Sam Herauf played football at Dickinson High School, where he graduated with the class of 2009. He continued his football career as a defensive lineman at Dickinson State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science. He also has a master’s degree in human performance and leadership from Northern State University in South Dakota. Now, Herauf is back in Dickinson as the lead strength and conditioning coach for DHS and DSU through Sanford Health’s POWER athletic program.

“I am really excited to be back in my hometown, using strength and conditioning as a way to develop better athletes,” Herauf said in a Sanford Health press release. “I also hope to grow these athletes into people who can enjoy strength training throughout their lifetime. Sanford POWER is exactly what the community needs and I am thrilled to be leading the Dickinson program.”

Mike Salwei, executive director of orthopedics and sports medicine at Sanford Health, said he’s excited about the Dickinson community and what Herauf is bringing to it.

“Sam’s leadership and experience make him the right person to lead our Dickinson POWER program,” Salwei said. “All of us Sanford are excited to continue investing in our youth through this valuable service.”

In an interview with The Press, Herauf said he’s made changes to ensure the athletic teams are more organized in hitting the weight room. He said DSU has roughly 400 student athletes and that the weight room isn’t huge compared to others so he’s focused on creating a more comprehensive program to fit within those constraints.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“We’re just trying to get generally stronger and faster. Then, hopefully their coaches are teaching them to be better players out on the court, the field or wherever they’re at,” Herauf said. “Now every team has scheduled times in the weight room, especially at the high school — that’s new. At DSU, they’ve been doing that. We’ve just added more teams that participate in the weight room now that I’ve taken over because before it was just their sport’s coaches that were in charge of the strength training.”

Herauf started working with football players over the summer and said he’s happy with the progress he’s seen thus far.

“In general, the athletes have responded well to being organized. It’s a new system. Our technique has gotten much better from day one to where we are now. It’s a building block to where we want to go,” he said. “So start slow. Get a really good foundation. The big improvements you’re going to see, I think, are in the next three to four years when the athletes who came (into our program) as freshmen in high school to being seniors. They’re going to see a big jump from where they were when they were freshmen.”

Herauf's program is called autoregulation, which he found to be successful at his previous strength and conditioning jobs in Aberdeen, S.D., at Northern State University and Central High School. It’s a unique, performance-based metric that provides athletes with more autonomy to decide how hard to push themselves in a given training session, with a ratings system to gauge that, he added.

“It’s basically a way for the athlete to adjust their weights based on their performance that day. So I’m never going to tell them, ‘You need to do this weight.’ It’s always like, ‘Hey, how are you feeling?’” Herauf said.

Jenna Maher, who is a physical therapist at Sanford Health in Dickinson, also works with the Sanford POWER program. Her role involves helping players recover from injuries, which vary from athlete to athlete. But overuse injuries in track athletes are relatively common, she said.

“It’s a lot of shoulder and knee injuries. Whether they’re surgically treated or managed conservatively through physical therapy and then working as we get into that Sanford POWER model trying to work into a return to play program with our athletic trainers, and then eventually graduate into that strength and conditioning program with our specialists there,” Maher said.

Though the program hasn't resulted in too many surgical cases or injuries that have required surgery, Maher noted that they've conducted more conservative management and physical therapy.

"We can't speed up healing, but we can make it easier for patients to get in sooner and avoid a long drive to Bismarck next week to see a physical therapist or a surgeon," she added.