Scott Benson was in need of a change, and a brief return to the sports world opened his eyes to a new opportunity.

The Rapid City Stevens graduate, who set what is still the South Dakota high jump record in 1988 and won the event for Iowa State at the Drake Relays in 1992, had Olympic-level aspirations in track and field. Such dreams, however, are only fulfilled for a handful of athletes. Injuries and other factors eventually forced Benson’s hand, and he spent the better part of 15 years in the finance and banking business.

Benson’s induction into the Rapid City Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 spurred a fresh line of thought that has reenergized his view of work.

“The experience got me thinking. I really missed that connection to sports,” Benson said. “I felt like I should give back a little bit to the kids, teach them some things along the way and help them get ready for college.”

Over the past three years, Benson has been showing other athletes how to reach new heights themselves across a variety of sports in Rapid City. The early returns for Benson have been so positive that he’s started a business, Benson Sports Training, to officially embark on a new phase of his career.

He’s got the qualifications to pave the way – he graduated from ISU with a bachelor’s in health and human performance and a minor in exercise science. He’s also got the itch to see others succeed.

Soon after the hall of fame induction, Benson began dipping his toe in the athletic training waters. He started conducting special workouts with the St. Thomas More boys basketball teams and saw much of this year’s senior class through rigorous routines on the Cavaliers’ way to the Class A state championship in March.

Conor Casey, who was part of an early group of Benson’s trainees and has completed his freshman season at wide receiver for Chadron State’s football team, started the workouts before his senior year. The routines were designed with hoops in mind – lateral quickness and explosiveness were some of the main keys – and Casey quickly noticed a difference. He said More’s summer team would be hanging with squads from other states because of its athletic prowess, and not solely because of fundamentals.

For Casey, the long-term benefits continued into his training for football with the Eagles. He stayed with Benson’s training regimen throughout his final year of high school and into the summer. While plenty of other athletes were doubled over during Chadron’s fall camp, Casey felt tested but refreshed.

“I had heard how (bad) fall camp was, how many people quit or couldn’t make it through. It was physically tough and mentally tough. I thought about that for three more months during Scott’s training. He worked in plyometrics, all these conditioning workouts. It’s no fun going through them,” Casey said. “But at fall camp, I can honestly say I was hardly ever sore.”

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Casey has forgone summer job opportunities in Chadron and team workouts to specifically train with Benson again.

Benson said his training includes multiple forms of weightlifting, plyometrics, jumping and step-up exercises, sprints, lateral weaves and more. It’s not geared toward one particular activity, but it’s a comprehensive workout that Benson says will build an overall athlete.

He’s got about 25 athletes currently buying in. Although most of them are in the high-school age range, he said workouts could be properly geared with people ages 8 to 22.

The testimonials of Benson’s knowledge expand across sports and genders. Thirteen-year-old Lindsey Tibbles, an eighth-grader who plays on the Rapid City Stevens tennis team, said her strength and endurance would often peter out in the latter stages of close matches. She’s been working with Benson for a little more than two months, and she says her core is stronger than it’s ever been.

Her personal coach, Bryce Barnard, said Tibbles is playing better tennis longer.

“There’s a lack of aches and pains on the practice or before and after a match. Her body’s more healthy,” he said. “Her ability to play longer and be faster has definitely increased.”

For her part, Tibbles said Benson’s own excitement about the workouts increases her desire to succeed.

“He’s really nice. He’s helped me a lot,” she said. “He really loves training. I can tell he loves his job.”

That passion has spilled over into wanting to see West River athletes find an affordable way to put themselves back on a level playing field with the Sioux Falls schools.

“Kids need to understand that training is something that happens outside of school. Coaches don’t have enough time to focus hours every day on training,” Benson said. “If the Rapid City schools want to get back to being competitive, (harder, more comprehensive work) is something that has to happen.”

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