BY DALE BUTLER


DALE BUTLER/209 BUSINESS JOURNAL
Hilton Green, an eighth-grade student at Dutcher Middle School in Turlock, works on his lateral movement during a recent training session at Bonsu Elite Athletics. Green does gymnastics and plays football.

Bonsu Elite Athletics will celebrate its 10th anniversary in April and in those 10 years it has helped countless local athletes reach their full potential.

“I love what I do,” said Les Bonsu, owner and trainer. “It doesn’t feel like a job.”

Bonsu Elite Athletics specializes in speed, agility and strength training. The majority of Bonsu’s clients are in high school, though he offers sessions for college, middle school and youth athletes. On a typical day Bonsu will see about 60 clients.

“We have kids come in because they want to get better for their sport and prepare for the transition to college,” he said. “We train athletes from every sport. I haven’t expanded to the general population yet. In the future, that’s something I might do.”

Bonsu has been the go-to trainer for many of the top athletes in the area, including Kendall Wesenberg, Johnny Mundt, Ja’Quan Gardner, Cade Cowell, Nicole Bates and Madilyn Nickles.

Wesenberg, 28, finished 17th overall while representing Team USA in the women’s skeleton competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“I first started training with him (Bonsu) in 2013 at his facility on Bangs in Modesto,” said Wesenberg, a 2008 Central Catholic High School grad who completed her college education at the University of Colorado. “I wasn’t great at Olympic lifting and he coached me. He also helped me with my sprint forms and mechanics. That helped me move more efficiently.

“Les is awesome,” she added. “The environment he creates is so positive. He’s really constructive. He knows what he’s talking about and gives good feedback.”

Mundt, a 2013 Central Catholic graduate who played tight end for the University Oregon, suited up for the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII last month. He made one tackle on special teams.


Photo contributed
Ja’Quan Gardner (left) started training with Les Bonsu (right) during his sophomore year at Central Valley High School. Gardner, pictured giving Bonsu his San Francisco 49ers’ jersey, currently plays running back for the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football league.

Gardner trained six times a week at BEA leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. The 2014 Central Valley High School grad and former Humboldt State star running back signed a contract as a rookie free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in August. He currently starts for the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football league.

“I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” said Gardner, who started training with Bonsu during his sophomore year of high school. “There was never a time he wasn’t willing to work with me. He helped prepare me for the next level. He’s more than a coach. He’s a leader and role model for the community.”

Cowell, 15, signed a five-year contract with the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer in January. He recently logged playing time in two preseason matches.

“Bonsu had a huge impact on me,” said Cowell, who started training at BEA when he was in the seventh grade at Cesar Chavez Jr. High. “He helped me become a great explosive athlete and be able to hang with the big boys strength-wise. Bonsu is the most positive trainer I’ve ever been around. He is always super easy to talk to and is very funny. He has a great relationship with any athlete that goes in there, no matter who they are. He also knows his stuff, is always really good with any workout and if you need extra help with anything, he knows exactly what to do. I couldn’t thank Bonsu enough for what he did for me.”

Bates (Ceres High) and Nickles (Merced) are standout softball players at Washington and UCLA, respectively. They played for the USA Softball Women’s National Team during the summertime.

BEA has had more than 150 athletes earn scholarships to college.

“It’s very satisfying having kids come in as eighth graders, progress and move on to the next level,” Bonsu said. “I love those stories.”

“When a kid gets a scholarship, all of the other kids are excited,” he added. “They started that culture.”


Photo contributed
Central Catholic grad Coleby Garrett earned a football scholarship to Cal Lutheran thanks to the training he received at Bonsu Elite Athletics. Garrett was one of Les Bonsu’s first clients.

Coleby Garrett, 19, started training with Bonsu when he was in the fifth grade at Whitmore Charter School in Ceres.

The 2018 Central Catholic High School grad played fullback and special teams for the Cal Lutheran football team as a true freshman this past fall.

“Bonsu’s a great guy,” Garrett said. “He’s always been there for me. He went to my youth and high school games. He made me a better all-round athlete. He’s made me quicker and stronger. He improved my speed and strength.”

In January, Bonsu attended a workshop at Notre Dame that focused on the latest stretching and recovery techniques.

“I still go to seminars every year,” he said. “I don’t know it all. I want to constantly learn.”

BEA’s current home is a 9,000-square-foot sports performance training facility is located at 3427 Railroad Avenue in Ceres. BEA operated out of a 900-square-foot studio at 3025 McHenry Avenue in Modesto during its first two years of existence and then a 2,500-square-foot center at 401 Bangs Avenue in Modesto.

“This is something I’ve always envisioned,” Bonsu said. “I didn’t think I’d grow as fast as I did. It’s based on results. I don’t really advertise. It’s by word of mouth. Parents talk to each other.”

“The growth is incredible,” Wesenberg said. “It all goes back to him. Les is a great person. He creates an environment that’s very positive. That’s a major draw.”

“When he started, it was me and 10 other people,” Garrett said. “I’m not surprised by the growth that he’s had. He’s really knowledgeable about what he does. He’s been doing it for a lot of years. He encourages you. He doesn’t yell at you. He’s really respectful. He wants the best for you. Every time I go in there, I’m seeing new faces. Everyone wants to be trained by the top guy.”

“He’s super humble,” Gardner said. “He knows how to get the best out of his athletes. He has relationships with each and every one of his athletes. That’s important.”

“I’d still have the same passion if I had five kids,” Bonsu said. “I love every day I’m there. I enjoy seeing kids getting better at their craft. It’s very rewarding.”

The facility is open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

For more info about BEA, call 247-2695.