive fire extended to the rodeo grounds, where he became part of the Professional Bull Riders Association.
— Before opening his facility, he administered workouts at local parks for adults and called the business JET Multi-Sports Training.
His family, including his newborn son Pierre, keeps him grounded in his fast-paced life. Important is the time when Sanchez taught him values and kept him involved with academics through athletics.
“Coach Sanchez really took a hold of me my freshman year and picked me up for school every day,” Rodriguez said. “He worked me out and told me how champions are made, what they do on and off the field — character.”
Bravo-Young added of Rodriguez, who at 31 is 10 years older than him: “He has played a big part in my game, mentally and physically. He’s somebody I really look up to. He’s someone I can go to for anything about life.”
Rodriguez, with his team of six coaches at JET Sports Training, including Felix, is driven to offer people the best choice for training in what is a competitive field in Tucson.
He uses the slogan, “Cultivating Champions.”
One of the JET Sports Training ads states, “No other gym in Tucson trains more All-Region, All-State Athletes, City Champions, State Champions, National Champions, High School and College All-American Athletes, and Professional Athletes than JET Sports Training.”
“I really love the grind of training, running, sprinting, lifting heavy weights, and when I got to college, I knew I was not going to play in the NFL — I’m kind of short,” Rodriguez said. “I remember living in an apartment complex and we had a volleyball sandpit there and we would do drills. I just kind of liked killing my teammates in college doing that.
“Now, I just want to put these guys and these kids in the best position to win and succeed.”
Rodriguez’s life is symbolic of what can happen to a southside kid who does not develop an addiction for playing video games or an unhealthy lifestyle with others his age.
He has contemplated moving into a bigger facility than the 1,700 square foot space of his gym, located in an industrial area near South Park Ave and East Pennsylvania Street. He vows to not move his operations from the southside because of what the gym and his training means to youths in the area who need the outlet.
“I want a bigger spot to serve more of the community,” Rodriguez said, “but I don’t have any plans to leave the southside of Tucson. This is where I was born and raised. A lot of people said I was crazy for starting this on the southside. They said I wouldn’t succeed.
“That’s the worst thing you could tell me, that I can’t do something.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.