Before Ryan Donaldson arrived at Meyersdale High School, the strength and conditioning program was an afterthought. Hired as the head football coach in 2017, Donaldson’s first order of business was to make the school’s small and humble weight room a point of emphasis for his young football program. Donaldson knew the first off-season would play a pivotal role in establishing the program culture. His goal was to foster excitement, generate buy-in, and build team chemistry. Fostering Excitement through Competition: Coach Donaldson knew he couldn’t expect high school athletes to live for the weight room without some form of incentive. He wanted to inject excitement into the off-season and inspire his athletes to truly challenge themselves and each other. To do so, he added an element of competition through PLT4M’s “Pillar” workouts. Competitive Metcon sessions designed to challenge the motor and the mind, Pillars provided the motivation for athletes to give that extra effort, week in and week out, through a long off-season.The effect was immediate, and Thursdays quickly became the day athletes looked forward to each week. The athletes took it upon themselves to encourage one another, cheering for teammates and motivating one another to dig deeper through the finish. “Pillars became an embodiment of what we wanted our program to look like outside of the gym. If we were honest and dedicated in the weight room, we would not cut corners on the field or in life.” Recognizing Excellence:Wanting to reinforce the value of hard work, Donaldson actively recognized athlete dedication and commitment through two weekly honors: “Pillar Performer” and “Iron Raider”. Each week, winners of the Pillar workout were presented with the “Pillar Helmet”. Each winner would place a sticker with their jersey number on the helmet, turning a simple football helmet into a tangible leaderboard. It was motivation for new athletes, and a source of pride for past winners. Beyond weekly workout winners, Donaldson wanted to recognize athletes that embodied the spirit of the Meyersdale program with his weekly “Iron Raider” award. Voted on by coaches, this award highlighted the individual who worked hard, completed every workout, and had a positive attitude doing it. Both awards came with a social media post on Twitter and Facebook to share the achievements with local followers. Soon the community was a buzz, as the passion and excitement surrounding the off-season spread from the weight room out among Meyersdale fans. Coach Donaldson began receiving texts and comments from an excited fan base, eager for the upcoming season. Building for the Future:Knowing that they would one day be the program’s leaders, Ryan also wanted to make sure that the youngest athletes were involved from the start. As newcomers, they were required to finish the Intro to Weightlifting program before they joined the Varsity’s workouts. To ensure that they continued to do things the right way, Ryan paired younger athletes with upperclassmen. With role models to look towards, the young athletes were growing within the program and helping Meyersdale’s future take shape.Continued Growth While Meyersdale still has room to improve on the football field, there is certainly an established precedent that will help guide future success. Meyersdale will turn to a committed group this off season to pick up where the team left off. As the student-athletes continue in their pursuit of better, the community remains proud of their new-found dedication.