After playing college and semi-pro football, Donny Baker wanted to do something to help the rural athletes get noticed and experience something along the lines of what he did playing at Wayne State and then the Sioux City Bandits.
“And that was amazing. A little bit of a different experience,” Baker said.
Baker wants to give athletes in the smaller schools the opportunity to get noticed and be a collegiate athlete. To do that, he designed a program called Train 4 the Next Level.
This program is similar to national athletic camps such as the Sparq and Nike camps, but instead of paying hundreds and traveling across the country, it’s local, and only $10.
“I partnered with set the bar fitness up in Norfolk,” Baker said. “Todd Uhlir and me, we just met one day and kind of back and forth and five hours later we are just like hey, I think this is going to be a really cool deal.”
After talking to many different coaches and getting some on board, Baker started to invest more time and money into his idea as it started to take shape into a program. He wanted coaches to know that his goal is to help the kids in the program be their best.
“I’m not trying to change your program,” Baker said. “But I think this would help your program.”
And now things are picking up. Starting with the first camps in Albion and Grand Island, Train 4 the Next Level will also be holding camps in Lincoln, and Omaha and hopes to have camps in other towns.
Baker also intends to hold a Top 100 camp as his feature camp, which will include a banquet for top performers.
He will post a list of the top 100 players he has tested on his website, using the player’s performance at one of his camps as well as their statistics from the previous season to determine the top players in the state. Baker intends to use this as a motivational tool for young athletes.
"I don't want them to look back when they are freshman in college or sophomores and say 'What if? What if I would have done this program? What if I would have worked just a little bit harder?" Baker explained.
Baker is very passionate about his new program, because he sees it as something kids need.
“I think it’s a need for our state, I think that it is a need for the United States."
Eventually, Baker’s intention for his program is for it to help not only football players, but athletes in all sports.
More than anything, Baker wants to be able to do his best to help kids improve. Even if it does not lead to a college scholarship, he wants athletes to be able to say they did what they could to better themselves.
"I want to give this chance to everybody," Baker said. "We have programs, we have work out programs for schools that are lacking that, we have that for them too."
Anyone who is interested in participating in one of Baker’s camps, or would like to inquire about hosting one of their own, is encouraged to contact him through either his Facebook page, T4NL Nebraska High School Combines, or go to his website train4thenextlevel.com.