Upper Hand Sports Pod talks with Matt Dugan, owner and trainer at Dugan's Sports Performance. Dugan started DSP about 11 years ago and stresses the value effort, dedication, and accountability behind sports training. He has a driving goal to educate athletes in the gym and help them understand how their bodies function. Hear from Dugan about the importance of forming a family dynamic with clients, to improve athletic goals, but to also help athletes grow as people. Dugan also share some of the ways his training team is making the most of tech advancements including athletic performance data and video analyses.
You can read an overview of the interview with Matt Dugan or listen to the podcast below for the full interview.
Q: Tell us a little about what you're working on at the moment at Dugan's Sports Performance?
A: Basically it's a training facility geared towards trying to do things a little bit differently than what you're common gyms are doing. We're not going to go in and work on your big 4 power lifts. We're going to try and work on flexibility, teach kids that you can manipulate your body to get the results. And just kind of help athletes find another gear, if you will. We're really big on if you work hard you get rewarded for it. So we put a lot of emphasis on technique and really paying attention to the small details because just like with business, sports, life in general, the smaller details usually make the bigger difference on whether you win or lose, or you succeed or fail. So when I started that was one of the big things was we're going to pay attention to the small details, we're going to build a solid foundation and once you have that then you can kind of build your house off of that. And that's kind of what we've been doing. We started 11 years ago and have moved up into a bigger facility as of about four and a half years ago and just continuing to try to grow and reach and help our athletes.
Q: Tell us a story about one of your proudest moments in your training career?
A: Yeah some of my proudest moments are just when an athlete at the end of the game just comes up and is like “I was able to make that play because of training with you and training with DSP.” A girl like recently, tore her ACL and missed all of last volleyball season so helping her rehab - and then she's the libero for Avon volleyball which is really strong volleyball program - her out there competing at a high level and just talking to her parents and them saying she looks better than she ever has. And that’s coming after a major surgery.
James Hurst a kid that is starting on the offensive line for the Baltimore Ravens right now - he was one of the first athletes I trained in Plainfield when I first started. He was a sophomore in high school and he came in. I mean he was 6’6” and 280 pounds and I’m sure he looked at me and was like “What are you going to do to help me?” and we just, we trained for 3-4 years when he came back from college and then of course to see him achieve his dream...
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve personally faced while building your sports business?
A: I would say the challenge is just trying to get kids to buy into something different. I feel like in the training world and in sports a lot of people fall into a rut - “well we've done it this way for so long.” And it's like well what's wrong with trying to step out and go off the beaten path, and work on something different. If it helps you get to your end result, it shouldn't be criticized or critiqued. And that's why I try to get every athlete by saying “Hey look. Come in. Give DSP a shot. Train with us one time. It will be unlike anything you’ve ever done and you’ll notice it will help you with what you’re doing at the high school level. It will help you in all phases of competition." I would say that was probably the biggest challenge was just getting people to buy in.
And it’s very very rare that we get a true competitive athlete that has the mindset to get better come in, get beat down that first day, and then walk away and never come back. And if they do, then obviously I'm going to question okay well how bad do you really want it...
Q: What do you think has been the key to your success that other trainers could learn from?
A: I would say that one of the things we probably do different is truly create like a family atmosphere. When you come train with us you're not just a number. You're not just some name that comes in and hey this is the program you're going to do - cool - thanks - we'll see you later. We try to take like a genuine interest in helping the athlete across-the-board. Where if they come in and they're struggling, they're struggling to do their squats, or their back is hurting or something like that, we're going to modify their whole entire day to try and help them figure out what's going on and get their body back to where they feel comfortable.
And to me that's what's important. And making them feel like hey I’m joining this culture. And you hear culture spoken a lot in companies and businesses and sports teams. If you have a strong culture of people coming together to achieve a certain goal, I mean that's just going to magnify, that’s going to spread. I want to be a part of something. And I think a lot of kids probably get lost in big high schools whereas now they can come and there’s that confidence, and confidence and knowledge is power. And I think that's what we do different is, we're not afraid to give a voice to kids and say hey you're part of our family, we’ll help you out anyway we can, as long as you’re willing to work hard.
Q: Who has been your biggest inspiration in starting your business and throughout your training career?
A: Absolutely. It's an easy answer. Shane White was my trainer when I was - the later part of my college career, going into professional baseball in the White Sox organization. And he truly helped me fall in love with the process rather than sport, believe it or not. And he started training me and I remember the first session he was going to try to just break me down and I fought tooth-and-nail and he was like you lasted longer than what I anticipated and from like that moment, 5 days a week, I was in there training with him for probably about three years straight. And then he kind of helped mentor me into this role and he kind of helped DSP hit the ground. He helped me get into a facility and start... He’s not only my best friend but my mentor and I still call him to this day and say hey what do you think about trying to do this? And we’re actually trying to put together a workout dvd series of some of the things we do to be able to handle when they go to college and travel and things like that...
Q: What wisdom have you picked up over your years of working in the sport industry?
A: The one thing I think - the most important thing is you can't be afraid to change. You can't be afraid of adding something new as long as it makes sense and it's going to be beneficial, but you don't forget where you come from. And that's why I use that term we got to build a foundation. Foundational principles are what DSP is built on. This is how we're going to do things. From that, yah we're going to add in multiple pieces to build the house, but it’s built on the foundation. And I would say that’s the number one thing is continue to learn, continue to not be afraid to add new things or try new things, but never forget your roots. And I feel like in the fitness world, it's easy to hit that rut. We've done it this way for x amount of years. Okay well what's wrong with trying something new? I mean every sports, every business and everything in life - they’re all trying something different, why shouldn't we? So that to me is the most important and probably one of the hardest things I've had to learn I’ll admit... I gotta try to evolve and keep adding to the toolshed, if you will, different things that are going to help.
Q: How do you think technology is changing the way you work and train?
A: Absolutely… I mean you're seeing more data on you know injuries, and different studies on injuries pertaining to female athletes, as far as ACL tears, and things like that... As far as like technology goes I would just say it’s more so the computer understanding what the studies, what the data is showing. Why are there an increasing number of injuries in weight rooms pertaining to backs, and things like that? Are there better ways to load kids’ legs to increase strength? I mean all those things go into it and that’s where technology is coming into play is understanding this and that, your heart rate - I mean soccer players now are wearing GPS tracking so you can figure out okay what part of the field do they excel in? Now you can say alright well we gotta train you to be the most explosive on this part of the field. And now we can kind of pinpoint those things...
Q: How do you and your staff stay up-to-date on the latest tech and training data uses?
A: The trainers and the staff that we have, it’s that constant learning curve. Talking to strength coaches that they have access to, talking to other strength coaches in the field - I mean and you just hear what they're doing why they're doing it and then you try observing it and try to figure out the hows the whys, and then you can apply it.
Unfortunately, not every caliber athlete is playing at Ohio State - I know that you got a lot of IU fans around here - but like take Ohio State for example. They’re right now on top of their game as far as analyzing data. We have a hockey player over there and they're just constantly wearing monitors and doing all this stuff to try and figure out all those little details that will eventually increase their performance. And so when he comes back I'm going to pick his brain and say “hey what are you guys doing and then?” And then you just, like I said, you reach out to people that you trust. That's the big thing - a lot of people out there just want to come up with the next greatest thing so they can sit back and retire and that's unfortunately not how it works.
Q: What's one piece of technology you can't live without when you're training, and why?
A: I would say a big thing is just obviously my phone. There are just a lot of good apps out there Now where you can take certain images you can and then draw lines and be able to figure out okay this movement doesn't look right this angle isn't right. What are we not doing? What are we missing?...
I heard this morning on a sports talk show, they said athletes are wired differently. Why do they study film? So they can visually see it. And then if you visually see - wow my hips were high right there no wonder I got beat. Okay well let's try and get you into a better position.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring coaches who are just starting out?
A: I would say being passionate about it is probably the best advice. I mean, don’t be in it to just try to make a quick buck. There’s a lot of gimmicks out there and a lot of people trying to chase short dreams and get big results. I tell everybody, meet people, make sure that you create positive relationships with those close-knit people that you can trust… and then just never stop learning.
Q: What is your favorite "success" quote?
A: “The man on top of the mountain wasn’t placed there. He worked hard to get there, but he has to work even harder now to stay there.”
Learn more about Dugan Sports Academy at www.duganssportsperformance.com. Subscribe to the Upper Hand Sports Pod on iTunes or subscribe to the Upper Hand Blog for latest podcast episodes and other news!