Depending on who you ask, opinions vary widely about Traison Lewis.
To prep athletes and their parents, there’s arguably no offseason coach/trainer more popular. Among local high school football coaches, however, the consensus is that he’s part of a problem that’s only getting bigger.
What nobody can deny, though, is that Lewis and his brand “Body By Tra” have become a serious power player on the local prep football scene and it’s only getting more powerful.
“Power player? I mean, I don’t know,” Lewis said. “I don’t consider myself that. If there’s one thing you’ll notice about me and our program it’s that we’re very humble and we just like to let the kids and parents evaluate us and see what we do.
“I like to say we’re the best kept secret. People find out about us by word of mouth. All these top-level athletes have been in our programs for years. The kids sell us and the parents sell us more than we sell ourselves.”
If Body By Tra is a secret, then the secret’s clearly getting out. Every offseason a bigger and bigger crop of local talent clamors to be part of Lewis’ 7-on-7 team. And who can blame them? Lewis’ 2012 team had nine players who wound up getting scholarships.
This year’s team featured local standouts like the Bishop Amat tandem of receiver Tyler Vaughns and running back/linebacker Anthony Camargo along with St. Francis receiver Dylan Crawford and West Covina defensive back Isiah Love. Whittier Christian tight end Noah Evans, the son of former Raiders quarterback Vince Evans, is also on the team.
The quarterback? None other than Santa Margarita standout K.J. Costello, who is considered to be one of the top prospects on the West Coast. And because one team wasn’t enough to fit the amount of players Lewis had at his disposal, he had a second team as well.
Lewis, a graduate of Rancho Cucamonga High in 2000, was a standout on the Cougars’ 1999 CIF championship team. He earned a scholarship to Wisconsin as a outside linebacker/defensive end and later finished his college career at Sacramento St. He had brief stints on the practice squads of the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans before trying his hand in the Canadian Football League.
What began as Lewis working out two local athletes at a park in 2006 has blossomed into a business that Lewis claims isn’t profitable but is certainly growing rapidly. The price per workout ranges between $20-40 depending on the athletes’ age and whether it’s on the field or in the weight room.
Lewis estimates that he spends $20-30,000 per offseason on Body By Tra. It’s easy to see how expenses pile up as Lewis often piles his 7-on-7 teams into two, 15-passenger vans and they travel around Southern Calfiornia and have gone as far Las Vegas to compete in tournaments against other top private teams. In June, Lewis will take a convoy to play in a prestigious tournament in Florida.
It’s all part of an increasingly football-centric offseason that many athletes now partake in. Instead of playing in other sports at their schools, the players who choose to focus solely on the gridiron do so by getting specialized training.
“That’s what fueled me to go 110 percent with this — you had a lot of people out there charging parents and kids for recruiting,” Lewis said. “Telling them ‘I can get your kid a scholarship’. That’s not true. What earns you a scholarship is Friday nights.
“I want to have a program that works with integrity and puts kids first. Everybody on my staff is a certified trainer, the whole package. I want this to be a one-stop shop for kids as well as parents. We’re going to get your kid bigger, faster, stronger, but you’re also going to be athletically developed at the positions you’re training at on the field.”
In recent years, several private offseason training options for football players have sprouted up, be it former Bishop Amat quarterback Chris Rix’s “Champion Training” or former Los Altos defensive stalwart Brigham Harwell’s “Trench Hogs”.
But none has been as controversial, or popular, as Lewis’ Body By Tra and that’s because in addition to skilled training, Lewis offers his athletes recruiting exposure. Besides his 7-on-7 team, Lewis offers a myriad of training services for athletes. It’s not just football players either. Bonita girls basketball star Nikki Wheatley, who will play at UNLV next season, is a client of Lewis’. As is Bonita water polo standout Samantha Snow, who will attend Arizona St. this fall.
Athletes from all over are starting to catch on, too. Lewis reports that several football players from Northern California made the trip down every weekend to be a part of his workouts this offseason. There was even a player from Colorado who did the same.
Lewis is mostly based out of Upland, but his weekend workouts this year have been held at Chaffey High in Ontario. It’s Lewis’ supposed ties to Upland’s football program that have gotten have drawn the ire of several local high school football coaches who point to a steady stream of athletes who trained under Lewis and later transferred to Upland.
One such notable transfer came last year when former San Dimas running back, then a member of the Body By Tra 7-on-7 team, transferred to Upland in the offseason. Payton was later ruled ineligible by the CIF-Southern Section on grounds his transfer was athletically motivated. Payton later played at Bonita.
Lewis denies he has any ties to Upland football and this year has instated a policy to have nobody on his coaching staff who is affiliated with any high school program. That wasn’t the case last year, though, when Lewis’ quarterback coach Mike Esquivel, a 2000 Upland graduate and Upland Pop Warner coach, was also on staff at Upland. Esquivel is no longer on staff at either place.
Several local football coaches declined to comment on the record about Lewis and Body By Tra when contacted about this story. However, many expressed concerns off the record that ranged from having their players illegally recruited to play for another school while being part of Body By Tra to having parents be sold unrealistic dreams about their kids’ chances to get a football scholarship.
Like it or not, Lewis is here to stay and his print on the local football scene is getting bigger and bigger. His case as to why Body By Tra is so popular and growing so quickly is compelling when viewed from the standpoint of a teen-aged football prospect and his parents.
“Where else can someone go from being nobody to all of a sudden being one of the top prospects in the state of California and getting recognized?,” Lewis said. “These kids want to be a part of this more than anything. What kids are looking for is a place to get exposure. With a 7-on-7 tournament, if you can go to one place on a Saturday and Sunday and see the best skill talent in all of Southern California, that’s a no-brainer for the recruiting services.”
To contact Body By Tra …