After years of playing professional baseball and coaching at the collegiate level, Lemont resident Chris Knollin is taking on a new challenge, one he calls a "sports guy's dream job."
In January, Knollin opened Next Level Training Academy, 12301 S. New Ave., in Lemont's Resicom Business Park. The 10,000-square-foot-facility offers fitness and athletic programs led by former professional athletes and certified trainers.
Knollin, a three-year resident of Lemont, came up with the idea of starting a training academy after he was approached by his friend, who owns the Resicom park. The space now occupied by Next Level was empty for two years prior to the facility's opening.
"With my background in baseball and fitness, it seemed like a great opportunity to bring high-quality training to the southwest suburbs," Knollin said.
Knollin was a pitcher at Triton College and the University of Florida before spending five years playing for minor league teams across the country, including the Schaumburg Flyers. In his final year of professional baseball, he simultaneously earned his master's degree in sports management and embarked on a career as an instructor and coach.
Prior to opening Next Level Academy, he coached at Triton and Morton colleges in Illinois.
Knollin is also certified in CrossFit training, a fitness program program that uses a variety of techniques from weightlifting, gymnastics and metabolic conditioning.
"CrossFit involves a lot of functional strength training, like doing pull-ups or pushing tires," Knollin said. "It was created by Navy SEALs, so it's an intense and high-endurance workout. It's definitely difficult, but anyone can do CrossFit because the workout is catered to each person's abilities and fitness levels."
Next Level also offers professional training for baseball teams and individual players. The facility's small indoor field and batting cages are available for team practices.
Now that baseball teams are enjoying the spring weather and practicing outside, Knollin hopes to focus more on CrossFit and the other training programs at Next Level.
"One of the things we'll be offering is sports yoga, which we hope to have twice a week," he said. "It's extremely beneficial to athletes, whether they're men or women, kids or adults."
This spring, Next Level will also offer a training course for individuals participating in the Lemont Quarryman Challenge in May.
"The clinics will be held in the weeks prior to the race, and will focus on building runner strength and reducing the risk of injury," Knollin said.
Other programs include a bridal boot camp for wedding parties, as well as a Biggest Loser-inspired fitness challenge that begins April 2.
"We have something for everyone at Next Level," Knollin said. "You can be a really serious athlete or someone just looking to be more active. All of our programs are tailored to meet the individual's needs and goals."
For more information on Next Level Fitness Academy, visit www.nextlevellemont.com.