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The Body Specialists
Elite Sports Performance Group

February 2012

Elite Sports Performance Group’s (left to right): Jay Witasick, former MLB pitcher, Dr. Craig Chavis and Qadry Ismail, former NFL wide receiver. –Paragon Photography

The walls of his practice are covered with photos of recognizable athletes, medical illustrations of the spinal column, certificates of achievement – even a framed commemorative LP of rock band Warrant’s chart-topping album “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” (more about that later). Copies of ESPN – The Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Entrepreneur and Parents Magazine are stacked on a table in the reception area – an eerie foreshadowing of the story that lay ahead. It’s an eclectic mix by any standard but one that makes sense as Dr. Craig Chavis talks about the success of his practice and the path that led him to the recent formation of Elite Sports Performance Group.

Dr. Craig Chavis

Dr. Craig Chavis is a chiropractor with a private practice in Bel Air under the moniker Elite Spine & Wellness Center. Located off Laurel Bush Road, his practice offers traditional chiropractic care along with state-of-the-art diagnostic technology like the Insight Millennium spinal scan to detect nerve disturbance and muscle imbalance and the GaitScan for identifying faulty foot function. “By providing more accurate screenings, we can ensure a more personalized treatment plan that will alleviate the pain, but more importantly, promote healing and long-term well-being,” explains Chavis. In practice for 17 years, Chavis is a true evangelist and practitioner, performing spinal adjustments on all three of his children moments after they were delivered by C-section. “I spoke with my wife’s obstetrician and informed her of my wishes. Having seen chiropractic care work on a family member, she supported us in the delivery room,” he says. Chavis also interviewed dozens of pediatricians in the area to choose one who would support integrating his personal chiropractic care of his children into their overall wellness plan.

A 1995 graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic, Chavis also holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Logan University. He started his chiropractic career in 1996 in Hanover, Pa., where he owned and operated Integrated Health Center. He opened his Bel Air practice in 2001 and was chosen from applicants across the country as one of only 25 chiropractors to join the panel of physicians who helped train the 2003-2004 decathlon team hopefuls in preparation for the Olympic games in Athens, Greece.

The framed record album? “While leaving a rock concert in Delaware with my brother,” Chavis recalls, “I saw the drummer for the group Warrant hunched over as he was signing autographs near the tour buses. I walked over and mentioned that I was a chiropractor and observed that he looked like he was in pain. So, I gave him one of the only cards I’ve ever actually carried and said ‘call me’ if he needed help next time he was in town. The next thing I knew I was on the bus giving him an adjustment to relieve his pain. That started a relationship with the band members, other musicians and tour managers that continues today. These guys really put on a show and that takes a toll on their bodies. Treating their bodies by improving their spinal alignment and allowing the nervous system to operate more smoothly can make their touring life less painful and their life in general more productive.”

Another chance meeting put Chavis on the path that has led to Elite Sports Performance Group. Chavis describes his eldest son as a natural athlete. “He loves to play – baseball, football, whatever. I don’t have to motivate him or remind him to practice. He just does what needs to be done.” While attending a lacrosse training camp, Chavis observed local celebrity and former Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail deliver a session to the young athletes. “I really liked how he spoke to the kids,” Chavis remembers. “He wasn’t screaming at them or preaching. He was actually teaching.”

“I felt an immediate connection and synergy that we were on the same page about whole body wellness.”

Dr. Craig Chavis

Impressed with Ismail’s method and message, Chavis got his contact information and fired off an email asking if he would speak to his son about playing professional sports and the sacrifices that were required. “Sometimes your child needs to hear things from someone other than his own father,” he says. Ismail returned his email within 24 hours and the two agreed to meet at a local café. “We immediately clicked,” Chavis remembers and Ismail nods his head in agreement. “I felt an immediate connection and synergy that we were on the same page about whole body wellness and a commitment to educating young athletes about their bodies. That conversation started us down this path to this new business.”

Qadry Ismail

Qadry Ismail played three seasons for the Baltimore Ravens, leading the team in receiving, and reaching a career high as a member of the 2000 Super Bowl Championship team. He played for six teams in his 10-year NFL career and retired with 33 touchdowns, 18 while wearing the Ravens uniform.

Ismail played football and ran track and field for Syracuse University, crediting his track coach Andrew Roberts for his initial exposure to the whole body mentality. “In track, the difference between winning gold or bronze or placing first or fifth can come down to 1/100ths of a second. Coach Roberts taught me the importance of fine-tuning the body for optimal performance. He truly understood body mechanics.”

As part of a large organization like an NFL team, Ismail explains that while therapists and medical staff were readily available, he sought out his own team of experts for his own customized plan. “In the locker room and during practice, you have to compete with the other players for access. By surrounding myself with my own experts, I learned more about my own body and what it was capable of and what it needed,” Ismail says.

Retiring from the NFL in 2002, Ismail started his second career in sports commentary and athletic training camps. He has worked as a sports analyst for ESPN, Comcast SportsNet and B.E.T. Black College Football. He currently hosts the “Ravens Report” on Rave TV and provides color commentary on WBAL-TV and radio. Nicknamed “The Missile” in homage to his speed, Ismail founded Missile Training offering instruction and development in agility, balance, coordination, reaction time, power, and, of course, speed. After his retirement, Ismail and his wife Holly wanted to move back North to be closer to their families and their roots – hers from Connecticut and his from Pennsylvania and their shared history at Syracuse where they first met. Remembering their fondness for Baltimore during his Ravens days and agreeing that a place “not so far north and cold” might be nicer, they settled in Harford County where they are now raising their three children. “I’ve been in a lot of cities around the country, and Bel Air is a great town,” Ismail admits. “People here love their Ravens, so it’s a great place for me to call home.”

While still in Florida, Ismail’s wife Holly was the head basketball coach at West Boca Raton high school. Not feeling well one afternoon, she asked Ismail to work out her squad in a pre-season session. This simple request unearthed a new direction for Ismail. “As I watched these young girls struggle with their energy level and their focus on the court, something in me clicked,” he says describing the moment. “In an instant I was instilling all the greatest training and team lessons I had learned over my professional career to these young women – and they were listening. You know, there are coaches that stand in front of you and berate you. There are coaches that stand behind you and belittle. The best coaches are the ones who walk beside you and truly teach. That’s what we are doing at Elite Sports Performance Group. Teaching.” Holly now coaches their daughters’ AAU team and is an assistant for Patterson Mill’s girl’s basketball team. Ismail “returned” the team to his wife the next day, then eventually found himself coaching track at Patterson Mill, running camps and having an interesting conversation with a local chiropractor over a cup of coffee.

Jay Witasick

Jay Witasick is an imposing 6-foot, 4-inches tall and 230-plus pounds … every bit a professional sports figure. A former Major League pitcher whose baseball career spans 15 years, 10 in the MLB, Witasick is a hometown boy having pitched for C. Milton Wright High School in Harford County. After graduation, he attended Brevard Community College in Florida, becoming a free agent draft pick by the Houston Astros that same year. Witasick declined the option and remained at Brevard to further develop his baseball skills and consider his career path while finishing his education. Moving back home after being offered a full scholarship by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Witasick was drafted again in 1993 by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round.

Witasick knew that an athlete’s career is only an injury away from being over, so he maintained a strict regime of exercise and whole body health including supplementation over the years. “A baseball player plays 162 games in 183 days,” he states. “You could finish up after a night game at midnight and have to be ready the next morning for a one o’clock afternoon game. You get very little sleep, and it’s very hard to eat properly. If you’re not playing, you’re traveling. It’s brutal.”

A study published in the August 2007 issue of Population Research and Policy Review revealed that the average rookie could expect to play in the MLB for 5.6 years. Witasick played for over 10. “Early on I decided to take care of my body to help give me the best possible chance of a long and healthy career. I didn’t hit the bars after the games. I got as much sleep as I could. And, like Qadry, I sought out my own trusted professionals in the medical field to help me keep my body running optimally.”

Retiring in 2007 after appearing in two World Series, Witasick is now the Director of Baseball Operations for The L. Warner Companies recruiting baseball talent from across the country. He’s also on the board of directors for the BATT Academy and coaches teams, camps and clinics for Harford Community College and Ripken Baseball Camps among others.

Recently married and living in Bel Air, Witasick would frequently run into fellow C. Milton Wright alum and the wife of Dr. Craig Chavis, Beth Chavis. When Dr. Chavis was considering another sports lesson for his son that only a sports professional could impart – this time in the area of baseball – his wife recommended Witasick. Another email, another meeting, and another observation of shared method and message, Chavis invited Witasick to join Qadry and him on their mission.

Elite Sports Performance Group

The three men traveled unique paths to arrive at this shared place. With egos checked at the door, they sit and compliment, give credit and nod in agreement as the others talk. Chavis takes the lead and says, “We all believe that proper structure and proper form dictates proper function when you teach an athlete or an employee – actually anyone can benefit because it’s an ageless concept. When you teach someone to listen to his or her body and treat it correctly, you will help them enable their body to perform better, resist injury and heal faster.

“If you are someone who wants a better quality of life. If you’re an athlete who wants to break your best record or improve your playing prowess. If you’re an employer who wants to impart proper body mechanics and skills to his employees to reduce stress and minimize injuries and keep people working. We can help you achieve those goals – at your place or ours.

Elite Sports Performance Group
2107 B Laurel Bush Road
Bel Air, Md 21015

“We weren’t looking but somehow we found each other,” Chavis adds. “There’s a trust and a synergy to our core philosophy that put us all on the same page at the same time. We each have our own thing going. None of us needed a part-time job to make the mortgage payment. But we believe this is an important service and there was a need that wasn’t being met. Now, with Elite Sports Performance Group, we will treat, train and coach anyone who is willing to reach their full potential.”  I95