With over 2,700 students, Naperville North in Illinois is a busy and bustling high school. And with so many amazing things happening at this large school, it can be hard to keep track of everything going on throughout the school year. But the strength and performance program is one initiative that has the entire school community buzzing.
With a constant stream of students and athletes in the weight room every day, the Naperville North weight room is one of the busiest classrooms in the school. But past just being a popular offering, the strength and performance program is making a lasting impact in the lives of students at Naperville North.
We highlight 7 keys that have made the strength and performance program a unified success across physical education, athletics, and the entire school. Driving the strength and performance program is Kevin Benages, Jason Majchrowski, and Chris Arthurs. We share insights and quotes from Kevin and Jason throughout the story. Let’s dive in!
1) Mission Driven
While many high schools focus primarily on getting athletes into a strength and conditioning program, Naperville North has a different mission. The school believes that everyone, athletes and non-athletes, can benefit from pursuing a healthy and active lifestyle. And at the heart of this goal is a clearly defined mission statement.
Strength and Performance Mission:
To CONNECT, DEVELOP & EMPOWER Naperville North students & athletes to advance skills that will improve sport performance and build a lifetime desire for health & wellness.
Kevin Benages, Wellness Instructor and Co-Director of Strength and Performance, says that the on-paper mission has led to incredible real-life results in the classroom,
“We now have 14 sections of our strength and performance class. At times, we have upwards of 60 students in the weight room. But the best part is that every student has a safe environment to focus on being a better version of themselves.”
And when Kevin says every student, he means it. The strength and performance classes comprise a diverse range of students. Everyone from student-athletes to general population students are all in the same class, working out side by side in the weight room.
2) Building Community
Although the class focuses on strength and performance, the Naperville North teachers understand the program’s bigger impact on students.
Jason Majchrowski, Wellness Instructor and Co-Director of Strength and Performance, asks students each semester to explain their favorite part of the class. The responses are inspiring,
“Many students share how they have made new friendships through class with people they would never have interacted with at school. Better yet, they say that working out and being a part of the class makes school more enjoyable and something that they look forward to. It is a community effort worth celebrating.”
And community building spans past what goes on in class. For example, many of the upperclassmen will come in after school to help and mentor the younger students coming for a workout after school.
Flex Friday Remixed❕— Huskie Strength & Performance (@HuskieStrength) February 11, 2023
2023 is off to a fantastic start for the Dawgs.
Special thanks to our amazing & dedicated S&P PE Students coming in daily with great energy & effort.
Huge 👏🏽 to @EricBeedon81 on the 🎸 and @raffiviton filming 🎥 this production 👊🏽❕#TheDawgFactory pic.twitter.com/jK4qb9i5sU
3) Personalized Workouts
With a diverse range of student interests and experiences in the weight room, the Naperville North strength and performance program focuses on creating a personalized experience within the weight room. Jason explains the individualized approach of class,
“We want everyone in the class to move effectively with good form and technique. But that means we need to match student experiences and abilities with the appropriate workouts and training plans. It is all about tailoring workouts for students to meet them where they are at to help them develop and improve.”
As a result, within one strength and performance class, multiple programs and workouts are going on at once. For example, while some students might be mastering the basics of an air squat in a workout, other groups will be progressing to more advanced variations of the squat pattern.
To achieve this personalized approach, Naperville North has iPads throughout the weight room for students to access and log workouts. Through technology, Kevin and Jason can push out personalized workouts to every student via the PLT4M app.
Take an inside look at the Naperville North weight room.
4) Data Driven
Beyond exercise selection and varying workout plans, Naperville North personalizes workouts through a data-driven approach. Using key performance indicators (KPIs), Naperville North has a clear set of expectations for when students are ready to progress with more weights and advanced movements.
In addition to helping Kevin and Jason make more informed decisions on training, the data also engages and motivates students. Jason describes the excitement around students seeing progress,
“The students love seeing growth. With PLT4M, students can open up the app and see simple charts and graphs highlighting how much progress they have made over a given period. Students’ eyes light up with excitement when they see how far they have come.”
On top of highlighting individual growth, the strength and performance classes also spotlight top performers through leaderboards. To do so, Naperville North displays different types of performance-based leaderboards on TV monitors inside and outside of the weight room. Kevin notes that these aren’t your traditional leaderboards,
“We use bodyweight as a metric to help create our leaderboards. That way we highlight relative and relevant performance rather than on someone who might be bigger and get to something like a traditional 1,000-pound club. It helps motivate and engage even more kids in the process.”
5) Emphasis on Total Health & Wellness
While the majority of class time is focused on working out, Naperville North emphasizes total health and wellness to students. At the end of each class, the teachers close out with a quick lesson covering key topics like sleep, nutrition, and recovery. Kevin feels this is crucial to the overall mission of the program,
“It isn’t just about sets and reps in the weight room. We want students to live healthy lives now but also thirty years from now. So, for example, the other day, we explored fueling your body, whether it was for a test, a competition, or to have a productive day.”
In addition to the lessons, Naperville North students also log bi-weekly surveys about some of their habits outside of the classroom. While these surveys have a variety of benefits, Kevin sees this as an opportunity for students to start making meaningful connections,
“With the surveys, students have to actively think about some of their habits like sleep that we talk about in class. If students feel tired and sore, they can start to see that only getting a few hours of sleep isn’t helping them recover and perform. Hopefully, by making those connections, they can start to make changes.”
6) Administrative Support & Staff Buy In
While Jason and Kevin have been a driving force behind the strength and performance program, they haven’t gone at this project alone. Instead, they thank much of the success to the tremendous support of the entire school community. First, Jason notes the role administrative support has played,
“Our Athletic Director, PE Department Chair, and administrators have allowed us to really take our program to the next level. It has allowed us to make strength and performance available to so many students at Naperville North High School.”
In addition to support from the top, Kevin says the trust from other coaches and teachers in the building has been a driving force in student buy-in and engagement,
“The other sports coaches believe in what we are doing and have invested in our mission. When they stop by or check-in, it helps build an even better dynamic with students and gives them a chance to build deeper relationships with their athletes.”
7) Constantly Evolving Process
Naperville North is proud of what they have accomplished but knows that the world of high school strength and performance is a constantly evolving process. Kevin knows that for continued long-term success, they must always keep a finger on the pulse,
“Whether changing parts or all of our workouts or finding better ways to track and monitor progress, we are always open to change.”
In addition to offering 14 sections of strength and performance classes, the school also provides after-school training for students who can’t fit the course into their busy schedules. On top of the work during the school year, Naperville North also offers a summer program that allows students to have even more opportunities for year-round training and exercise. The goal is simple, make strength and performance available to as many students as possible.
Key Takeaways on Naperville North’s Strength & Performance Program
The three keywords from Naperville North’s mission are connect, develop, and empower. Through a comprehensive and concerted approach, there is no question that Naperville North is succeeding in its mission’s core values.
Students are connecting and building relationships through the weight room. Next, they develop physically, mentally, and emotionally through workouts and lessons. Finally, they are empowered to be their best selves both now as high school students and for long-term health and wellness.
As more schools look to take steps toward a unified physical education and athletic program through fitness, strength, and performance, they should look no further than the lessons learned at Naperville North High School.