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UW-Stout alum helping youth, college, pro athletes build better futures with mission-driven ETS Performance

Company growing across Midwest behind skills, passion of ex-Blue Devils and founders Heidi and Ryan Englebert

By Jerry Poling, UW Stout

Heidi Schultz and Ryan Englebert, who graduated from University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2005 and 2006, respectively, were all in as Blue Devil athletes.

Heidi stood out as a midfielder in soccer, starting every game in her four years; she was all-conference and two-time Academic All-American. Ryan was so good his senior year, rushing for more than 900 yards, that the next year he had a tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League.

Athletics was a passion, and it’s ultimately what brought them together when they met in 2005 at a soccer-football social and began dating. It just so happened they both were business administration majors too, although Heidi started in graphic design.

After marrying in 2008 they found a career path that’s tied to their UW-Stout past — an athletics-based business — but one that ultimately is all about building futures. In 2010, they founded ETS Performance, or Englebert Training Systems, a mission-driven company that helps others achieve their potential as athletes and individuals.

ETS has become the fourth largest such business in the world. Using a model that Ryan created that allows select former NFL and NHL clients of ETS to be minority partners, the Woodbury, Minn.-based company is poised for more growth. ETS had 17 facilities a year ago, soon will have 34 and within five years hopes to have 100, including one in every NFL city.

West-central Wisconsin locations include Eau Claire, La Crosse, Menomonie and River Falls among 13 in the state.

“We’ve created something life changing. We’re helping athletes become the best they can be but also mentally preparing them for life after sports and what tools they need to be successful,” Ryan said. “That’s what drives us to grow our business, the impact we know we make in every community.”

Young athletes, especially, learn intangibles that carry over into their daily lives.

“We’re helping develop the next generation of leaders,” Heidi said. “They learn self-confidence, are more focused and disciplined. It’s the ripple effect of how athletes excel on their teams, in their lives and in their communities.”

A company born from adversity

ETS bears the Englebert name for good reason. Heavily recruited out of high school with multiple Division I scholarship offers, Ryan played one season at UW-Madison in 2002 before he was sidelined by a back injury and transferred to UW-Stout.

In fall 2003, Ryan then suffered a hip fracture, dislocated pelvis, broken ribs, knee damage and other injuries from a car accident when another driver crossed the center line. His doctor said he wouldn’t play football again and may not walk or walk normally again.

“It’s how you handle adversity, learning what you’re capable of that determines where you go in life,” Ryan said.

Determined, he lived and worked out for six months with his brother, Cory, an innovative trainer. “Without him, there’s no way I would have gotten back to playing. It was next-level stuff,” Ryan said.

Against long odds, Ryan returned to the Blue Devils the very next fall, only to miss about half of the season with a broken ankle. Then, he missed the 2005 season with a knee injury. Finally, in 2006, it all came together his senior season.

After college, Heidi worked in marketing and Ryan with Cory doing performance training. Then, Ryan and Heidi went all in again — like in their Blue Devil days — opening their first ETS facility in 2010 in Woodbury. “We saved every cent we had and put it all into the business. We had no choice but to be successful,” Ryan said.

Having done their market research, they knew the Twin Cities east metro area was big into sports but had few performance facilities. They started with fewer than 20 athletes and had 200 within seven months, simply through flyers and athlete referrals.

“We knew we had something,” Ryan said. “We developed a culture and atmosphere that’s contagious.”

They developed unique training methods based on extensive research. The focus is on strength, speed, acceleration, deceleration, agility, discipline and high-energy motivation. Each athlete, depending on age (as young as 8), sport and goals, receives customized training to help maximize their potential. The facilities are modest in size, 5,000 square feet or less, and the trainer-to-athlete ratio is low.

Professional connections

One athlete in particular helped boost ETS — Adam Thielen. When he finished his Mankato (Minn.) State career and had NFL aspirations, he traveled four times a week to Woodbury to train under Ryan, who became one of his best friends.

Thielen was an undrafted free agent in 2013 but then signed with the Minnesota Vikings and became an All-Pro wide receiver over the past decade. He plays for the Carolina Panthers. A believer in ETS, Thielen and his wife, Caitlin, have become ETS minority owners.

The Engleberts, with Ryan focusing on the training and expansion and Heidi overseeing marketing, finances and more, opened a second facility in 2016 in nearby Lakeville, Minn., and a third and fourth in 2017 in Menomonie and Holland, Mich.

During COVID, ETS grew as athletes used down time to get stronger and faster.

ETS has trained more than 2,500 college athletes, Olympians and 250-plus professionals — such as Houston Texans linebacker Blake Cashman, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher J.P. Feyereisen, Minnesota Vikings fullback CJ Ham, New York Giants center J.C. Hasenauer, Pittsburgh Penguins All-Star Jake Guentzel — and 50,000-plus youths.

The company has pushed to break the stigma of strength training for girls and women and is approaching 50% female clients.

ETS has five owners, and it partners with current and former pro athletes at various locations. They include:

  • Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, Chad Greenway, C.J. Ham, Zach Line, Harrison Phillips, Marcus Sherels

  • Green Bay Packers: John Kuhn

  • NHL players: Ryan Carter, Jake Guentzel, Alex Stalock and Thomas Vanek.

Other pro athletes are interested. “We’re very blessed with great partners and a great corporate team who all embody and believe in our mission to impact youth athletes,” said Ryan, 41.

A new team member is Ryan’s brother, Cory. “Ninety percent of what I know I learned from him. There would be no ETS without him,” Ryan said.

“We have really good people, and that’s what makes this work,” Heidi said, including many facility managers who once were clients. “When you’re clear on your mission and values, people take that and run with it.”

Their UW-Stout education had “a huge role” in helping them successfully start and run their business, Heidi said.

Two former UW-Stout athletes, Michael Blizel and Trevor Morning, are ETS employees, and an intern this past summer was a UW-Stout student majoring in video production.

The Engleberts have three children, 8, 10 and 13, and live in western Wisconsin about 25 minutes from ETS headquarters in Woodbury.

A version of this story appeared in UW-Stout’s 2023 Outlook alumni magazine.

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes. Learn more via the FOCUS2030 strategic plan.


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