Brian Swane, Special to Canada West
EDMONTON – As a teenager and throughout his 20s, Dan Farthing was an incredible football player.
So one can only imagine how unstoppable he'd have been if present-day Dan, renowned fitness and training expert, could meet the younger version of himself.
"I'd say first, we have to have a beer," Dan laughs.
A Saskatchewan football icon who was an All-Canadian and won a Vanier Cup with the Huskies before playing eleven CFL seasons for the Roughriders, Dan now runs Level 10 Fitness in Regina.
Dan works daily with everyone from pro athletes to weekend warriors, using the same mindset responsible for much of his success on the gridiron. Only now, as a certified strength and conditioning specialist and certified exercise physiologist with a Masters of Physical Activity Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, he is infinitely better informed.
"There's a relationship between the work that you put in and the outcome that you can expect, and I carry that with me in my leadership at Level 10 fitness and my parenting and everything," says the native of Saskatoon.
"If you want an outcome that's different than the one currently you have, a whole lot of work and a decision has to happen before you can initiate the action and create that different outcome."
Based out of a fully-equipped 18,000 square-foot facility, Level 10 comprises exercise specialists, performance coaches, registered dietitians, mental trainers, physiotherapists and registered massage therapists, providing a spectrum of services to a diverse clientele. The organization has earned a wide reputation for championing the importance of a kinesiology education and its requirements of gold standard certifications.
Level 10 was started by Dan in 2001 after he retired from football, though its roots can be traced back to his time at the U of S.
Dan was not yet 18 when he became an overnight sensation with his hometown Huskies in 1987, racking up 31 receptions for 759 yards en route to capturing both the Canada West and national Rookie of the Year awards.
But while Dan had enjoyed individual success, the Huskies went just 2-6 in 1987 and missed the post-season. Unhappy with the outcome of their season, Dan and several of his teammates conceived training that – while relatively rudimentary – shares many of the same philosophies that shape Level 10.
"There was a nucleus of us, a core group, that just decided we wanted to compete with the UBCs and the Calgary Dinosaurs and the other teams in Canada West, and felt that the only way we could do that was to address the off-season," recalls Dan.
"So a lot of us started a culture of being very disciplined with our commitment to strength and conditioning in the off-season. That helped transform the type of athlete we were bringing to the field, but it was also instrumental in making football a year-round thing for us … in the weight room and running track and doing all those things that we needed to do to actually compete with the powerhouses of the conference."
The approach worked, for both Dan and the team. In 1988, Dan led the country in receiving and was named Canada West MVP. The next season Saskatchewan won the Hardy Cup as Canada West champs. And finally, in 1990, with Dan serving as captain, the Huskies won their school's first Vanier Cup.
"To finish our time there as a national champion, that was pretty special," says Dan, whose name is proudly displayed on the University of Saskatchewan Athletic Wall of Fame. "It was a culmination of us deciding we wanted to dedicate ourselves to something, and that's the ultimate reward.
"I do remember though, the week after we won the Vanier cup, I was in the weight room, because it was a step. We definitely enjoyed our victory, we celebrated throughout the whole winter, but it didn't come at the expense of ending up where I eventually wanted to go."
The Riders made Dan the second overall pick in the 1991 CFL Draft. He played sparingly his first three years with the team, before having seven consecutive seasons with at least 35 catches and more than 450 receiving yards. He ended his career among the team's all-time leaders with 384 receptions for 5,098 yards, and has since been enshrined in in the Roughriders Plaza of Honour.
Throughout his time in the CFL, Dan steadfastly pursued a post-playing career in kinesiology. He completed his studies at Saskatchewan and received the President's Medal as a distinguished graduate, then went on to earn his Masters at the University of Regina, while also working towards various certifications.
To appreciate the vision Dan and his U of S teammates had nearly three decades ago, one only need look at the current landscape in Canada West. Their attitude and methods, largely non-existent in the late 80s, have become fundamental to every program.
"I think the situation is very different now, and that's a testament to football and year-round sports, and the quality of coaching and the quality of athletics – the day-in, day-out competition that a Canada West player faces, not even on the playing field, but also on the practice field," says Dan, who counts numerous past and present Canada West athletes from a variety of sports among his Level 10 clients and staff.
"When I made the jump to the CFL, it was very dramatic. As good as Canada West was as a football conference, the jump to go try and run routes in the CFL against defensive backs who just came out of the Big 10, Pac 10 and SEC, it was like, 'Holy cow, this is a giant step up.'
"I think that transition is not as great right now, and that's kudos to everybody that's been involved with Canada West football from my time to now," Dan continues. "I think players are very prepared to play, very prepared to make the jump right on to a roster and maybe even into a starting lineup, but then it wasn't (the case)."
Indeed, times have changed, intensified by the rapid evolution of sport science. Never mind a generation ago; "you look back at what you were doing four or five years ago and think I would never do that now," says Dan.
But if the methodologies are different, the ideology forever remains the same. What made Dan a champion back then is a prerequisite for today's successful athlete.
"I saw what it did for me," says Dan. "I saw the emotion and pride that it created in myself and my teammates at that time, so to be able to teach and help coach someone on a process that helps them have that same feeling of accomplishment and realization of a goal … is kind of what we do. And we've been around for 15 years, so I think we're doing pretty good."
Each year a new crop of Canada West student-athletes graduate and begin to make an impact in their communities as professionals. The CW Alumni Spotlight series looks to highlight the positive impact former CW student-athletes are making in communities across Western Canada and beyond.