Kickstarting a High School Strength Program: 6 Steps to SuccessTwo years ago, Devin Wendel, a former 3-sport high school athlete and then collegiate football player, who studied to become a certified Athletic Trainer, was given his dream job. Devin was asked to come back to his Alma Mater, Mount Abraham High School in Vermont, and serve as the new Athletic Director and Activities Coordinator. Full of ambition and enthusiasm, Wendel aimed to reinvigorate the athletic culture at his old high school. One of his top priorities was the creation and promotion of a true, school-wide strength and conditioning program that could benefit every single student and athlete. For the most part, though, he was starting from scratch: “When I was in high school we did not have a strength program, and it was a big wake up call for me when I went to college…..It was a really humbling experience having no idea what I was doing in the weight room as a college athlete. So coming back to Mount Abe as the AD, I knew I wanted to do something.” Creating anything from nothing is a tall task – let alone a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. Devin took to the problem in a calculated and organized way. Here are his 6 steps to creating a school-wide approach.
Step 1: Establish a Unified TEAMWhile he was excited and eager to jump right into the nitty-gritty, the inner coach in Devin knew that it would take some serious teamwork for this project to become a success. Everything from the equipment in the room, the writing on the walls, and the program’s athletes would be using, Mount Abraham’s new AD wanted to make things happen collaboratively. Wendel brought together Physical Education teachers, sports coaches, and athletic trainers at several planning meetings, outlining his vision and allowing them to voice their opinions and offer suggestions. Teachers across the school jumped to contribute. The Design and Technology teacher, even, created vinyl cutouts of the school’s “power words” for use in and around the program. Now words like effort, pride, drive, commitment, focus, and intensity cover the walls in the weight room.
Step 2: Empower Coaches & TeachersOutside of bringing coaches and teachers into the fold, they also needed to be empowered within the weight room. “The biggest improvement in our program is that with getting into PLT4M, we have had more coaches and teachers willing to get in and teach a movement or technique that otherwise they wouldn’t have done.” With Devin’s background and expertise, he supported his coaches as they started to get comfortable teaching and coaching new lifts and movements.
Step 3: Optimize the Weight Room SpaceOutside of more coaches and teachers getting comfortable, the weight room itself needed attention.
Devin looked at the small weight room, tucked away in the back corner of the woodshop, as a challenge. Packed with old, unsafe equipment and not much room to move, Devin and his colleagues knew they needed to get to work.Together, Devin’s team removed old equipment, installed a new rubber floor, and made simple changes to the layout to optimize space. All they needed was a few racks, free weights, and plenty of room to move about the room. Now Mount Abraham had a place to work hard and be proud of. With the weight room overhauled, it was time to get more students involved.