Article reposted with permission from Robert Williams of the Detroit Lakes Tribune. View the Original Here.

Detroit Lakes middle school and high school athletes are putting aside what could be a leisurely summer to become more explosive athletically as part of the Laker Speed and Strength program sponsored by the Laker Sports Boosters.

While kids could be out on the pontoon and having fun, instead, they are concentrating on getting stronger and quicker to prepare for the upcoming school year.

“This is so much more worth it than that,” incoming senior Jake Kerzman said. “You have to put in the time.”

The program has seen an uptick in attendance, as well.

“Last year was good and this year we have even more,” Athletic Trainer Tom Truedson said. “It’s been a successful program and a lot of kids have reaped the benefits of it. Classmates see that and they want to be successful too. They get in here and encourage each other to get in and it’s all about building that culture.”

Students participate in 75-minute sessions while the weight room is open from Monday through Friday. Sessions are held at 7, 8 and 9 a.m.

The sessions are broken up, including sessions dedicated to just girls and another for just middle schoolers, to avoid the busy run during the early morning sessions.

Middle schoolers get a basic introduction to lifting and spotting.

“For them to get a handle on that stuff early is key,” said Truedson. “For females, specifically, we try to do a lot of jump training. That’s an emphasis, for sure. We really work on avoiding the knee collapsing inside. It’s all about technique and really having them learn to jump and land properly to avoid injury. It’s a constant reminder for them so it’s ingrained.”

The program is run by Truedson, and five coaches: Josh Omang, Reed Hefta, Josh Bettcher, Mark Whiting and Mike Labine, each bringing a specific training concentration that melds together nicely as a unit.

“From my standpoint, injury prevention is number one,” said Truedson. “We’ve incorporated a lot of things like ACL injury prevention and stressing technique and doing things right.”

Recovering from injuries is also part of the program. Kerzman tore the labrum in his shoulder and needed reconstructive surgery.

“The strength coaches here are so great and Tom does a great job to get me back to normal strength,” he said. “The weight room helps in so many different ways. You have to be very competitive in the weight room to succeed.”

Kerzman’s thought process is one shared by the staff.

“The weight room develops the confidence in kids to be good and gives them that mental part too,” Omang said. “It’s harder to quit when you put in so much time.”

Two examples of how the coaches integrate their own knowledge are Labine is certified in strength and conditioning, while Omang has a USA weightlifting background.

“He’s very good with the technical standpoints on a lot of lifts,” said Truedson. “Having him has been a great addition.”

The emphasis of the program less about conditioning; it’s about speed and power and transitioning, change of direction – getting upfield and upcourt and being able to react.

The summer program is different than during the season when athletes concentrate more on sports-specific lifts.

In-season, workouts are matched with the type of skills worked on in practice.

“In track, the workouts match what we do on the track that day,” said Labine. “If I’m doing a speed workout we’re going to come in here and work on speed lifts. Same with slow-recovery workouts and lifts.”

A typical summer workout begins with a dynamic warm up with a speed and agility component and sprinting before athletes get into lifting. Lifting begins with total body and power movements early on before working into strength exercises.

The staff also incorporates new technology to their own benefit as well as the student-athletes.

Thanks to a donation from the Laker Sports Boosters, coaches and kids have streamlined workouts using a software program called PLT4M (Platform) that tracks workouts, allows coaches to plan and design workouts and provides video instruction on proper lifting techniques.

Each athlete has a profile and via their phones have workout plans ready to go that were created by the coaches.

“Strength conditioning is changing,” said Mike Labine. “You can’t just do the same exercises over and over. You plateau. We’re trying to train our kids to be speed, power and explosive athletes.”

PLT4M has helped formulate that process and has sped up the manner of doing so.

The software includes a team leaderboard and a national leaderboard which creates a friendly competition for the athletes. On the admin side, coaches can run reports that are team-specific, which includes attendance, scheduling, and access to their individual workouts.

The software will also transition to the school year for Omang’s weightlifting classes that are part of the curriculum, not just for kids involved in sports.

Omang praised the level of commitment from the school board to the booster club in allowing Speed and Strength to be a progressive opportunity for kids.

“It helps all the programs, not just football,” he said. “The one thing I like about what we have going here, when I was a strength coach in the cities, we didn’t have the buy-in or the resources like we have here.”