Improving athletic performance

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s March 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here

article and photos by Brooke Wagner

‘Tis the season! No, we aren't talking about snowflakes, candy canes, and holiday festivities. With the promise of spring, comes a new season in the life of many Billings parents and children...sports! Basketball, baseball, and soccer, oh my! That's just the short list of athletic opportunities for students in our area to choose from. For some parents, evenings will soon be spent shuttling not-yet-famous sports stars to their respective practices. Every red-blooded American mom or dad wants to think of their offspring as a standout in their sport of choice. Whether Junior spends most of his time warming up before the game, or simply warming the bench, it's only natural to want to give our kiddos the tools they need to be at their best on the court or on the field.

One Billings organization wants to come alongside student athletes and their families in order to draft a game plan for success. Billings Clinic’s Sports Specific Training program (created through the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine department of the hospital) joined forces last year with Granite Health and Fitness’ Elite Sports Performance to form Elite SST. With this powerful combination of scientifically based training, knowledgeable strength coaches, and high energy classes, Elite SST is truly in a league of its own. The main goal of Elite SST is to provide a comprehensive sports performance and injury prevention program to athletes in Billings and the surrounding area. By leading students through exercises that improve their strength, stamina, and speed, confidence is boosted and skills are gained that can then transfer over into each participant’s sport of choice.

We asked Joe Bloyder, Physical Therapist and Elite SST administrator, what draws families to this unique program.

Since Elite SST specifically focuses on training proper movement patterns, what are some ways you give these tools to kids participating in many different types of sports? 

Each sport has a unique set of demands to it. However, all athletes must have a strong foundation built before moving into sport or skill-specific exercises. By teaching and training proper moving patterns first, athletes are able to reach their full potential while, at the same time, minimizing injury. These athletes are then able to perform more efficiently in their sport. Students are also able to advance through more sport specific movements once they have the foundation to build upon.

What are some of the most beneficial tools that athletes in your program will gain?

We see much improvement in lower body explosiveness, agility and quickness, and developing a powerful core during the training sessions. In addition, athletes will then gain the confidence needed to succeed in their sport, as well as in life, by learning how to work hard to achieve their goals.

Following are some of the most frequently asked questions by parents:

If my child is currently in multiple sports, what is the best time to do the program?

Athletes should not participate in our program if they are already enrolled in multiple sports, or if they are participating on more than one team during the season. Young athletes need to have time to rest to allow their bodies to recover. The best time for the athlete to participate would be during the off-season.

Do you offer individual training or small group training sessions?

We offer individual and small group training sessions. These sessions are scheduled with one of our Performance Specialists.

Do you have a dietitian on staff?

Yes. We utilize dietitians from Billings Clinic that have training and experience working with athletes on an individual and team basis. They are able to educate coaches and parents to help reinforce healthy food choices for pre- and post-activity, or while traveling to and from events.

These questions were similar to the ones posed by Carmen Bohn when her son, CJ, began to show an interest in adding to his baseball training. CJ started working with Mark Goldy and Mark Johnston, members of the Elite SST team, when the program was still in its infancy. Both men are certified strength and conditioning specialists, and Goldy is a physical therapist. Bohn credits them with her son’s aspiration to follow in their footsteps as a PT, as well as the huge increase in confidence and skill level CJ has achieved. He began training at age nine and saw measurable results in strength, pitching, hitting, and speed. Bohn says, “The skills CJ has developed through this program are simply amazing.” Now fourteen, CJ has also developed camaraderie with the other athletes that he trains with. Conditioning alongside students (who are often older) has encouraged CJ to go the extra mile in his own athletic endeavors. He attends Elite SST two times a week to prepare for the upcoming baseball season, and appreciates the competitive edge it brings to his sport. Mom Carmen, says, “Even though our personal experience has been with baseball training, I don't think there is any sport that this program couldn't help with!”

Sports Specific Training is gaining nationwide recognition as an important component of any dedicated competitor’s preparation. Although a common misconception is that only uber-elite athletes can benefit from this training, program leaders say that's simply not true. Certainly, dedicated sports enthusiasts have much to gain from the classes, but students don't have to be affiliated with a particular sport to benefit from the program. Anyone with an interest in bettering their overall health and fitness, as well as learning how to minimize injury for an active lifestyle, is welcome to give the training a test run. Local athletes are fortunate to have access to not only an SST program, but also one that is supported by a partnership with two well-respected entities, Billings Clinic and Granite Health and Fitness. By sharing a common goal of providing the highest quality of sports performance and injury prevention education to local athletes, the program steps up to the plate with a comprehensive group of experts working together to help athletes reach their full potential.

about the author...Brooke Wagner is a Southern girl at heart, but a Montana girl by choice.   She lives in Billings with her husband, three children, one dog who thinks she is human, and one very therapeutic horse.