By John Goralski
Laurie Martin and Alex Sabia entered the Mill Restaurant to a sea of friendly faces. They were expecting a short dinner with their boss. Instead, they were greeted by a small crowd of Southington High School coaches and officials.
Select Physical Therapy Regional President David DeGumbia met them at the door with a smile and two shiny, black plaques. On Friday, Jan. 10, Martin and Sabia were presented the inaugural President’s Award for their ongoing efforts with Southington athletes.
It’s the highest award that Select Physical Therapy presents to their employees. It’s designed to acknowledge superior effort and a strong presence in the communities they serve. For 18 years, Select PT has dedicated itself to Southington High School’s athletic department. In recent years, that commitment has fallen to Martin and Sabia.
“We are incredibly proud of Laurie and Alex for their outstanding outcomes when returning athletes back to safe and full functional activity,” said DeGumbia. “Their efforts have made a difference each and every day.”
Martin is the senior member of the team, and she’s entering her 10th spring with the Blue Knights. During her tenure Southington High School teams have claimed 11 state titles, while Martin has become a fixture on the sidelines as one of the team’s biggest cheerleaders. Once, she is claimed to have beaten a catcher to first base in her zeal for the game.
“I love my job. We meet people from all over the place, and we’re always around sports. That’s why I do what I do,” she said. “This was something unexpected, and I was floored. It’s nice to be recognized for what we do for the school and for the athletes. The coaches and the administration appreciate us, and it’s nice as an all-around thank you.”
Over the years, Martin and Sabia have expanded their roles in the sports community, and their efforts continue long after the games or seasons have come to a close. They continue to help develop nutritional goals for coaches. They work after hours in the gym to rehabilitate injured athletes, and they perform regular preventative training throughout the year tailored to the needs of different sports.
Sabia has written articles for local papers. He develops strength training programs for teams and individuals, and he continues to train Southington athletes after graduation as they prepare for college or professional careers.
“We have a high level athletic program, and we try to be highly intense athletic trainers,” he said. “It’s our job to bring the level of competition up and bringing as high quality care as we can. It’s about getting kids back on the field. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure that everyone is safe and performing at the right shape to play.”
This is the first time that Select PT has presented this award, so Martin and Sabia will be the standard for future trainers. Southington’s Athletic Director Eric Swallow said that he appreciates their work at the school and credits them for helping build a powerhouse athletic program.
“They bring total comprehensive sports medical care, and I can’t really say it any better than that,” said Swallow. “Those two are the most highly professional trainers that I’ve dealt with in almost 20 years of public education. This community is blessed to have two such highly qualified trainers that go above and beyond in servicing the needs of the Southington athlete—year round.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.