BTW 003: A Sports Medicine Career At The Highest Levels with Ralph Reiff

My guest today is my friend Ralph Reiff, Executive Director of St. Vincent Sports Performance. Ralph started his sports medicine career as athletic trainer for Butler University where he managed the athlete health care, weight room and equipment for all sports. He also developed the athletic trainer curriculum at Butler. During his tenure at Butler he was selected to provide sports medicine to many national and international sporting events and professional athletes. Ralph has managed the medical aspects of more than 20 NCAA events, including three Men’s Final Four Basketball Championships; the 1988 and 1996 US Track & Field Olympic Trials; 2003 World Basketball Championships; medical director for the 2004 FINA Swimming World Championships; and the 2006 USA Track Outdoor Championships. In this conversation Ralph not only tells his story, but also provides insights into what it’s like for an athlete to prepare for the NFL draft, and even some tips for coaches and other sports professionals regarding what they can do to stay at the top of their game.

I guess I had a chip on my shoulder. I never wanted critics to be right about me.

When I asked Ralph Reiff how he’s been able to be so successful as a sports medicine professional he said that he’s always felt that he was blessed with a stubborn gene from somebody back in his family history. He’s always had a chip on his shoulder – in a good way – not wanting anyone who says he can’t do something to be right in the end. That desire has motivated him to work harder than most of his contemporaries and build a career that has fueled the success of professional athletes and Olympic teams alike. You can hear how Ralph harnessed his determination to create his own success, on this episode of Beyond The Whistle.

Worldwide experience in a sports medicine career that started from humble beginnings.

In 1996, Ralph Reiff was manager of Athlete Care for the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. This selection took Ralph to Atlanta for 18 months of planning, implementation, and management of all medical and performance operations for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. But that wasn’t his first involvement with the Olympic games. He was selected by the United States Olympic Committee for the 1987 US Olympic Festival, numerous USA Basketball team selection events and was Head Athletic Trainer for the Gold Medal winning USA Basketball Team at the 1989 World University Games in Germany. But even that isn’t where he started. He began as a fresh graduate from college, stepping into an ailing sports program at the now-famous Butler University. I can’t help but believe that the part he played at Butler was instrumental to the dramatic turn-around of the program.

The business of sports is one of Ralph Reiff’s strengths. He’s proven it over and over.

Often, sports professionals find the business side of sports to be challenging. Their passion and training is in performing, leading teams, or providing care of athletes. Ralph Reiff is no stranger to the management and business side of sports, having served in organizational and management capacities for sporting events as large as the Olympic games. On this episode, Ralph generously shares his insights into the challenges of the business side of sports so that you can make the right decisions in your career.

Working alongside the Indiana Pacers is one of Ralph’s crowning achievements.

You may have heard the news: The Indiana Pacers are building a brand new practice facility that will house their general offices and also include a state of the art sports medicine facility and sports psychology lab – and they’ve tapped Ralph Reiff and the team at St. Vincent Sports Performance to run both. On this episode of Beyond the Whistle, I asked Ralph how that partnership came about, how the project is going, and what expects to experience once the facility is finished and the partnership begins. It’s a fascinating conversation that I hope you take the time to listen to.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:14] My introduction of Ralph Reiff, Executive Director of St. Vincent’s Sports Performance.
  • [3:20] Ralph’s amazing journey from college to his current position.
  • [7:57] Butler University as an example of values-based sports doing well.
  • [10:32] Getting beyond a one-dimensional approach to success in sports medicine.
  • [17:24] The current status of the deal Ralph is working on with the Indiana Pacers.
  • [23:30] A day in the life of an athlete in the NFL’s pre-draft conditioning program.
  • [30:46] Ralph’s tips for coaches and other sports professionals about their own health and peak performance.

Resources & People Mentioned