( ENSPIRE Interview ) Clive Brewer Has Joined OrthoArizona To Share Athletic Expertise
Enspire Contributor: Ava Girardi
Before becoming the newest member of OrthoArizona to share his skills and expertise in athlete development and high-performance sports conditioning, Brewer has trained athletes within professional leagues and traveled the world to attend the Olympic games. In Brewer’s five years of working for the MLB, Brewer served time as the Assistant Director of High Performance for the Toronto Blue Jays Major League baseball team for five seasons. In this position, he led high-performance services, such as sports medicine, physical development, mental performance, and nutrition, to achieve athletic success. Brewer also has had experience working with young athletes to become champions. Brewer worked with the USA football team for its development process, the MLS, and English Premier League academics to help children become professional athletes.
“When I was the national lead for athlete development in Scotland, I quickly realized we were trying to deliver world-class training to under-developed athletes, which is like trying to ice a cake that is 75% baked, ” Brewer said. “So I started investing more time into looking at positive youth development and evolving training processes and environments to maximize young athletes’ development.”
Brewer has traveled the world to prepare for the Olympic Games as an athletic performance expert. For every Olympic game since 2000, Brewer has helped athletics to perform their best. He has worked with multiple medal winners for the Tokyo Games. After traveling the world and assisting athletes, Brewer finally found a facility he could continue to train athletes in the U.S.
“After twenty-five years traveling around the globe, I wanted to find a home where athletes and teams could come to me, and I could grow a story around a program,” Brewer said. “OrthoArizona provides the perfect place to do that; a collection of leading surgeons, physical therapists & a performance program means that we can provide the complete spectrum of comprehensive care and expertise to people who may otherwise not be excited to work in that environment.”
OrthoArizona is currently the largest owned medical group in Arizona and has grown significantly since its opening in 1994 with surgeons and primary care who specialize in sports medicine. At this facility, Brewer will continue to train many athletes, including pro golfer Cristie Kerr and Ironman triathlete Rachel Zilinskas. Brewer also partners with OrthoArizona physicians to help teams with training and ways to prevent injury. Along with professional athletes, Brewer also works with non-professional athletes. He helps individuals train, improves athletic abilities, and recover from injuries. Locals can also sign up for training clinics such as the speed school and the soccer, volleyball, and hockey clinics held over the summer. People can also sign up for the clinics and have a private session with Brewer.
To bring all of his work together and help athletes throughout their training, Brewer has published a book, “Developing athletic movement skills” by Human Kinetics. He released this book in 2017, and it was a best seller for the first two years of its release. Brewer has become a regular speaker at international conferences and has published two other books. The books include information that can aid athletes with training methods and coaching.
ENSPIRE spoke with Clive Brewer to learn more about his career and experience at OrthoArizona:
When did you become interested in training athletes, and did you always have a passion for physical activity?
“As a child, I did every sport and started coaching at 14. I studied sports science in High school and did work experience at school with the Army physical training corps, and that was my first experience with coaches dedicated only to conditioning people. When my professional career ended early at 18, I was studying sports science and loving it. The truth was I was always probably a better athlete than I was a sports performer, and so learning about the human body, and how I can enhance its performance in any context, has always been a fascination for me. So when I was doing my Master’s degree at Loughborough University, and England Rugby invited me to become part of their staff to develop players’ conditioning, it was a phenomenal opportunity and introduction to the profession I have stayed with ever since.”
Why did you want to pursue the position as the Director of Athletic Performance at OrthoArizona?
“I loved my 25 years in professional sports, and traveling around the world working with some of the best teams and individuals on the planet has brought me a lot of learning and fulfillment, but that comes with a lot of fatigue as well–being away from my family constantly & never really settling anywhere. So after leaving my role at Columbus Crew in 2020, it was time to think about finding somewhere where I could get athletes to come to me. All my professional life I have worked closely with the medical staff, so that we can work as a cohesive unit & put the athlete’s needs at the center of what we deliver, tailoring programs to the needs of each athlete. When I was researching opportunities to establish such a program in Phoenix, which my wife & I loved & where several professionals who I had worked with previously in baseball and Olympic sports reside, I came across the OrthoArizona facility in North Scottsdale (Victorium). It was towards the end of the covid-19 pandemic, so they explained that the performance side of their business had been temporarily shut down and that they were looking for someone to come and lead the process & grow this aspect of the business. As someone who has managed integrated medical & physical training programs in a full range of sports, it was a natural fit for me. I loved the vision that the company has to grow and become best in class at integrated athlete care – it’s how I have lived my professional life – and so I was excited by what they had to say. The people that I met as I investigated the company really inspired me with their desire to push boundaries whilst doing the basics to excellence, and this group of people are who I wanted to be around every day.”
How has COVID-19 affected your career and what have you done to overcome these challenges?
“Covid came in the year I was the performance director with Columbus Crew SC, and it changed so much of what we did. I had to switch to remote training–which we were never geared up for–making sure we kept players and staff who are used to being together and helping each other in person every day happy, healthy, and moving forward (whilst taking pay cuts)–schedules changed, we had the “MLS is back” experience in Disney, where we were contained in a hotel for a long period of time – it was a challenging time for us all! As a manager and leader, it really made me appreciate the need to ensure that everyone stayed connected and engaged, and focused more on how we can keep people happy and healthy. It was also a time when my skills as a creative problem-solver were really challenged–which was a great learning opportunity as we had to overcome the restrictions that were understandably placed upon us–and I think that there is a lot I will look back on that said I became a better person and leader of the process during that time. It was during this year that I decided I didn’t want to stay in Columbus and resigned to seek other opportunities–even though the team won the national championship that year. The problem was that COVID had shrunk the professional sports opportunities so much in the USA–especially for someone who had decided to probably open his own facility–that I accepted an opening in Dubai to develop an elite training facility as a stop-gap, followed by a short-term contract with the Olympic training site at ETSU in Tennessee–both of which were great experiences as things in the sporting world got opened up again.”
What sets OrthoArizona apart from other training facilities?
“This is a unique environment where we can provide every aspect of human care to the athlete (or client–our aim is to work with every individual to enhance their level of function and achieve their goals, whether this is in sport, work, or life ). I can walk from the weights area to the treatment area with no walls and get a physical therapist’s input into my coaching (I am seeing this, what are your thoughts?). With the right package, an athlete can get some remedial treatment prior to training, so that they are set up for success in their program and get the best from their session. For example, in the couple of months I have been here, a former college rower came for therapy on a ruptured ACL. She had treatment, I trained her prior to surgery, I was then able to attend her surgery and learn about the techniques the surgeon was using to set her up for success, and she is now back in therapy but working with me on some basic strengthening and movement guided by the PT and surgeons protocol. That integration of expertise around an athlete is rare. We have expertise in many sports, many injuries, and also the conditioning needs of youth through to elite levels, which is exciting to walk into every day. When you look at facilities such as the one at North Scottsdale, where we have turf, access to 16 soccer fields, 4 volleyball / 8 basketball courts, 2 weight rooms, a multi-purpose movement room, and integrated training and therapy space, there really isn’t anything more that we need to cater for every athletes’ requirements. And I know that the company is ambitious to develop a number of facilities like this around the valley. It’s not just the facilities though – We are also looking to expand our support for teams, for example, using the expertise in hockey & baseball that exists from our chandler ice den location to support teams at facilities in Tempe, or our soccer conditioning program, which we can export to deliver with clubs around the valley.”
What is some of your key advice to athletes to become successful in their athletic careers and prevent injury?
“Love what you do! First and foremost, the sport will give you so much, but to put your body through what it takes to succeed, you have to love it. Seek good people who have your interests at heart – there are so many who will try to give you “the recipe” that they have for success, but you want people who will make you better. So ask lots of questions and understand “why” they want you to do things – then you will own the outcomes that you achieve. Both my experience and the research will demonstrate that movement is the best medicine, and being strong & moving in the right way will lead to optimal performance and reduced injuries. But it’s making sure that you do it the right way – it’s not what you lift, but how you lift things that are important, and until someone is competent, they shouldn’t be loaded through the movement. One of my key focuses, for example, is enhancing the movement quality and strength of youth athletes, especially females, so that we don’t see as many surgeries in this population moving forward. So do the right things the right way, and seek out curious professionals who are experienced, have education in how the body works, and who are good people to guide you moving forward.”
“There shouldn’t be a difference between performance training and injury prevention: One program should achieve both. In any role I have had we have used the same training process to deliver both. For example, within 18 months of our process coming into the Blue Jays, we had reduced the return to play time for soft tissue injuries by 50%! In my last professional rugby club in the UK, we had the lowest salary spend, and in my 3 years with the team, we went from last place to a playoff team and cup semi-finalists, with a 7% change in the roster – in that time we increased all our physical performance metrics on the field, increased players available to the coach every week year on year, and reduced injuries by 16% yearly. Being accountable for players’ physical capacity, availability and readiness is something that I can always show success in any front office, and it’s why every team I have worked with has either won a national championship or achieved play-off success within my time with the team.”
What has your experience been like working with professional baseball and football leagues, and how have you brought what you learned to OrthoArizona from those specific experiences?
“I have never had a bad experience working in the professional teams where there have been great people who will learn and collaborate to get better every day. Indeed, the “getting better every day” was a mantra that is emboldened in all the Blue Jays facilities. Learning really is the only sustainable competitive advantage, and so being curious to learn & having a growth mindset is important for success in a high-performing environment. Similarly, every professional approaches a problem from their particular lens. So when you have highly experienced and educated people, we need to ensure that their expertise is valued, listened to, and incorporated into the process that we put around the individual. Even in a team environment, it’s about how we make each player better that counts–so that they can “bring it” to the team’s performance. The biggest data set that we can rely on to support this is the knowledge and experience of those in the staff–so without dogma, without hierarchy, we need to assimilate the views of the Drs, PTs, ATCs, S&C coaches and put that together to provide the best program for what the athlete needs. I have spent a career managing that process–conducting the orchestra of specialist musicians to use an analogy. By putting the athlete at the center of the process–not a particular set of expertise–we get the best outcomes. That requires people to be high functioning–and high-functioning team things forward, welcome challenges, welcome questions, and be willing to do what it takes to get better. That’s the learning that I am bringing to the team of experts here at OrthoArizona–where there are great people, with whom we can achieve great things.”
Clive Brewer has taken his careers in the MLS, MLB, and the Olympic sports to continue to train competitive athletes and non-athletes to be the best version of themselves. Brewer continues to pursue his passion for athletic training by working at OrthoArizona to help with muscular development and conditioning for clients at the training facility. With his experience training athletes in various sports, he has taken these methods and published these ideas in books so individuals across the country can utilize Brewer’s ideas. Even though Brewer has experience with professional athletes, he is spreading his methods and ideas to locals and people across the country to use in their athletic activities to become stronger and train more effectively.
To learn more about OrthoArizona, visit its site here.