A Home Run for First Responders

I was on the pitcher’s mound, facing down the last hitter in the championship game.

Our Little League team had been grinding it out all season, inning by inning, hit by hit to make it to this moment, facing the “elite” junior high team in Mokena, Ill., the one that had been assembled by cherry picking the best players in the area.

It was a miracle we had made it this far.

Hard to believe, but I don’t remember which pitch I threw or how we nailed that last out. All I remember is that we won, and that we celebrated like typical seventh and eighth graders, with whoops and high fives. My dad, who came to ever single game I played and who is pictured with me in the image above, was so proud.

It’s a moment I will never forget. Baseball was my favorite sport, and it taught me two incredibly important lessons as I grew up.

An opportunity to succeed

The first relates to this story. Our team worked incredibly hard to make it to that tournament game. That achievement taught me that if you put in the work, you will be given the opportunity to be successful. Of course, success is never guaranteed, but dedication and commitment definitely earn you the right to be sitting at the table.

The second lesson I learned a few years later, when I was in high school. I still played baseball, but I came to the realization I would never make it to the big leagues in the sport I loved. The reality was that kids around me were outperforming me, getting bigger and stronger. I desperately wanted to stay connected to sports for the rest of my life, but playing seemed out of reach.

Then, I read an article in the Chicago Tribune about the head athletic trainer for the Chicago Bulls, Robert “Chip” Schaefer. I immediately understood that his profession could be a way for me to contribute to the world of elite athletics, just not on the field. Inspired, I did what any gutsy high school senior would do: I picked up the phone, called the Bulls’ main office and asked to talk to Mr. Schaefer.

Surprisingly, Chip took my call! I had a ton of questions for him, which he patiently and willingly answered.

From athletics to training

That conversation gave me insights into the world of sports medicine and the education required to get there. After earning my master’s in physical therapy from Marquette University, I spent decades working with pro and collegiate athletes, getting to know what injuries they typically face and helping them recover.

When I moved back to Milwaukee over a decade ago, I started working with the Milwaukee Fire Department’s peer fitness instructors, and I quickly observed that these local heroes were not getting the same expedited and high-quality access to doctors and therapists that my elite athletes were.

In short order, I became a resource for firefighters to expedite their access to the best sports medicine-trained doctors and physical therapists in the area.

Rebound is the result of that effort. From that word-of-mouth beginning, we’ve grown to offer services in nine states with more than 16,000 first responders in our network. And while I’m proud of all the people I’ve helped to get better in the past, nothing has given me more satisfaction than helping this group of workers, people I consider local heroes because they put their bodies to the test keeping our communities safe.

I’m sure I never gave a moment’s thought to security when I was that scrappy pitcher on the mound so many years ago. But you can rest assured that as the founder and CEO of Rebound, I’ll be throwing fastballs at all the challenges that prevent public safety workers from getting the healthcare they deserve.

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