At the conclusion of the 2016-17 girls basketball season, Greenwood coach Lee Taft relinquished his duties to concentrate on his speed-training business.
And business is good.
Founder of Lee Taft Speed Academy, the 52-year-old Greenwood resident is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost authorities on the benefits of multidimensional speed to athletics performance.
Taft travels around the country — and the world, for that matter — giving talks, conducting clinics and educating those seeking an edge on the football field, soccer pitch or badminton court.
He flies out of Indianapolis International Airport no less than 30 times per year.
“It’s tough being on a plane or in a motel all of the time,” Taft said. “Sometimes I’ll fly in for a day and either leave that same day or the next morning. I don’t get to enjoy the where I am, but it’s the opportunity to teach.
“I spend a lot of time working with athletes and coaches, and seeing the progress.”
Among the countries in which Taft has given talks are Japan, Finland, South Korea and Iceland. He recently was supposed to share his expertise in Dublin, Ireland, but a major snowstorm in that country pushed Taft’s five-day visit to April.
At first, his audiences were much closer to home.
Growing up in Whitehall, New York, along the state’s eastern border, Taft was a four-sport star at Whitehall High School. Later, he played two seasons of junior college basketball before transferring to Cortland State, a Division III program.
Taft’s reputation as a good all-around athlete began steering potential clients to him while he was in his early 20s.
“I really started training people a lot in 1989,” Taft said. “Athletes were asking me to train them just as a favor. It was all kind of organic the way it grew.”
Despite being sought after as a speaker and trainer, Taft maintains a certain quaintness to his one-on-one training, conducting sessions in his family’s 400-square-foot garage when it’s cold or raining outside. The garage includes a rubberized flooring.
Center Grove senior tennis player Isabella Schoolcraft is one of Taft’s clients. The defending state doubles champion has been working with Taft at least twice a week since June.
“He’s so good with tennis that we work on short movements and strength training. He incorporates ground strokes into it, too, and we do a lot of core work,” said Schoolcraft, who has signed to play at Valparaiso.
“There are a lot of resistance bands, and there are medicine balls and dumbbells in there, too.”
Schoolcraft said when the weather is warmer, Taft simply opens the garage door and has her do the drills outside. It’s not unusual to see Schoolcraft running sprints in Taft’s driveway.
Away from his garage, Taft has addressed coaches, athletes and training staffs for numerous college sports programs as well as professional teams.
This includes the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL and college programs from Arizona, Purdue, Ball State and Mississippi.
So ingrained are Taft’s teachings to his three children — son Brennen, 10, and daughters Jae, 20, and Bailee, 18 — that the oldest two are capable of taking on the role of instructor when it comes to teaching multidirectional speed.
Jae, a sophomore at Olivet Nazarene who plays women’s basketball for the Tigers, recently told the school’s strength coach about her background and offered to help out.
He accepted, and Jae Taft — who at age 9 demonstrated speed drills for her father while he spoke at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis — is expected to offer her input when it’s requested.
“Jae actually used to train younger athletes as her summer job and did well,” Lee Taft said of his eldest child. “If she wanted to, she could be great at it.”
She had a pretty good teacher.