I had the chance recently to sit down and talk triathlon with TCSD member and owner of Rehab United, Bryan Hill. Please join me as we get to know this great guy who found his calling to help others at a very young age.
Craig: I know you had a big soccer background. What was your soccer career like?
Bryan: I grew up playing every sport I could, but at an early age began to focus on soccer, baseball, and golf. In high school I lettered in all three sports, but again my passion was soccer. I went on to attend the University of New England on a soccer scholarship where I was fortunate enough to be named a 4 time NSCAA All –American in soccer, 1995 Rookie of the Year and 1998 Player of the Year. I was the 1st pick of the first round in 1998 and was drafted by the San Diego Flash. I was fortunate enough to play professional soccer from 1998 to 2001.
I had a passion for soccer since I was 5 years old and that was pretty much all I wanted to do growing up. My older brother played and I wanted to emulate him. Even when I was 7, I played up two years for a short time on my brother’s club team. In high school my goal was to play as a freshman on the high school team; I made the team and we won our 2nd of 3 straight State Championships (my first). In the summer of 1991, after my freshman year of HS I was playing and training for 2 soccer teams (club team, Olympic development team). This was very intense training and was around 6-8 hours per day.
Craig: What happened next that would change your life forever?
Bryan: It was the weekend of June 8th, 1991 that would change my life forever. I came off a long hard week of training and our coach gave us the weekend off. A friend of mine on the team set up a trip to Lake Mead for a little water skiing. On the return trip we received a call from another friend asking us to play in an indoor soccer game that night. We of course said yes and rushed to the game. Nothing felt o ut of the ordinary during the game and I played like I had a thousand times. In the last few minutes of the game we were down by a goal so my coach put me in goal as an extra field player similar to hockey. I came out of the goal jumping for the ball and I stayed in the air for what seemed like an eternity. When I landed I was crossed legged slightly and landed on my right leg first. Instantly I knew something horrible had happened. I felt the snap in my leg and was now facing the opposite way. My femur had broken in two, right in the middle of my thigh. I remember to this day thinking my career is over (mind you I was only 14), my chance at the Olympics is done, maybe they will just cast me and I’ll be fine, and I remember the pain like it was yesterday.
A whole new chapter of my life began that day, but all I could think about was how much this sucked. I spent the next 5 days in the hospital with a surgery on June 9th, 1991 to place a titanium rod in the middle of my femur. During those 5 days I learned a great deal about my family, my new passion, and myself. First, my brother dropped everything in his life and spent those 5 days with me in the hospital (never left my side). The first night was the most painful experience of my life. I was hooked up to traction (a weight pulley system keeping my bone from separating again); lots of tears and screaming took place during that first night. I started to receive Physical Therapy the morning after surgery with the most basic of exercises that seemed as though I was pushing a car up hill. Each day my brother would help the PT guide me, and she actually mentioned to him “you would be pretty good at this”. I eventually went home and amazingly was not prescribed any PT. Today, that would probably be considered malpractice (smile).
For the next several months my brother and I worked together on my exercises, learning to walk again, swimming daily in our pool, and enjoying the thought of helping others not have to experience what I did all alone. I remember my brother and I talking in the hospital about how “cool or rad” this job might be. We spoke of working together someday and starting our own place. It took me 14 months to recover and play soccer again with one more surgery a year after the accident to remove the rod. In that time frame I completely changed as a person. I was once a soccer fanatic and drank, ate, and slept soccer. A list of things I picked up in that year: I became the student body Vice President, was a member of over 14 HS clubs, volunteered for many organizations, was a team manager for the baseball and soccer teams, became a skilled potter on the wheel, started a student helping students committee, made the honors society, co-produced 3 HS dances, and many more. Although these things seem pretty simple, they were huge in comparison to the one thing I was doing previously, soccer. And although I gained many hobbies and was becoming less selfish, the most valued gift I received from that experience was a best friend. Sean, my brother, and I became inseparable. Even our wedding photos have the same groomsman and of course he and my younger brother were my best men. That relationship has held strong for all of these years and will continue for eternity. Ultimately, I gained a better perspective on life. I learned to have better balance and to try to enjoy the moment. I still try my best to use these values in my life, my relationships, my training, and my practice to this day.
Craig: How did you find yourself becoming a triathlete?
Bryan: In 2001-2, I was injured again playing soccer (professionally). I tore my hamstring completely. The team doctor told me I was done for the year. I was losing my mind not playing so I needed a distraction. A friend of mine, and triathlete invited me to start swimming with her as some rehab. I took her up on the offer. I began swimming with her and found out that I was a much better soccer player than swimmer. She mentioned to me that she would be racing in the Mission Bay Triathlon and thought that might give me something to focus on rather than not playing. I signed up and started training (if you can call it that). I had a mountain bike from 1994 and a pair of running shoes. I have the funniest story. Sometime before the race I heard about TCSD and that they had a race in Coronado. I was definitely nervous, but knew I could do it. I got to the race and set up on the grass by the swim. Then I heard the most precious words ever, “the swim is cancelled due to poor water quality we are going to do a duathlon”. I didn’t know what that meant. Once I found out that it was run-bike-run, I was happy, as running was clearly my strength. I was surprised to find myself in the top 4 on the bike (on a mountain bike). About ¾ through the bike a former TCSD member, Jimena Florit, road up next to me in the aero position and looked at me wearing tennis shoes, on a mountain bike, and still with my bike lock wrapped around the seat post. She kind of laughed and said I can’t believe it took me this long to catch you. I ended up finishing in the top 5 and I have been doing Triathlons ever sense.
Craig: What type of education have you had?
Bryan: I grew up in Tempe AZ (high school Marcos de Niza) and was recruited for soccer by the University of New England in which I received my physical therapy degree. Then in 2008 I entered into a year-long intensive program in which I received my Fellow of Applied Functional Science. There are only about 200 people in the world that share in this title. It is like becoming a specialist in biomechanics. I have my USA Cycling Level One Certification and will be receiving my USA Triathlon Level One License this year. I have taken several continuing education courses in the 14 years I have been practicing physical therapy.
Craig: You started Rehab United in 2003. How has the business evolved over the years?
Bryan: In 2003, I started Rehab United in my garage. I had several patients and then worried that my referral sources would be concerned that my practice was in a garage. We started the business with 4 of us: my brother Sean, Front Office “do it all person” Debbie Scott (the best mother in the world), friend and partner Steve Tashjian (Sports Performance Director), and myself.
We currently have three facilities ranging from 4,000 sq ft. to 8,000 sq ft. We have over 50 employees, and see over 3,000 clients per month. We have grown tremendously in the last few years. The primary focus of Rehab United this year is to get back to our roots, put the customer first, build and grow our core values (like being humble, creating the best atmosphere for the staff and clients, promoting change and embracing it) so that people always associate Rehab United with the idea of not just the best care, the best prevention, and the best energy and spirit throughout our environment.
This last year and half we partnered with Mike VanGilder and Brett Bloom. These guys are great and have helped us transform Rehab United into what is has become today.
Craig: You have recently added coaching to the services offered by Rehab United. What is something you'd like to see more triathletes do in preparation that would enable them to perform better?
Bryan: This last year Brian Wilson and I (Rehab United) formed Catalyst Endurance Coaching (CEC). We feel CEC is the first comprehensive coaching platform that combines not only sports specific coaching for Triathletes, Runners, Multisport, and Cyclists, but includes the injury prevention and wellness aspects with each program to both improve our athletes’ abilities, but also keep them healthy and safe. We have seen that a majority of our athletes’ injuries come from too much time swimming, biking, and running with too little recovery and restoration. We go through a comprehensive performance assessment and then include programs like “Tri-Strength”, Pedal Power, and Run-Fit in their training programs.
Craig: What are some of the primary reasons someone seeks out the services of Rehab United?
Bryan: Our primary referral to Rehab United is for physical therapy. We treat pretty much anything and everything from post surgical, tendonitis, sprains/strains, back pain, and so on. The fact that Rehab United treats from a functional biomechanical perspective allows us to evaluate and treat almost anything. Clients also come to us for our supportive services: Nutrition (we have a sports dietitian), Active Release Technique (A.R.T.), Massage Therapy (we have the Competitor Magazine’s Best Massage Therapist Erynne Hill directing our Massage, also my sister in law), Personal Training, Sports Performance (with classes like Tri Strength, Run Fit, Power Hour, and many more). The goal is to allow a client to come to one location to cover all of their needs from injury prevention, holistic health, performance, and rehabilitation.
Craig: Your family is very involved in the business. What family members are on your staff?
Bryan: In 2003, Sean and I begged Mom (Debbie Scott) to move out from AZ and run the financial side of the business. Fortunately she said yes and has been doing it ever sense. My brother and best friend is my partner. My little brother has and continues to do some business development/marketing for us (Christopher Hill). Erynne Hill (Sean’s wife) manages our massage therapy.
Craig: I've always known you to be a strong Christian man. How has your faith helped you through the challenges life offers?
Bryan: Rehab United often uses the buzz phrase Mind, Body, and Spirit. It is essential for us to operate our business, life, relationships, and general awareness on the principles and values that we believe in. Faith is a big part of what drives me. I have experienced many difficult times in my career and life, like many of my clients, and having Faith and a belief that we are doing something that is bigger than us is essential. Making our focus about serving others is at the core of whom I am and who we are as a company.
Craig: What is your favorite benefit of your TCSD membership?
Bryan: My favorite benefit of being a TCSD member is being able to participate in all of the great events that are provided. My personal favorites are the cove swims and the aquathlons. I just feel grateful that I live in the mecca of the triathlon world where our Tri Club’s smallest event could be another club’s best.
Craig: What are your goals for 2011 and beyond?
Brian: My goals for 2011 are to “Crush Dreams” at my two 70.3 races (New Orleans and Portland), to find and maintain a balance with work, training, my kids (2 dogs), and my wife. It is most important for me to be there for the ones I love, everything else has to be second fiddle. Rehab United has a ton of goals for 2011, but I am really excited to see our coaching (CEC) take off. We have 4 great coaches and have a ton of great athletes. We have “Team Excel” which is a group of athletes that train and have the same passions as the Rehab United mission.
Craig: Bryan, thank you for sharing your story. You and the team at Rehab United are definitely helping not just the TCSD, but the entire San Diego community lead more healthy lives.