Local company makes big impact on Saskatoon sports scene
|Nolan Brudehl does resistance training at Ignite Conditioning.|
At Ignite Athletic Conditioning, the goal of the staff is to make the impossible possible for the athletes who train there.
The Saskatoon-based company is co-owned by former athletes Jordan Harbidge and Joel Lipinski, who both made an impact on the provincial sports scene. Harbidge played football and basketball at Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School before enjoying a strong five-year career with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s basketball team from 2003 to 2008.
Lipinski, who is from Regina, played post-secondary football with the University of Regina Rams (2004-2006), the Vancouver Island Raiders of the Canadian Junior Football League (2007) and the St. Mary’s University Huskies (2008). The star defensive back moved on to enjoy short CFL stints with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2009) and the Edmonton Eskimos (2011).
|Michael Linklater works out on the squat rack at Ignite Conditioning.|
Having lived lives as elite-level athletes, both wanted to train athletes and help them achieve their dreams.
“It is pretty cool to have a job where you get to work with like local athletes, and you just kind of like wish something like this was around when you were that age,” said Harbidge. “It is pretty cool to offer something like that to local kids around here and give them the opportunity to try to reach their athletic potential or dreams.”
“If it is just making like their high school football team or making their U-18 team or if it is like playing post-secondary or even later like play pro, all those like small goals along the way are just like huge milestones that are just cool to see,” said Lipinski. “This job is honestly one of the best jobs you could ever possibly have.”
Ignite was formed as company in 2010 and trained a small group of about eight athletes at the start.
|Nolan Brudehl pushed a sled training at Ignite Conditioning.|
Fast forward to today, the company is run out of its own facility on the 400-block of Lauriston Street just south of 33rd Street, and between 600 to 700 athletes train with Ignite.
To help with training, Ignite recently hired Donovan Dale, who wrapped up his football career graduating from the U of Saskatchewan Huskies after this past season.
Originally, the company was founded by former U of S Huskies football stars Ryan Gottselig and David Stevens. Both had decorated careers with the Huskies in the early to the middle of the 2000s and were well known in Saskatoon.
In 2011, Gottselig moved to Moose Jaw after accepting a teaching job there, and he established an Ignite branch in that centre. Stevens joined the City of Saskatoon’s fire department, but he still owns a small part of the Saskatoon branch.
Lipinski and Stevens became friends while playing for Canada’s team at the International Federation of American Football senior tackle world championship in Austria in 2011.
|Michael Linklater lifts a dumbbell at Ignite Conditioning.|
Lipinski ended up settling in Saskatoon after that tournament and bought into the company.
Harbidge joined Ignite in 2012 after returning to Saskatoon having been an educator and an assistant strength coach at a private boys’ school in Vancouver.
As Stevens’ firefighting career took off, Harbidge and Lipinski bought majority ownership of the Saskatoon branch. In order to allow Harbidge and Lipinski to take off with the company, Stevens worked hundreds of hours for free at the beginning.
As a result of Stevens’s efforts, Harbidge and Lipinski ensured the elusive and speedy former running back still had a part ownership stake in the branch.
In running Ignite, Harbidge said there have been times the sense of accomplishment has come in unassuming ways.
“Originally, we were all kind of like we want to train pros,” said Harbidge. “We want to train a lot of the high level athletes.
“A lot of the most rewarding things for us have been like last year we had a kid in eight weeks lose 35 pounds and get stronger. It is little things like that where you can actually change someone’s life that was pretty rewarding.”
Ignite has programs for athletes aged 11 and younger where the focus is on building agility, balance and coordination through game-type activities.
|Nolan Brudehl works on his movement at Ignite Conditioning.|
Training programs are catered to athlete development at various progression levels all the way up to more sports specific training for professional athletes.
The Saskatoon Hilltops of the Canadian Junior Football League were one of the first massive groups that trained with Ignite. The staff at Ignite has worked with 40 Hilltops player per year in each of the last three years.
The Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League were one of the first large female groups to train out of Ignite. At the moment, female athletes make up 40 per cent of Ignite’s clientele.
When Ignite started, most of the other elite training companies in Saskatoon focused on hockey, so Ignite built a reputation training athletes in all other sports outside of hockey.
Ignite has training contracts with U of S Huskies women’s soccer, Huskies men’s basketball and Huskies football. Harbidge is the strength and conditioning coach for the Huskies men’s basketball team, and Lipinski is the strength and conditioning coordinator and defensive assistant coach with the Huskies football team.
|Michael Linklater works on a resistance machine at Ignite Conditioning.|
Besides the university teams, Ignite trains athletes from numerous sports groups like Basketball Saskatchewan, Ringette Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Minor Football, Canoe and Kayak Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Badminton Association and the local elite volleyball academy in Saskatoon.
Along the way, Ignite is starting to pick up a handful of Western Hockey League players as well.
“Everyone kind of tried to get hockey and train hockey, and we just went for everything else,” said Harbidge. “We started with a niche which was football. Now we’ve kind of expanded to everything even hockey.
“We try to really rebrand ourselves as athletic trainers not just football specialists, which was kind of our brand early on. It has been such a crazy dynamic, but it has been pretty cool.”
Lipinski said the staff at Ignite tries to take an interest in an athlete’s life outside of sports as well. It was a trait he, Harbidge and Dale all learned from the respective coaches they had along the way in their careers as athletes.
|Joel Lipinski is one of the co-owners and coaches at Ignite Conditioning.|
“You end up talking about things that are actually more than like obviously just sport,” said Lipinski. “You figure out what is going on in the athlete’s life.
“You end up kind of almost being like a councillor at this position here too. To be honest, we end up like enjoying that aspect of it like just as much as the actual training side.”
Harbidge said it has been great to find a niche to give back to the local sports scene, and in his case, his hometown.
“I was originally planning to be a teacher, but now I am just like a specialist teacher,” said Harbidge. “I teach every day, but I get to teach what I am passionate about.
“I feel very fortunate. Coming home from Vancouver, I get to work with the community I grew up in, which is pretty cool too.”
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