Thousands of Pacific Northwest football fans will gather around their TV sets this Saturday afternoon, Jan. 11, to anxiously watching their beloved Seahawks play the New Orleans Saints during the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.
Matchups will be dissected and play calls will be debated.
But 52-year-old Bellingham resident Russell Stolzoff will study the game for a different reason.
He'll be analyzing his clients' body movements.
"I record just about every game," Stolzoff said in a phone interview," and I watch them and go back and watch the plays, watch them in slow motion sometimes and play them back and forth. Just really I want to understand what happened and it's a constant learning process."
Few can justifiably say they've made a direct impact on a Seahawks game, but Stolzoff can.
Stolzoff, a 25-year Rolfing practitioner who established Stolzoff Sportworks in Bellingham in 2011, has been regularly working with Seattle's Golden Tate and Sidney Rice this season, helping them perform at peak levels through a body-recovery practice called Rolfing.
Rolfing is a holistic system of soft body tissue manipulation. Unlike a traditional massage, Rolfers focus on aligning the entire structure of the body, and Stolzoff said its effects are longer-lasting.
Norman Stolzoff, Russell's brother and the business side of Stolzoff Sportworks, compares Russell's work on athletes' bodies to that of a mechanic working on a Formula 1 race car.
And Tate, who was meeting with Russell on Thursday, Jan. 9, in Seattle, has vouched for what Rolfing has done for his body. Tate praised Russell's work in a nearly 5-minute video for Stolzoff Sportworks.
"I feel like I benefitted from it after just having one session," Tate said in the video, which was produced mid-December. "Although for us it's Week 14 or 15, I still feel fresh. I don't feel like it's late in the season, and you know, due to working with Russell and getting Rolfing done, along with eating healthy, along with coach Carroll and our practice habits, I feel like I'm always fresh."
So how has a Bellingham-based business obtained the pinnacle of athletic clientele?
Everything was put in motion once Rice was traded from Minnesota to Seattle in 2011. Rice had been working with Rolfers when he played for the Vikings, and when he moved to the West Coast, he asked them for a contact in the Seattle area.
Russell's name was given, and he soon added Rice to a list of clients that already included Ferndale grad and Tampa Bay punter Michael Koenen.
Russell studied Rolfing at the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, Colo., where he also now teaches, before starting a practice in Bellingham once he moved to the area in 1999. In 2011, he felt confident enough his work would make a difference with elite athletes and launched Stolzoff Sportworks.
Gaining Rice and Tate, and working with other Seahawks such as Doug Baldwin, Michael Robinson and Frank Omiyale further assured Stolzoff he was ready to advance his career past working with area competitors and non-athletes.
"It was huge," Russell said. "It was really exciting, and the chance to work with Sidney was tremendous."
Rice has been struck with a myriad of injuries throughout his career and has struggled to stay healthy, but the Seahawks wide receiver played an entire season for only the second time during his seven-year career in 2011-12, when Stolzoff began working with him.
Rolfing sessions usually last two hours, and while Russell said some athletes choose to listen to music and some interact, he gets the unique opportunity to form relationships with the stars fans admire.
But for Russell, it's still work.
"Over time relationships develop, and I think that is what's important," Russell said. "I get to know their body and how they are in relation to their body, and they get to know what I am doing. It's kind of like a trust starts to develop. For pro athletes, that's essential."
Russell said he hopes to continue to grow his clientele in a sports medicine industry that is becoming an increasing trend for professional athletes.
Norman said he and Russell are fans of the team, but unlike most, they have a little more investment in the team.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
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