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PIT Bringing Basketball Strength Training to Carrillo Street Gym

The program will be available at the newly renovated downtown facility in June

Basketball athletes take note: The oldest gym in Santa Barbara is picking up a brand-new athletic program — targeted to help high school and college basketball players jump higher and get stronger.

Beginning in June, the newly remodeled Carrillo Street Gym will be the home of the crew from Performance Improvement Training (PIT) of Santa Barbara.

“I am really excited about beginning our classes at the Carrillo Street Gym,” said Gary Ryan, the training supervisor for PIT in Ojai before moving the program to Santa Barbara. “I was a Santa Barbara County resident for 12 years in the ‘80s and ‘90s, so this is like coming home.”

Ryan has a strong background in both power-lifting and athletic training. He opened and managed the large base gym at the U.S. Coast Guard station at Kodiak, Alaska, in 1973.

“From day one in Kodiak, we had some pretty crazy ideas on how to build athletic strength,” he said. “We used to roll 55-gallon drums — weighing over 400 pounds — back and forth on the docks. We raced each other pulling heavy chains across the parking lot. It was fun, especially in the heavy snow and gusty winds. We had a great training room inside the gym, but we liked going outside to move things around once in a while, too.”

Shifting gears in California, Ryan the power-lifter transitioned into Ryan the basketball training specialist.

“I wrecked my right shoulder by doing too many heavy bench presses for too many years,” he said. “Now, part of my mission in strength and resistance coaching is to keep young people from making the same mistakes I did. Also, I like the positive changes that strength training can make in everybody.”

Ryan joined the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

“Inside the NSCA, I worked with the basketball coaches’ forum (SIG) and participated in conferences and seminars with some of the top basketball trainers in D-1 and the NBA,” he said. “They are a great bunch of guys to associate with. Very professional.”

Then 10 years ago in Ojai, Ryan linked with Nate Nylander, who at that time was assistant basketball coach at Nordhoff High School. (Nylander is now head coach at Saint Bonaventure High School.) The two friends researched, designed and implemented a resistance training and conditioning program specifically for basketball players. Performance Improvement Training — PIT — was born, when Ryan and Nylander realized that the Nordhoff varsity team made amazing gains in athletic performance that season.

The 2011 version of PIT coming to Santa Barbara is unique.

“It’s unlike any other basketball strength and conditioning program in that it combines old-school Russian jump training with new technology,” Ryan said. “Our equipment can be as primitive as a Kodiak 55-gallon drum, or as modern as an electronic Power Plate whole-body-vibration device. We measure success in the increase our athletes achieve in their jump skills and vert. But they also grow in overall strength and confidence.”

The PIT program begins on June 7 at the Carrillo Street Gym, 102 E. Carrillo St. in downtown Santa Barbara. Built in 1914, the gym has been renovated by the City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department. Carrillo Street Gym, like the PIT program itself, is a great blend of old and new. The outside structure, adjacent to the Presidio, has the historic flavor of old Santa Barbara. Inside, the gym is ideally suited for intensive small-group training without any interference from competing activities.

PIT class size is small, with a coach-to-athlete ratio of 1-to-4.

“These are great guys who have been using our training methods for years, and have had outstanding success,” Ryan said. “They are all fully credentialed. Dillon Carlson is our head coach, a Level One CrossFit instructor. He was first-place finisher in the pull-up competition last year in the CrossFit Regional Games at UCLA. James Engesser, our vertical jump specialist, has unbelievable hops — he can fly like an eagle! And Parker Irvine is an NSCA member who is now attending a special tactical training course with some of the best police and military specialists in America. Last year he trained the Nordhoff girls’ varsity basketball team.” 

It does look like a new look at the old downtown gym.

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