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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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OMC coaches encourage athletes of all ages to swing for the fences

OMC coaches encourage athletes of all ages to swing for the fences

Since 2013, Olmsted Medical Center’s Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance facility in northwest Rochester has been helping athletes across the region elevate their game. 

On any given night, the 15,000-square foot building is home to athletes of all ages and abilities looking to improve their swing, strengthen their kick or get back on the field following any injury.

“We’ve had kids as young as two in the hockey room learning how to skate,” says Jake Hesse, OMC's athletic performance manager. “And we’ve had people in their upper 70s getting baseball and softball lessons because they want to play church league softball and they want to hit the ball a little better.”

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To help athletes achieve their goals, coaches work closely with them to improve their movements through conditioning, strength training and sport-specific exercises. In the event someone suffers a sports injury, OMC has an experienced team of physical therapists and trainers to assist with injury treatment and prevention.

“We spend a lot of time working with people,” says Jake, “and not just trying to make them better athletes, but trying to help prevent injuries and make their movements efficient and safe.”

That often means tailoring the training to match an athlete’s ability and performance goals. 

“We go from the ground up,” says Becky Salfai, a fitness instructor and certified strength coach. “We’re going to make sure they can move well before we throw a barbell on their back and start having them pound out some weight.” 

In working with athletes, the sports med team at OMC recognizes the importance of not only having the right equipment — but also knowing how to use it. To make sure athletes train safely and effectively, OMC maintains a 1:8 ratio between coaches and athletes at all times.

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“Any time we go over eight athletes in the weight room, there’s another coach there,” says Becky. “If an athlete is not getting a movement pattern down correctly, then we can easily pull a coach out to help that athlete one-on-one until they get it down.”

While sports like soccer, baseball and hockey tend to be some of the most popular among athletes at OMC, the staff have become masters at developing specialized programming. They have helped train teams ranging from the Med City Mafia roller derby team to the Rochester Rowing Club. Groups of new moms have trained there, as have firefighters. 

When sled hockey standout Hanna Hughes joined the sports med program, coaches responded by fully immersing themselves into a sport they knew little about.

“As strength coaches, we’re not bound by what the athlete can’t do,” says Becky. “ We’re bound by our own creativity and imagination in our programming.”

Adds Jake, “That personal touch is the piece we focus our efforts on. What we have is coaches who care and are passionate. Ever since we’ve opened, our coaches will go out to competitions to watch our kids play. That’s on their dime and their time, because they care about these kids. We’re going to try to be a big cheerleader for our athletes.”

This article is part of a series sponsored by Olmsted Medical Center.

Photography by William Forsman

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