It's been over 4 years since myself, Ryan and our friend Marc came up with the idea of SPI Fitness. We all worked together at an outpatient physical therapy clinic that primarily saw patients with total joint replacements, low back pain and neck pain. Whenever we had an athlete show up on the schedule our eyes would light up. We made sure we went above and beyond in our assessment and treatment of athletes. This passion is what made us decide that we wanted to do this all the time.... not only provide therapy services but also train the athlete.
When sitting in Marc's attic-converted into training gym we realized that there was a big gap between the sports medicine and sports performance fields in our area. We would hear of and see athletes being treated in the same way as everyone else that walked through the door in therapy clinics. We also noticed that in many cases there wasn't a smooth transition for the athlete from therapy to sports performance training. We were seeing a trend of athletes returning to higher level training or higher load weight lifting too early. As a result, they were putting themselves at a significant increase for re-injury by developing awful form on more complex lifts or sport specific tasks. Most of the time they had no idea because their compensatory patterns became the norm for their body.
We decided that one of the major goals for SPI would be to "bridge the gap between sports medicine and sports performance". This is what Ryan and I have worked hard to do for the past 4 years. What we have found is that it takes time for this to happen.... about 4 years or more. When we first started SPI we would go to local high school and collegiate baseball teams and perform injury risk screens on all of their players. We would reach out to coaches in an attempt to educate them on how to properly manage a baseball pitcher so that they don't end up with a shoulder or elbow injury. Unfortunately, the majority of the time our message would not completely stick.
What we found to be effective was 1. Go directly to the parents and 2. the results of our athletes. We switched our focus more on educating the parents of athletes and saw that in most cases they were more than willing to do everything necessary for their child. The second part has taken more time but over the years people have started to hear and see the results of our athletes. For the most part, our athletes were performing at a higher level than others and getting injured at a lower rate.
So what are some of the keys to bridging the gap between sports medicine and performance? These are some of the keys that I think are necessary:
2. Having a stable, functional movement pattern
4. Appropriate Progression/Regression
5. Qualified coaching
.1. If you're not assessing you're guessing. There's many different ways that you can assess an athlete, I personally don't care, as long as you do something. At SPI we will do anything from just watching an athlete perform a warm up and basic exercises to performing an in-depth assessment of each area of the body (such as the FMS and Selective Functional Movement Assessment). We pride ourselves on being able to perform a very detailed assessment, but it's not always necessary.
2. I can't tell you how many times in one day that I have to correct an athlete on performing a squat or lunge. I've seen some really ugly forms that have literally made me cringe when I'm watching. I've also seen some of these same athletes then go and perform a barbell back squat of 225 lbs or more with this form. The message is to make sure the athlete can appropriately move with only their body weight before they develop terrible movement patterns under load which will then carry on to their movement on the field, court, etc..
3. Education could easily be placed as number 1 in importance. Educating the athlete on Proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, mental and physical preparation are the things that tend to get put on the back burner but can be the difference in an athlete being great or not.
4. This ties into number 2. After the athlete has a stable and functional movement pattern then it is important to appropriately progress the amount of load (weight) and difficulty of the task they perform. If they can't maintain good form or stability, then the task should be regressed.
5. There are so many trainers and gyms out there that it can be pretty difficult to choose where to go. Everyone has their own reasons for the gym they choose. However, when it comes to the athlete it is a little different. In my opinion an athlete should be coached through their training. You shouldn't trust that just because you go to a gym with a lot of different machines and equipment that you'll become a better athlete. There is a difference between becoming a better athlete and becoming an athlete that is in better physical shape. If you step into a college training room you will not see a group of athletes doing their own thing. You will see a strength coach guiding them on how to become a stronger and faster athlete. This goes for a DI as well as a DIII college. The other aspect to this is that you need to make sure you're being trained by a qualified coach. There are far too many trainers out there that are self proclaimed specialists based off of a weekend certification course they took. Here at SPI you can guarantee that you will be coached by the most qualified trainer because we require all of our S&C coaches to be certified strength and conditioning specialists (CSCS). This is what is required of a collegiate and professional strength coach.
We have had a lot of fun working with athletes over the past 4+ years. Ryan, myself and our staff would like to thank the numerous local and national athletes that have chosen SPI to help make them a better athlete. We would like to thank some local organizations like Utica College Athletics, The Utica Comets, The Syracuse Stars and Valley Gymnastics for trusting us to provide your athletes with the area's best sports performance training, injury prevention and/or rehab services in the area. If you don't already train with us we would love for you to become a part of our team and hopefully one day sign our #teamSPI banner alongside the names of high school, collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes. We look forward to continuing to bridge the gap for many years to come.