Working with more than 400 middle and high school athletes in the greater Billings area between them, the sports performance and training programs at Billings Clinic and Granite Health and Fitness could’ve easily continued down their separate paths.
But, earlier this summer, a year’s worth of discussions and getting to know each other’s programs instead led the clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine’s Sports Specific Training and Granite’s Elite Sports Performance to partner, combining their staff and resources into what they say is a more comprehensive program that better trains student-athletes in the region while helping to prevent injury.
“Our philosophies lined up,” said Joe Bloyder, a physical therapist and coordinator of the clinic’s outpatient rehab services and sports medicine programs who serves as an administrator for the new combined effort. “We each had our niches in the market, but as we talked we realized that we believe in the same thing. We have the same mission and goals.”
In June the combined program, officially called Elite SST, began holding general group and team classes at Granite’s Heights and West End locations that are geared toward young athletes and with those goals and mission in mind.
Nich Pertuit, program co-coordinator and a strength and conditioning specialist at Granite who also teaches health and human performance at Rocky Mountain College, said that the No. 1 goal of the program is to help prevent injuries, followed by improving the athletes’ performance.
“We want to help as many athletes in this community as possible,” he said. “We try to empower these athletes to do this stuff on their own.”
Athletes in the summer program endure three 90-minute sessions a week for six weeks led by any of its 10 trainers, all certified strength coaches. They focus on proper movement and form while moving through exercises designed to improve their change of direction, speed and explosiveness.
While sport- or team-specific plans are available, the program doesn’t want to overtrain or overspecialize young athletes for any specific sport. Instead, it aims to shape them as overall athletes.
“The goal of a junior high or high school athlete is to continue to develop,” said co-coordinator Mark Goldy, a Billings Clinic physical therapist and athletic trainer who helped run Elite SST. “We want these athletes to be active but we don’t want them doing the same movements over and over.”
During a recent morning session, several dozen current and prospective members of the Senior High girls soccer team spent the morning rotating between stations that, among other things, had them sprint, team up to flip massive tires, swing kettlebells attached to resistance bands and running while pulling a weighted sled.
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Varsity girls coach Megan Parish said that this is the second year the team has used performance training services and that she recommends anybody involved, whether they’re an incoming freshman trying out or a seasoned starter, sign up for the summer.
“It’s such an amazing resource,” she said. “We noticed a large decline in our injuries last year. Not only are they faster and stronger, but the injury prevention has been huge for us.”
Bringing the two teams together meant combining the expertise of strength and conditioning specialists, physical therapists, trainers and others from each side. While the Billings Clinic SST used to lease space at the Billings Sports Plex on Southgate Drive for classes, everything is now held at one of two Granite locations.
Both Goldy and Parish noted that the program can provide more than just injury prevention and on-the-field improvements for the kids involved.
While Parish said it’s a good way for teams to bond and get to know each other over the summer, Goldy said he’s seen it help with leadership and confidence as well.
“One of the greatest compliments I’ve heard was when a parent told me, ‘You won’t believe how confident our kid is,’” he said.
Organizers also said the program is a resource to the community that’s designed as an educational tool for both the young athletes and their parents.
“We want them to train properly, efficiently and effectively,” Bloyder said.
“One of the greatest compliments I’ve heard was when a parent told me, ‘You won’t believe how confident our kid is.’” Mark Goldy, Billings Clinic physical therapist and athletic trainer