With the conclusion of the high school golf season last week, the 2018-19 prep sports season in South Dakota came to an end.
There doesn't ever seem to be an offseason, however, and as athletes as Rapid City Central and Rapid City Stevens gear up for fall sports, they're finding there's a new energy along with some new faces in the weight room this summer.
Stevens and Central have teamed up with Physio Performance along with Black Hills Surgical Hospital and Sports Medicine to provide a new, year-round training program that will cover all sports throughout the year.
The program puts trainers from Physio in both schools year-round, and summer workouts for athletes from middle school to high school seniors began last week.
"The strength and conditioning coaches that will be on site and working with the athletes are experts in their field, and they’ve dedicated their careers to athlete development in a safe and effective way," Physio owner Dan Jansen said. "Youth athlete development isn’t the same as training like a professional athlete even though people say ‘train like a professional,’ for youth athletics you can’t do it that way in order to be safe."
Physio has been in Rapid City since 2016. The program has athletes of different age groups coming in at different times throughout the day in the summer to work on basic technique in different lifts and workouts, and once seasons start and a foundation is established the trainers will begin working with specific sports.
It's the kind of program that has existed in Sioux Falls for more than a decade, which is something Stevens athletic director Jared Vazquez said heightened the sense of urgency to get something done.
"People forget until 2006 Sioux Falls public never won a football championship," he said. "It was just that perfect timing where they got the right people in, some coaches and then really the push of the different medical professional facilities in that area and some of the other sports counsels that were committed to doing what they had to do to make Sioux Falls a sports town, and they did it.
"There’s correlations there that did kick up that sense of urgency that we have to provide and serve our athletes the best way we can to set them up for success. We thought this was the component that isn’t the wonder pill, you still have to do the work."
Kyle Chapman will be the head trainer for the athletes at Stevens, and he knows about the training in Sioux Falls all too well.
Chapman graduated from Stevens in 2009 where he played football, basketball and ran track and field. He went on to participate in the decathlon at Black Hills State for a season.
"Even when I went to Stevens we always wanted something like this," he said. "I know the Sioux Falls schools, I don’t want to say it, but they are a little bigger, a little stronger because they have access to stuff like this. Now that we finally have it, I don’t want to say we want to be like Sioux Falls, we want to be like ourselves. It’s going to be a big game changer I think, for sure."
Kameron Milne will be working with Central. Although he was born in Montana, he said he has really enjoyed getting to know the Cobbler athletes.
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"I’m not from here but I’ve learned a lot about the different schools in the area and the culture that surrounds Central High School and I’m looking to add to it. They have a lot of passion towards their sports and I hope I can bring some more energy and enthusiasm and add to the culture," he said. "We’ve had some coaches to do some great work, but now it’s nice to have someone who’s sole focus is just on making them stronger and faster."
Milne said he's also hoping to close the gap between east and west, but said the gap didn't happen in one year and doesn't expect to close it in one summer either.
"I think that’s a big key of bringing us in," he said. "Sioux Falls has been doing this for over a decade now, of course year one we’re not going to magically bridge that gap but as time goes on we’ll be able to slowly bridge that gap and make it even more competitive in all sports between us and Sioux Falls."
The goal for the summer isn't to compete with Sioux Falls, but instead to provide a foundation of training for athletes who participate across all sports that can use to become better athletes, according to Milne.
Chapman said although this is usually the time to prepare for fall sports, he feels the need to have his athletes take a step back and become more comfortable with form.
It's a challenge, he said, but one that he thinks will be worth it in the long run.
"It’s kind of hard because I’d like to work with some of the fall sports to get them strong, get them powerful, so they can move but I want to take them back so they’re safe," he said. "Instead of throwing weight on them and saying ‘hey we have to get ready for the season,’ we’re taking a step back and seeing how they move before they add weight or resistance."
Vazquez said there's also a benefit to the coaches, who should be able to focus more on coaching instead of having to schedule and monitor workouts.
"It provides our coaches a support role, an encouragement role and a reward role instead of a monitoring role with this," he said. "I hope that lessens strains on coach-athlete relationships because now they get to go in and be a cheerleader and say great job, look at gains and reward them."
One of the biggest improvements Vazquez hopes to see in athletes of all sports, in all seasons, can be found mentally as well.
He said athletic confidence could be a key dividend to the new training program.
"If you know you’ve done the work, then you’re confident," he said.