If you have ever had an injury—sports related or otherwise—you know what it’s like to covet a quick recovery. That’s what Trainer’s Choice customers want, and that’s what the company strives to provide: products and services to get people back in the game.
Located in Barrie, Ontario, Trainer’s Choice came about as a sort of accident. Rick Schaly, president and athletic therapist, started his own clinic in 1989, focusing on sports injury rehabilitation. Along with providing physical therapy, Schaly’s clinic bought and sold sports medicine products, such as braces and supports, to help facilitate healing.
“Many of the products we were selling at the time were inadequate in both fit and performance,” Schaly recalls. “Straps would break or pinch people’s skin, and clients would come to us asking for help. We were frustrated in that process.” So Schaly took matters into his own hands.
As someone who grew up on a farm, Schaly is quite handy. “I would take someone else’s product, bring it to the local shoemaker and tailor it for the customer, adding custom-fitted straps and pads,” he says. “The results and feedback were amazing.” And that’s how Trainer’s Choice products were born.
Schaly and his team still run a sports clinic in Barrie, but now the company is responsible for designing and manufacturing the products they sell. In fact, Trainer’s Choice is the leading supplier of sports medicine product supplier across Canada, selling merchandise wholesale to the country’s leading retailers. Products include compression ice wraps, stabilizers, braces, wraps, belts and supports.
The company’s manufacturing process has been a successful evolution since it began, but it didn’t come without effort. Adding its own products meant a significant learning curve about manufacturing processes, warehousing, shipping/receiving, packaging and branding.
“When we started, we hired a local leather company to make a few selected products,” says Schaly. “Then we decided to control manufacturing and design and bring everything in house; for eight years, we had a team of sewers here. As we accelerated in sales, we decided it was better to increase capacity, so we partnered with an American-owned company in Sri Lanka, called North Sails. Now we have 95 fulltime sewers there, making Trainer’s Choice products in our own factory campus.”
“We have made major advancements with some of our retailers and our sales continue to grow,” he adds. “This month, our sales are already 30 per cent over where we were last year.” According to Schaly, Trainer’s Choice products have remained successful for three simple, but important, reasons. “Our products are about design, fit and function.”
Of course, his environment and expertise are significant factors in the company’s success. After all, Schaly is an athletic therapist himself and so is his core retail staff. “Trainer’s Choice is a sports medicine umbrella, covering physiotherapists, chiropractors and kinesiologists,” he explains. “We’re able to create, design and test products to work the way people want them to. It’s that knowledge that provides better fit and support and, ultimately, brings our clients back to their lifestyle. Our clinic gives us insight into product innovation and development.”
Their professional background also allows Trainer’s Choice employees to go to clinics and pharmacies to educate other professionals about how to get their patients better faster. “There’s a demand for knowledge around this category,” Schaly says.
Trainer’s Choice has held its own in the healthcare field for years. But Schaly knew he arrived when he started getting attention from the big leagues—literally. “About 10 years ago, Hockey Canada tried our products and they were so happy with them that Trainer’s Choice became an official licensee and official supplier for Team Canada,” he beams. “World Junior players and Olympic athletes wear our products. That’s one of the pillars we have used to propel our business.”
In addition to Hockey Canada, the company is also the official supplier to the Canadian Soccer Association, Professional Bullriders Association, the Toronto Argonauts and the Toronto Rock. “We are recognised by the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association,” Schaly continues, “and we’re soon to launch an agreement with the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. We have significant partnerships in the community that distinguish our products as being a premium brand.”
As Trainer’s Choice continues to grow at a steady incline, Schaly looks ahead to the plans he has for the company, including moving into a new building in two months. “It will be a sports medicine complex,” he says. “I want everything at one location: physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic and occupational therapies.”
Also expected in a similar time line is new merchandise. “We’re excited to be bringing new products and new packaging to the market within the next two to three months,” he tells. “Expanding even further, we are also starting to gain a foothold in the United States, so we will have a few announcements in the next few months about the first three Trainer’s Choice chains south of the border.”
As expected, Trainer’s Choice brings nothing but exciting news for the future. As Canada’s only line of premium supports and braces, Trainer’s Choice will no doubt remain successful in helping people get back to life, work and sport.
For articles about injury prevention and proper training, visit www.trainerschoice.ca