SFIA Member Spotlight – Local Team Shop

Local Team Shop Logo

Local Team Shop discusses their unique business model, fan wear market,  and how coaches are benefiting from it. 

Scott Nelson Headshot

                                                       Scott Nelson, Founder / Owner

What is Local Team Shop?

Nelson: Local Team Shop is a direct-to-consumer apparel provider.

When were you founded?

Nelson: We were founded in 2009.

What inspired you to create Local Team Shop?

Nelson: The industry and our current customers.  We came from retail where we created the Local Team Shop concept for Walmart.  We started with putting Local Team Shops in five Walmarts where we specialized in the back to school market. We expanded to eleven Walmarts in central and northern Ohio.  With over 300% growth in two years our proof of concept was heading in the right direction.

How is Local Team Shop unique?

Nelson: Our relationships with our current customers.  We have a custom built business model supported with specialized knowledge about the space in which we operate.  We’re 100% committed in obtaining insight on what matters to our coaches.

Who is your target audience?

Nelson: Our direct customers are high school coaches. Our indirect customers are fans of the teams and programs we service.

What does a partnership with a coach look like?

Nelson: It’s awesome.  We love being in the people business.  Leaving retail and partnering with coaches direct was the best strategic move we made.  The head coach is the central nervous system of our entire deal. We spend a tremendous amount of time investing in the relationship with our coaches year round. What matters to them really matters to us!  We actually sell by presenting coaches with our partner, perform, benefit model.

How does Local Team Shop provide value to high school coaches?

Nelson: We provide value by staying laser focused on them, their athletes, and their fan base.  We have specific products and systems that service their program categories. Each individual high school program has obvious internal needs for players and coaches, but external support via the community fan base is apparent in today’s high school environment.

That’s proven from our retail Local Team Shop days.  The difference is what used to be spirit wear (hoodies & tees) transitioned into everyday fan wear. Retailers now call it lifestyle or athleisure wear, but at the end of the day it’s fan wear.  We often make the statement “take a look around the office; dress down day isn’t just for Fridays anymore”.

Do you have any locations outside of Ohio? Are you planning to expand outside of Ohio?

Nelson: Our home office is located in Coshocton, Ohio, and we currently service only Ohio high school coaches and a few colleges and universities.  We built our model so that we could duplicate and implement our system of servicing the three main arteries (coaches, athletes, & fans) in every program.  Growing our business by multiplying coaches and fans is always the plan.

Do you see any areas of growth for your company?

Nelson: We have unlimited growth opportunities to exploit right here in North America. That’s what makes our unknown market so exciting.  Many think the Fan Wear market is a sub-market or some sort of a trend.  We welcome their ignorance because we like as much market share as possible.

In reality there is zero data to support the size of the high school Fan Wear market.  We do know we couldn’t run out of coaches wanting us to dress their athletes and fans if we wanted to.

Where do you see your company in 5 years?

Nelson:  I know where I would like to see our company in five years: Partnering with as many high school coaches across the country as we can.  We’re in the process of creating alliances ourselves, so we will just have to wait and see.  I do know this: It won’t be a lack of customer acquisition that holds us back.  And that’s a great feeling.

Client Testimonials?

“I couldn’t imagine running our volleyball program without Local Team Shop.  Their attention to what will sell to our fan base is amazing.  The process is painless and allows my staff and I more time to coach.”

Julie Grove, Head Coach, Claymont Volleyball

“We have been all in with Local Team Shop for over seven years.  From preseason to playoffs they are our cloth agent when it comes to our players, fans, and coaches.  Their personal interest in our program sets them apart from other companies by miles.”

Justin Buttermore, Head Coach, Tri-Valley Football

“Local Team Shop is a very popular part of our football program by offering Fan Wear to our base all over the country. We make sure they are present at our move-in day every year.”

Jack Hatem, Head Football Coach, Denison University

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SFIA Member Spotlight – I Train Fundamentals

From college to pro basketball, I Train Fundamentals highlight their Defensive Slide Bar product and how it improves a player’s defensive skills.
Spotlight On: I Train Fundamentals

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Coach Lionel Hollins, CEO and founder

What is I Train Fundamentals?

I Train Fundamentals LLC is a sports performance company that provides resources for athletes and coaches, through developmental tools, camps, and coaching clinics, to equip them with basic fundamentals for building a foundation that allows them to maximize the full potential of their abilities.

When were you founded? What inspired you to create such a product?

In August of 2015, as Head Coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Lionel Hollins developed a prototype for a long-time idea he had for a training device that would help his NBA players improve their fundamentals for defense.

Now known as the Defensive Slide Bar, the Brooklyn Nets’ team used the training device during training camp and preseason practices at the start of the 2015-16 NBA season.   During the Nets’ training camp, Brooklyn spent part of the time practicing at Duke University in North Carolina.  After seeing the Nets’ players use the training device, Duke University’s Associate Director for Sports Performance, Will Stephens, purchased 15 Defensive Slide Bars to use with Duke’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.

The impact the bar had with both professional and college athletes, additional inquiries from other basketball coaches about the Defensive Slide Bar, and Lionel’s desire to help other coaches and athletes improve upon their fundamentals provided the motivation for the formation of I Train Fundamentals.

Since the fall of 2015, Lionel has been working with a team behind the scenes to do patent research, additional product testing and development, and setting up the framework for I Train Fundamentals LLC.

I Train Fundamentals LLC official public launch was on March 30, 2017, at the NABC Marketplace in conjunction with the NCAA Final Four in Phoenix, Arizona.   It was here that the Defensive Slide Bar was introduced.

The Company was officially formed on February 17, 2017 and is headed by Lionel Hollins and Angela Hollins as Principals.

What does the Defensive Slide Bar exactly do?

The Defensive Slide Bar is a portable device that helps train athletes to use the correct techniques for basketball defense, including defensive slides, stances and close outs.  The Defensive Slide Bar highlights correct footwork technique and encourages development of strength in your thighs and groin area, to improve quickness for defending the ball handler. With repetition, the Defensive Slide Bar promotes muscle memory, which may increase an athlete’s ability to react naturally and quickly to any offensive movement while on defense.

Who is your target market? / Are you looking to expand to other sports?

The Company’s target markets are as follows:

ITF’s primary target market is head basketball coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and basketball players in the United States ages 12 and up.

ITF’s secondary market consists of non-basketball coaches and athletes that utilize lateral and slide shuffle movements and want to increase footwork.  (i.e. volleyball, football, baseball)

How many teams/coaches are using this product today?

The number of teams, coaches and athletes that are using the bar increases daily.  We currently have teams at the Division I, Division II, NAIA, high school and AAU levels using the bar.

Can you explain how the slide bar helps improve your defensive stance?

The Defensive Slide Bar prevents the user from bringing their feet together when doing a defensive slide and therefore helps reduce vertical oscillation.

How is this product unique from other products on the market?

We do not know of any other product that exists on the market like the Defensive Slide Bar.  While there are plenty of options for resistance bands with ankle cuffs, the center tube in combination with the resistance band is the distinguishing feature of the product.

Do you have any other training products in the works?

We have one other product in the early stages of development.

Do you have any partnerships?

While we are working with a variety of folks behind the scenes, we have yet to announce any formal partnerships.  In the next few months we will be conducting a validation study and will announce that partnership once the findings are released.

Can you offer any client testimonials of I Train Fundamentals or the Defensive Slide Bar?

As the sports and performance coach at Duke University I use the Defensive Slide Bar with both the men’s and women’s basketball teams for strength training. I use it in our off-season agility/basketball footwork training. I also use it in some of our lifting sessions and it has been beneficial for use during rehab with some of the players. I absolutely love the Defensive Slide Bar and will be ordering more. It is a device every coach should have to teach proper footwork/movement training. – Will Stephens (Associate Director of Sports Performance Men’s & Women’s Basketball Sports Performance Coach Duke University)

Where do you see I Train Fundamentals in 5 years?

There are two primary objectives for I Train Fundamentals LLC.  The first objective is establishing a training facility in Memphis where coaches and athletes can come together to learn and perform the proper fundamentals of sports and of basic life skills.  The second objective is through the development of more training products, like the Defensive Slide Bar, that can be distributed to athletes and coaches worldwide.  In the next five years, we hope to have the beginning phases of a facility underway and to see the Defensive Slide Bar being utilized by the majority of college and high school teams across the country.

SFIA Member Spotlight – Move Adapt

In a world of sensors and artificial intelligence, Move Adapt talks about how their knee brace serves as a source for injury prevention.
Spotlight On: Move Adapt

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Cristof Rotsching, Founder and CEO

What is Move Adapt?

Rotsching: Move Adapt is a technology company which brings safety and personalized learning in sports through sensors and artificial intelligence. Our goal is to grow confidence and knowledge in every athlete out there who is pushing the limits of the body by offering personalized coaching to help avoid injuries and perform better.

When were you founded?

Rotsching: We started developing our motion tracking technology at the beginning of 2017, after building a pilot with minimalistic set of features.

When is your launch date?

Rotsching: We are looking into getting the certifications needed to put our hardware in production. We plan on getting our product in the market in the 2nd quarter of 2018.

What inspired you to come up with such a brace?

Rotsching: We came up with this idea at first to help amateurs learn the right movements from the more advanced athletes. After some research we discovered that our technology would help the most on the injury prevention side of sports, by actively monitoring the movements of athletes to compute the stress that is put on the joints, which would help reduce the risk of sprains and strains to a minimum. Based on that information we are able to offer personalized feedback to correct dangerous stances.

How did you decide what sports to focus on?

Rotsching: While training as a semi-professional athlete, I had knee related pain during practice and noticed there is nothing out there to help prevent this. Skiing is where knee injuries occur often, necessitate longer recovery and complex treatments.

What sets your knee brace apart from other knee braces within the market?

Rotsching: Our brace uses advanced real time artificial intelligence which is adaptive in nature and allows to efficiently detect, interpret and offer corrective feedback on motions. We are developing the wearable technology to prevent injuries caused by improper movement and unnatural twisting in the joints, and based on these observations offer corrective feedback together with risk estimation.

How do the sensors accurately capture the data?

Rotsching: We are tracking the movement by using smart sensors which use artificial intelligence to observe trends in the data captured and enable them to adapt for each athlete, this making our product more flexible, efficient and accurate; this allows our products to predict the tendency of the athlete to make unnatural, risky movements and help avoid it even before it is made.

What overall trends are you seeing in knee injuries?

Rotsching: Most knee injuries start by overstretching the ligaments or, in extreme cases, ligaments rupture, which is mainly caused by lack of training, pushing the limits well beyond existing skill levels and sometimes lack of focus or knowledge about the environment. We are setting our technology to offer the advice you would get from a coach or guide, but with customized interpretation of each movement which provides fun on the slopes with steady skill improvement.

What sports do you think this knee brace will have the most impact on?

Rotsching: Our brace technology would have critical capabilities in sports where sudden movements have the greatest impact. It’s obvious to see sports like skiing, tennis and golf to be the perfect fit for our technology. Expanding into sports involving quick changes in direction, which imply high lateral forces in the knees, like football and soccer is another strategy we are considering as well.

Do you have any partnerships?

Rotsching: We value partnerships and always looking to collaborate with people and organizations that share our core values of using technology in sports for better experiences and results. Partnerships with sports professionals, teams and gear manufacturers are of a special importance to us.

We are also partnering with technology companies for being operable with the semantic sensor and IoT infrastructure for improved product experience.

Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Rotsching: We see our technology embedded in smart performance equipment which improves amateurs’ and professional athletes’ awareness, augments their knowledge and help them perform at their desired pace and with less risk.

How will this information change the way people ski or play tennis?

Rotsching: Imagine of gearing up and having fun while performing at your best without worries of unknowns or risk of injury.

SFIA Member Spotlight – U.S. Center for SafeSport

Creating a safe space for all athletes, the U.S. Center for SafeSport discusses their future plans for to end abuse.
Member: U.S. Center for SafeSport
Spotlight On:

Shellie Pfohl

Shellie Pfohl, CEO

What is the U.S. Center for SafeSport?

Pfohl: The US Center for SafeSport is making athlete wellbeing the centerpiece of our nation’s sports culture by ending all forms of abuse. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, we’re the first and only national organization that provides sports entities with consultation on abuse prevention techniques and polices, while developing best practices and educational programs focused on putting an end to bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct, or any form of emotional or physical abuse in sports.

We also serve as an independent response and resolution center for athletes to report allegations of sexual misconduct within the US Olympic and Paralympic Movements’ 47 national governing bodies.

When was the US Center for SafeSport Founded?

Pfohl: We opened in March 2017 and hit the ground running.

What are current projects SafeSport is working on for 2017?

Pfohl: We are incredibly busy building our repository with education and awareness best practices, policies and programs on abuse prevention and are consulting sport organizations on how to effectively implement the SafeSport Code and practices into their programs. The Center is also the exclusive authority for investigating all reports of sexual misconduct for the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, so we’re busy taking and responding to reports.

How does SafeSport instill positive behavior in sport organizations?

Pfohl: Our tag line is “Champion respect. End abuse.” Our goal is to work with sport organizations to build a culture of respect in which youth and adults can participate safely. And if we build a culture of respect, then abuse will have no place.

Are there any tools you use to help the organizations promote respect and prevent abuse?

Pfohl: We have training, tool kits and one-pagers that can be found on our website, www.safesport.org. We are also looking to build up more virtual resources for individuals and organizations across the country.

What type of growth do you think SafeSport will have in 2017?

Pfohl: As a startup, we are in a super-growth mode and are in the process of hiring and building our team. For example, we brought in investigators and content management folks to our team. So in 2017, we’ll at least have 10 full time and a few contractual employees. By 2018, we will easily double that number.

Are you guys planning on hosting any events to raise awareness of issues?

Pfohl: In future years, yes, but we currently aren’t planning any events or conferences. Instead, we are raising awareness by working with other organizations and introducing SafeSport and our mission to their audiences.

What are some of the biggest abuse problems you see in sports?

Pfohl: The issues we are seeing today range from bullying (including cyberbullying), hazing, physical abuse and emotional abuse to sexual misconduct and sexual abuse. This can be coach-to-athlete, athlete-to-athlete and other scenarios.  It could be adult to adult, adult to youth, youth to youth –all of which are unacceptable.

Do you have any current partnerships?

Pfohl: Yes, we have partnerships with the NBA and WNBA. They understand and believe in our mission and are supporting us financially to help us build out our programs. NBC is also helping us in terms of communications, and, of course, the U.S. Olympic Committee and all of the sports’ national governing bodies are partners because we provide education, training and awareness, and serve as an independent and confidential place for athletes to report allegations of sexual misconduct within the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

What kind of impact do you hope SafeSport will have on athletes in 5 years?

Pfohl: In 5 years, I truly hope that we’ll see a shift in the tolerance of abusive situations and environments. My number one hope is that because of the Center’s work there will be a noticeable trend towards prevention and finding the best prevention techniques in sport. I want to help parents, athletes, coaches, sport administrators and others to prevent all forms of abuse from taking place. Second, when bad things do happen, I want more individuals to feel comfortable and safe coming forward.

How many workers are on the 24 hour hotline?

Pfohl: We have a 24/7 hotline and a helpline. The confidential SafeSport helpline is operated by RAINN and provides crisis intervention, referrals and emotional support. This is important for people who may not be ready to file a report but need emotional support or counseling.  The hotline, or the reporting line, has 6-8 investigators taking reports through an online portal on our website, emails, calls, and more. Individuals can report a concern on our hotline at 720-524-5620 or contact the SafeSport Helpline at 866-200-0796.

Do you have any direct quotes from athletes about your organization?

Pfohl: Han Xiao is a Team USA Table Tennis Olympian, Chair of the Athlete Advisory Council and a huge champion for the Center. He’s said, “The launch of the U.S. Center for SafeSport is an essential step in protecting athletes from abuse.”

SFIA Member Spotlight – KLĒNSKIN

From wash on sunscreen to lotion, KLĒNSKIN shares their unique twist on sunscreen.
Member: KLĒNSKIN
Spotlight On:

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Lisa LeBlanc, Co-Founder and COO

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Dr. Laura Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO

What is KLĒNSKIN?

LeBlanc: It is the next generation of sunscreen – it’s user friendly, high technology, and makes everyday protection so easy. We have an amazing Wash-On SPF 30 that has never been out on the market before or achieved by anyone else and can be used as your everyday base layer. All of our sunscreens utilize our patented QuantaSphere Technology, which encapsulates all of the active ingredients. A lot of people worry about chemical absorption into the bloodstream, but ours layers on the surface of the skin minimizing absorption.

When was KLĒNSKIN founded?

LeBlanc: The company was founded in 2008 by Dr. Laura Cohen, who is a Board Certified Dermatologist and me. We really found a need for it. Being in Southern California, we ask patients with a history of skin cancer to wear sunscreen daily. So this sunscreen is really easy for them to use on a daily basis.

What sets KLĒNSKIN apart from other sunscreens on the market, especially ones made for sports?

LeBlanc: We have that amazing base layer, Wash-On product that is totally unique and nobody else has it in the market. So if you think about golfers, there is nothing they can use on the scalp, but this allows you to apply it on both the scalp and neck without having to spray or apply lotion. For reapplying, our SPF 50 lotion is light-weight and non-greasy. We also have antioxidants and conditioners in it that help heal the skin when the sun penetrates the skin. The actual active ingredients in our sunscreen are encapsulated that have a positive charge on it and so again stays on the surface of the skin.

Which stores are KLĒNSKIN in?

LeBlanc: Most of our products are sold through dermatologist offices. Also, online at http://www.klenskin.com and amazon. We really focus on distribution through dermatology centers.

What are some overall trends in the sunscreen market?

LeBlanc: People are really concerned about chemical absorption. They really want what is safe and effective. I think we’ve really covered that in our sunscreen because it’s so cosmetically elegant. Most people do not like to wear sunscreen because its sticky, or you forget to apply and we’ve really found a way to avoid those reasons not to wear sunscreen.

Who is your target market?

LeBlanc: Everyone – everyone needs sunscreen. We have people buying it for their kids as young as 6 months and older men who golf or people with history of skin cancer. It has a full range because we made the product for sensitive skin and safe. The real issue is that skin cancer is so rampant and affects a lot of people. Ninety percent of skin cancer can be prevented with sun protection. Statistics are that 1 out of 2 people over the ages of 65 will get skin cancer.

How successful is your sponsorship with AVP, Beach Elite Volleyball, & ASICS World Series?

LeBlanc: It has been amazing. We even have people follow us event to event just so they can stock up on our product. People want to buy the large pump bottles so they can provide it to staff, players and coaches.

Is it being used in other sports besides volleyball?

LeBlanc:Golfers are definitely strong users of our product. Also, tennis players, swimmers, surfers and bikers. Just last spring we were a vendor at the Long Beach Grand Prix and the product was a hit for the spectators.

We are also the sunscreen partner for St. Jude’s Southern California events.  So our products are used at their charity events such as, marathons, triathlons, and outdoor fundraisers.

Where do you see KLĒNSKIN in 5 years?

LeBlanc: I see KLĒNSKIN in all of the major stores. Our technology is so versatile and we hope to expand the product line. There has been quite some international interest as well and there have been companies reaching out to use our technology in some of their branded products.

Client Testimonials:

Doctor Feedback

“I love Klenskin! It’s a unique product line that address two key factors in patients not applying sunblock regularly. First it’s easy to cover large areas. Many patients will not apply a sunblock lotion to large areas because it takes too much time and as a result will focus on the face only. By contrast Klenskin is easy to apply over very large areas. Secondly, many patients object to the tacky, sticky, greasy feel of sunblock leading to poor compliance. Skin after Klenskin application feels and looks totally normal. No mess, no stickiness, no white pasty color change. It’s also a great sunblock to use as a first layer for patients who are very active and outdoors quite a bit.”

Patient feedback has been very positive. Many of my patients at high risk for skin cancer use it regularly and report high satisfaction with it!

-Dr. Ramsey Markus,M.D. Baylor College of Medicine

 

SFIA Member Spotlight – Iron Grip

Being the largest manufacturer, Iron Grip opens up about their specialty in free weights.
Member: Iron Grip
Spotlight On:

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Michael Rojas, CEO of Iron Grip
What is Iron Grip?

Rojas: Iron Grip is a manufacturer of commercial free weights.  We are largest manufacturer of commercial free weights in the industry.

When were you founded?

Rojas: Iron Grip was founded in 1993.

How many different products does Iron Grip manufacture?

Rojas: Iron Grip manufactures dumbbells, fixed barbells, Olympic plates and Olympic bars under the Iron Grip® brand. Iron Grip also manufactures group exercise equipment under the Group Strength® brand.

What is unique about Iron Grip’s products?

Rojas: Everything in the Iron Grip brand is manufactured in the US, by us, in our own factories. We are the only company that makes a complete line of free weights in the US.

Can you tell us a little more about your integrated handgrips and unique 12-sided design? How did you come up with this innovative idea?

Rojas: Like most good innovations, the best ideas are the simplest ones.  When we started Iron Grip all weight plates were essentially solid round iron discs, typically with one flat side and one side with a raised flange, or lip.  That was the state of the art at the time, and this design had remained essentially unchanged since the early 1930’s, when York Barbell, widely regarded as the first fitness equipment company, was founded.  Putting integrated handgrips in plates was a simple innovation that made weights infinitely safer and easier to use, and more accessible to a wider gym population. Now nearly every weight plate sold (other than bumpers) has integrated handgrips. We also decided to improve the safety of plates further by adding a geometric shape, namely a 12-side anti-roll design. This innovation was carried through to our dumbbells as well. Since then we pioneered the use of urethane, which every manufacturer now offers, and we pioneered the engraving process to brand and customize equipment.

What stores are your products in?

Rojas: We only manufacture commercial equipment, so our products are not sold in stores.

What makes the Iron Grip brand authentic?

Rojas: We have been at the forefront of innovation since our founding, and have always manufactured our equipment here. We’ve also always manufactured just heavily engineered premium commercial free weight equipment, no retail equipment, no cardio equipment, no selectorized strength equipment, and no light duty accessories. We strongly believe is specialization and being experts in our field. We also strongly believe in quality and have been true to this credo for 25 years.

What overall trends are you seeing in the market?

Rojas: The market for free weights has been steadily growing over the last few years, propelled by the now widely-acknowledged and well-regarded benefits of strength training (vs. just cardio training). More specifically the growth in free weight usage has been propelled by the increased popularity of personal training, functional training, high intensity training and now small group training. Free weight usage features prominently in all of these training protocols.

Are you planning on releasing new products in the market?

Rojas: We continually review the market and our existing line to explore what new innovations the industry is looking for, and we add new products or improve our products and processes to respond to market needs.

Do you have any partnerships?

Rojas: We have many partnerships with a wide variety of companies in all channels, including the health club market, athletics, the military, non-profits, hospitality and residential.

Can you offer any client testimonials of what people are saying about Iron Grip?
“When we first began purchasing Iron Grip free weights, our focus was on the quality of the equipment—the dependability and longevity of the materials and construction, and the user-friendly safety features built into the design. But after working with Iron Grip for the last several years, what we have come to value most is their team’s responsiveness, attention to detail, and reliability. Iron Grip excels on all levels, which makes them one of the best companies we work with. That’s why we purchase our free weights exclusively from Iron Grip.” – Pat Regan, Senior Director of Purchasing for Life Time Fitness
“It’s nice to know that one thing I can always count on is my Iron Grip equipment! In particular, my urethane dumbbells never need repair, or replacement, or refurbishment. They outlast the competition and still look great. To me, it’s money saved in the long run because I don’t have to worry about upkeep, and it frees me to focus on other areas. I’ve been running gyms for over two decades, and in that time I’ve worked with a good number of suppliers. Iron Grip has always been one of our most reliable partners.”
– Sbastyen Jackovics, Fitness SF
“I just wanted to let you know that I really like the new Iron grip needle bearing bars that we purchased this summer. I have been used several bars for my own training over the years and I am very satisfied with this bar. I have access to UesakaPendlayEleiko, and Werksan in my gym, and I choose to train with the Iron Grip bar. The spin and whip are perfect for the Olympic lifts, and the knurling provides excellent grip. Since July and the arrival of the new bars I have added another two kilograms to my snatch and 5 kilograms to my hang clean. At 42, every kilogram counts! I credit this to having an excellent bar to train with. I will keep you updated on my progress.” – Garret Taylor, Head Powerlifting Coach, Alvin High School
 
“Now that the Strength & Conditioning staff has had some time to incorporate Iron Grip XL Handle dumbbells into our workouts, I wanted to send you our feedback. We’ve found that this unique grip training modality boosts the absolute strength and strength endurance of our student-athletes, while challenging their development in the three basic functions of a strong grip: Pinching Strength, Crushing Strength, and Supporting Strength. For the past six months, we’ve used a hand dynamometer to test and compare the change from our old 1.25-inch diameter dumbbell handle to our new 1.75-inch Iron Grip XL Handle. Our evaluations have shown a minimum gain of 10% in grip strength among our Men’s Basketball Team. “Switch On Your Grip” with Iron Grip XL Handle Dumbbells!” – Matt Jennings, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of Xavier University 
Where do you see Iron Grip in 5 years?

Rojas: We expect the growth in free weight demand to continue and very likely accelerate, and we will expand capacity to meet that demand. We will be a far larger company in 5 years.

SFIA Member Spotlight – United States Rugby Players Association

With the growing the sport of Rugby, the USRPA takes measures to support and protect their athletes.
Member: United States Rugby Players Association (USRPA)
Spotlight On:

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Blaine Scully, Co-Founder and Athlete
What is the USRPA?

Scully: We are the professional association and collective representation for all USA Rugby National Team players. Rugby is one of the fastest growing team sports in the U.S. and going through an exciting period of growth. As such, we are keen to establish consistent dialogue with our partner USA Rugby as well as other rugby stakeholders on issues related to player welfare. This is imperative to establishing a solid foundation for future growth based on shared values.

Why was USRPA founded?

Scully: The purpose of the USRPA is to create the highest quality experience for high performance rugby players in the United States. The aim is to protect and promote their welfare in addition to growing the game in the US. The association will serve as the the collective bargaining unit representing all athletes, both female and male, on USAR’s Senior National Teams and as a membership organization for former National Team athletes. Rugby has moved into the era of full-time rugby environments. As such, Players need an organization exclusively for them. This organization should allow representatives to advocate exclusively on their behalf.

How large is your organization?

Scully: We represent all National Team athletes across all four of our teams, which includes both disciplines of Rugby, Fifteens and Sevens. There are roughly 20 to 40 members in each National Team playing pool so that gives us 100 plus members.

Why do you think players associations are important?

Scully: It is important for the success of the game in the United States that the elite players have a collective voice. The relationship between USAR and the USRPA is fundamentally founded on a strong sense of partnership and shared purpose. Both parties are committed to dialogue and collaboration which will allow the players to have input in key issues, but also take ownership in the development of the game. The best “Unions” and leagues around the world are supported by vibrant and engaged player associations.

What brought you to the sport of rugby?

Scully: Originally, I was introduced to rugby by a high school friend during my freshman year at university (UCLA). I finished my final three years and degree at the University of California, Berkeley (Cal). At Cal, I played for two individuals who have greatly influenced my rugby career and life – Coach Tom Billups and Coach Jack Clark. Grateful to the personal contribution of these two men and their continued support and mentorship.

Do you have any initiatives to help rugby grow as a sport?

Scully: Fundamental to our responsibility as an organization is providing relevant resources and functions specific to the needs of all athletes. On and off the field support, player development programs, access to sponsors and partners, career transition support, networking events, medical and financial advice, advice on player agents, insurance. These services will be provided in addition to the negotiation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Rugby has become a very popular sport in College, do you see that translate to a professional level?

Scully: As rugby in the United States continues to become more visible and our audience grows, the appetite for professional rugby will build as well. There is momentum gathering for a professional league launch in 2018. This is of course fantastic, as it offers high level opportunities for athletes, coaches and fans.

How do you ensure that the players’ “voices are heard” and how would you support them?

Scully: The organization must be engaged on a partner level to provide meaningful dialogue with the Union, Third Parties, leagues, etc. while protecting players welfare and promoting best practice. Communication to various USRPA stakeholders will also be vital to the success of the Association. With the help of our partners, the Association will have the ability to keep our members informed, updated and involved. A comprehensive internal and external strategy is crucial. A structured and consistent communication cadence is vital to ensuring the primary stakeholders (current athletes, USA Rugby and alum) are up to date on all association information and informed to engage in dialogue.

What overall trends are you seeing in Rugby?

Scully: It’s a very exciting time – we are trending as one of the fastest growing team sports in the United States and, globally, the game is taking off. With Rugby Sevens in the Olympics and our Women’s game going from strength to strength, the sport of Rugby is well positioned to do fantastic things. Domestically, we hope we can continue to grow participation by driving exposure and playing opportunities.

Where do you see USRPA in 5 years?

Scully: Rugby is in the midst of a defining period where we have exciting growth potential and have experienced some momentum. Now it will be about channeling that growth in an aligned direction. There are a lot of good people working very hard to make this happen. The USRPA’s objective is to support this growth. Through supporting and growing our players, we believe we can grow the game.