Pro athletes journey to Miami Lakes training center

Sports By David Snelling, Reporter Tuesday, July 13, 2021

In a quiet corner of a Miami Lakes shopping center, a training facility is drawing professional athletes who are in search of limber limbs and injury-free careers.

The Movement Lab 
is fast becoming part of Miami Lakes’ storied sports identity.

It is a town where golf, the late NFL Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins loom large in town culture and history, and where players from
the NBA are now finding a home.

Regular folks work out at The Movement Lab and, according to the facility’s owners, well-known clients do too.

They include South Florida native Brandon Knight, who last played for the Detroit Pistons in March 2020; Caris LeVert, who played for the Indiana Pacers this season and Justin Anderson, a Miami Laker who spent part of the 2019-20 season with the Brooklyn Nets.

They’ve also worked with Victor Oladipo of the Miami Heat; Josh Hart, who played in 47 games with the New Orleans Pelicans this season and Sony Michel, who scored the game’s only touchdown and helped the New England Patriots win Super Bowl 53.

Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid said he is “extremely proud of the entire team at Movement Lab.

“Top NBA and NFL players train there almost on a daily basis,” Cid said.

The facility, at 7403 Miami Lakes Drive in the Cypress Village Shopping Center, opened in 2019.

One of its owners is Stefan Valdes, a strength and conditioning coach who has been affiliated with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.

Valdes, 27, co-owns the business with his childhood friend, Miguel Molina, 29.

They grew up in Miami Lakes and are former athletic trainers at Shula’s Athletic Club who dreamed of starting their own facility.

And they have found a special group of clients likes what they do.

Professional athletes have to be in top condition year ‘round.

And The Movement Lab team helps them stay strong and nimble to prevent serious injuries when their seasons resume.

When Knight -- a first- round draft pick in 2011 by Detroit, returned to the Pistons in February 2020 after stints with the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers -- Valdes was involved with the Pistons organization as an athletic performance coach.

“I am a big fan (of) working with Stefan,” said Knight, a 6-foot-3 guard who has averaged 14.1 points and 4.0 assists in
his NBA career. “I got a chance to work with him in Detroit and he does great work and has that great energy training athletes. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

LeVert is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard for Indiana. He was traded to the Pacers this season as part of a four-team deal that also sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets and, during the physical exam performed as part of that transaction, LeVert was found to have had kidney cancer.

It was detected early, surgery removed the cancer and LeVert was back on the court in a matter of weeks.

LeVert was a first-round draft pick by Brooklyn in 2016; he said off-season training is key for NBA players who want lengthy careers.

“It’s huge for me to prevent injuries because I want to play basketball for a long time,” said LeVert,

who averaged 20.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game this season.

Valdes said his professional athlete clients endure a series of strength and conditioning exercises that focus on tendons and muscles in the shoulders, arms, hands, knees and ankles
-- all areas most susceptible to injury.

The Movement Lab is not a gym or sports clinic, Valdes said.

It’s a training studio where he said his knowledge of physical therapy allows him to blend strength and conditioning into one mechanism of training.

“It’s stability and strength on whatever [area of their bodies] they need,” said Valdes.

Athletes begin their training with Valdes by stretching.

Strength and conditioning sessions of up to 60 minutes can include working with weights or focusing on explosive movements or flexibility.

“It’s quick movement along with speed and strength,” co-owner Molina said. “It’s the full package they need to prepare them for the season.”

Valdes said he attended Miami Lakes Elementary School which is now called Miami Lakes K-8 Center, Miami Lakes Middle School and Chaminade-Madonna College Prep in Hollywood.

He said he graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a doctor of physical therapy degree from the University of Miami.

Molina said he has a bachelor’s degree in sports management from Florida International University.


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