At Wayland Union High School in Michigan, the weight room is busy! Over 300 students come to the weight room for strength and conditioning classes throughout the school day. Justin Sherrod, PE teacher and strength coach, took over the program three years ago and is excited by the growth and development of the classes,
“We saw an opportunity to get our student-athletes into the weight room during the school day. Through our strength and conditioning classes, we wanted to improve performance on the court, field, and track. And we believed making this a part of our physical education program could lead to long-term success.”
Past just the goal of improved performance, Justin believed that prioritizing strength and conditioning classes during the school day was the right thing to do for high school students,
“We ask our students to do a lot. They have school, practices, games, jobs, and families. But, on top of all that, we also want them to lift. By structuring workouts into the school day through physical education, we free up our students’ time to let them still be kids.”
Over the last three years, Wayland Union has doubled the number of students enrolled in the strength and conditioning classes. And success doesn’t stop at enrollment. Students in the class are engaged, excited, and seeing progress and improvement.
Here are the three steps Wayland Union High School took to build a successful strength and conditioning program through physical education.
Step 1: Making Strength and Conditioning Classes a Priority
When Justin Sherrod first took over the strength and conditioning classes three years ago, just over 100 students signed up for the course. And while that was a good number for a school with just over 800 students, Justin noticed that many student-athletes were missing out,
“It was mostly our male athletes in the classes and not all of them. And so if students weren’t in the class, they had to make it to the weight room on their own time or with their sports team, which wasn’t happening at the rate we wanted.”
To increase the enrollment numbers, the school pushed to get more students to fit the physical education class into their school schedules. Justin worked with his athletic director and other school members to get more students into the physical education offering. As a result, more female students were able to sign up for the class, and the overall numbers dramatically increased,
“We have had our classes almost double in size. We went from 20-25 students per class to upwards of 40-50 in a single section of our strength and conditioning classes.”
Step 2: Onboarding Students Through An Intro Class
Not only has Wayland Union taken steps to increase enrollment, but they have worked to create an onboarding process that would encourage more students to feel confident in the weight room long term. Justin says this was pivotal to creating a culture that encouraged students to take the class for more than just one semester,
“Through the intro class, we make sure all freshmen are competent and confident in the weight room. We spend a lot of time going over movements and exercises so that they are ready to go when they get to the advanced class.”
To support the intro to strength and conditioning classes, Justin uses instructional videos from PLT4M to complement his teaching,
“The instructional videos emphasize good form and technique. It helps answer students’ questions and reinforces the instruction and teaching I give students in class.”
After completing the intro to strength and conditioning class, students are ready for 10th-12th grade advanced strength and conditioning that will allow them to pursue their goals further.
Step 3: Creating Student Ownership
Past just making time in students’ schedules and onboarding them through intro classes, Justin sees student ownership as the long-term key to the success of strength and conditioning classes,
“I see the importance of being attached to the process. When students can see personalized workouts and are tasked to log their weights, they have a new sense of responsibility and ownership in their workouts.”
Every student at Wayland Union High School has a 1-to-1 device or can use their phone to access workouts. Because of the technology and insights provided, Justin sees the impacts it has on student engagement in class,
“It has changed the culture in the weight room and classes. Students are excited for each other, whether it is a student who just started adding weight to the bar and gets a personal best or one of our most experienced lifters hitting a big number.”
Not only are students supporting each other in class, but they are talking about their strength and conditioning classes outside of the weight room,
“We hear other teachers telling us that a student was excited about hitting a new personal best. Knowing that students are talking about strength and conditioning classes shows that the culture around the program is heading in the right direction.”
Justin Sherrod uses leaderboards to highlight progress and build excitement in the weight room.
Key Takeaways on Wayland Union’s Successful Strength and Conditioning Classes
As high schools consider what it will take to build a successful strength and conditioning program, they should look no further than physical education.
Far too often, the hope is that students will find time in their busy schedules before or after school to get a workout in. And while that can work for a small portion of students, it rarely proves to be a sustainable way to grow a strength and conditioning program.
In addition, physical education faces lowering enrollments and decreasing PE graduation requirements. As a result, physical education departments must find courses and electives to engage students past 9th grade.
Wayland Union High School showcases the power of strength and conditioning classes offered through physical education. With increased enrollment, excited students, and tangible progress, Justin Sherrod and Wayland Union is excited by the future growth to come,
“We have created something that impacts a huge population of our students at Wayland Union High School. Strength and conditioning classes can benefit students short and long term. I am excited to continue growing this class in the coming years.”