PORTLAND, Ore. - Assistant football coach and 2007 graduate Ryan Lockard is using his Lewis & Clark degree to run his own business, training individuals with special needs. His business, started in the summer of 2012, aims to make special needs individuals more comfortable with exercise. Lockard has worked as an assistant football coach for linebackers at Lewis & Clark since 2008.
L&C Athletics: What exactly is your business?
Ryan Lockard: My business is called Specialty Athletic Training. I am a personal trainer for individuals with special needs. The majority of my clientele are on the autism spectrum.
L&C: How did you get into working with kids with autism?
RL: I began working part time as a 1:1 classroom aide for a teenager that has autism during my senior year at Lewis and Clark in 2007. That turned into a full time position after graduation and I've been working in the autism community ever since.
L&C: What benefits do think your clients get out of this?
RL: There are multiple benefits that my clients get from training. Exercise has shown to have a positive impact on gross motor skills, balance, coordination, cognitive functioning, executive functioning, reduced anxiety and depression, but the most beneficial thing that my clients get is a boost in their self-esteem.
My clients typically have had negative experiences with Physical Education classes that are offered by their schools because they are designed in a way that sets my clients up for failure, which is not the teacher's fault. My clients often need individual attention that isn't a possibility in a school PE class, and have other things going on that makes it difficult to participate in group sport activities with their peers.
I provide a positive and uplifting atmosphere for my clients to have fun with fitness and excel. I have student-athletes serve as peer mentors and take part of the workouts with my clients. They always leave with a smile and asking about what we are going to do during their next training session.
L&C: How is it different working with individuals, with autism or any other special need, than working with the football players you're coaching at Lewis & Clark?
RL: Program design is the biggest difference in working with my clients compared to working with our football players at Lewis & Clark College. Football players are training to get bigger, faster, and stronger so that they can complete on the field every Saturday. This is not the case for my clients.
The parents of my clients understand the short and long term benefits of exercise and want their children to enjoy fitness and make it a part of their daily lives. The parents' goals often include the same as those of a football player, in regards to their child getting stronger, but they primarily want their children to enjoy exercise. It is important for them to have success and have fun while they exercise in order for them to make fitness an integral part of their daily lives.
L&C: Where have you been operating?
RL: I do a majority of my training at Lewis & Clark College. I also provide some in-home training that some of my clients take advantage of.
RL: The possibilities are endless. This business is very unique and there is such a high demand for the services that I provide that it is hard to say exactly where I anticipate this going. It would be great to see my business grow and be able to one day have multiple Specialty Athletic Training locations nationally, but right now I am focusing on providing great services to my current clients and the Portland community. Word of mouth travels fast and I have already made a lot of great connections in the Portland area.
L&C: How can people follow you?
RL: The best way is to "Like" the Specialty Athletic Training's Facebook page. I am constantly posting pictures from training sessions and relevant information on the page. You can also follow Specialty Athletic Training on Twitter @SpAthTraining and on Instagram @specialtyathletictraining as well to see what we are up to each day.