Wrightstown Athletes Stay Ahead of the Curve During Pandemic

Wrightstown athletes stay ahead of the curve during pandemic 

Written By Andrew Hanlon

This article and photo was originally published by the Wrightstown Area Spirit. 
Thank you to Andrew Hanlon and Wrightstown Area Spirit for allowing PLT4M to repost this article!

When schools shut down mid-March due to the Coronavirus pandemic, some athletes lost out on the final games of their careers during the winter season, while others missed their entire spring season. Coaches, staff and kids alike were left scrambling for any sense of normalcy at all; any way to keep active and stay in shape in hopes for 2020-21.

While many districts were attempting to organize strength and conditioning programs for the rest of the school year and into the summer, Wrightstown was lightyears ahead of most of them.

Thanks to an app called PLT4M, it only took about a week for coaches, phy ed teachers, students and athletes to make a smooth transition into virtual, offseason workouts.

“(We were) very fortunate,” Wrightstown Activities Director Craig Haese said. “It’s a huge thing that kind of really helped us, especially in athletics this year.”

PLT4M is “a digital training software tool that can be accessed through the web,” Wrightstown phy ed teacher Ryan Bowers, who incorporated the program originally in Wrightstown, explained. The app can be accessed on any platform – web browsers, Chromebooks, iPads and mobile devices.

“Ever since we’ve gone to that it’s just been awesome. The students have really enjoyed it,” Bowers said.

Prior to PLT4M, the district was collaborating with trainers at Bellin Health to put together a strength and conditioning program, but everything was on paper. As athletes trained, paper ripped and pages or entire packets were lost. Bowers tried to switch to an Excel spreadsheet before he stumbled across the app.

Wrightstown has now been using PLT4M for about three years. The district works with trainer Cody Chase at Bellin, and he and teachers are able to upload general workouts – with or without weights – or coaches can upload sport-specific training sessions. The app is so detailed that as athletes continue to build strength, PLT4M adjusts accordingly, giving them new weights to incorporate into their workouts to keep making continued progress.

Even athletes who are recovering from injury still have their information in the app, and as they begin to slowly transition back into workouts, PLT4M adjusts to start them at a safe place.

Chase was called into action in hospitals as health officials scrambled to bring anyone they could in to help with the pandemic. However, Wrightstown still had Bowers, who worked with fellow phy ed coach Lisa Van Dyke and head football coach Steve Klister, to keep things chugging along.

At least one normalcy remained in place for athletes – the ability to work out every day.

During the spring semester, students were held accountable as teachers and coaches could keep track of who logged on to do workouts and who didn’t. That transitioned into summer school, which ran during the month of June, when 160 students enrolled in strength and conditioning. Everyone continued to be held accountable for their own individual workouts and coaches and teachers were able to check in on students, making sure they were physically and mentally healthy. Bowers worked with incoming freshmen; Van Dyke, who teaches freshman Health, worked with sophomores whom she had in class the previous year; and Klister worked with juniors and seniors. All three collaborated with Haese, with three main goals in mind: keeping coaches in regular contact with kids, keeping track of students to be able to check in on their well-being and putting kids into smaller groups of around eight. 

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Those groups allowed students to work together to complete workouts and keep each other accountable. Upperclassmen were able to communicate with incoming freshmen, for example, to make them feel comfortable, and some groups even did their workouts together virtually.

When athletes returned at the beginning of July for contact days, Haese – who credited Bowers, Van Dyke and Klister for doing most of the work – said many of the athletes were in even better shape than when the Safer-at-Home order was first put in place.

Over the last few months, other schools in the area have begun to contact Haese and Bowers as they attempt to incorporate the app into their strength and conditioning programs as well. But the familiarity everyone in Wrightstown already had with Plt4M after three years of use gave Tiger athletes a dramatic advantage.

“It keeps kids motivated and keeps their eye on the prize so that, at some point, when we’re able to get back to quote unquote what normal is, our kids are ready to go because they’ve been working,” Bowers said.

“We’re very fortunate that our students at Wrightstown are fantastic in their willingness to always get better and try to get it done the right way.”

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