Stronger Together – 5 Keys To Growing Honesdale’s S&C Program

Honesdale athletes in the weight room posing for a picture.
Five years ago, when Paul Russick took over as head football coach at Honesdale High School in Pennsylvania, he had aspirations for success on and off the football field. And like many football coaches, he looked at the weight room as an opportunity to help build the program. But rather than just thinking about the football team, he envisioned a place where all student-athletes could develop and improve. As a smaller school with many multi-sport athletes, Paul believed that growing the Honesdale strength and conditioning program would have a school-wide impact on all the sports teams. 
As Paul set out to grow the strength and conditioning program, he knew other coaches at Honesdale had similar goals. Kim Lawson, a PE teacher and coach of various sports at the school, had always been a champion of the weight room. Paul was excited by her passion and experience, 
“Kim had always done a fantastic job getting different groups of girls into the weight room and showing them the benefits of strength and conditioning. There was a great opportunity to get on the same page and continue to evolve the strength and conditioning program.” 
With a stronger together mentality, Honesdale has grown the strength and conditioning program and now has almost every sport participating in strength and conditioning throughout the school year and summer. Here are the 5 keys to growing the strength and conditioning program at Honesdale. 

1) Building A Foundation In Middle School 


When Paul started working with high school athletes in the weight room, he noticed that many struggled with form and technique. While he addressed this head-on, Paul also considered the proactive approach to preventing these challenges from happening in future years, 


“We had no type of middle school feeder program. So many students came to the weight room without prior experience, and it showed.” 


Also a middle school science teacher in the district, Paul decided to create a lifting club to expose younger students to the weight room, 


“The middle school lifting club goes over basic concepts of weightlifting that set students up for long-term success.” 


And now, many of those students Paul first started working with are in high school and are seeing the results of a proper foundation. 

Not sure where to start when introducing basic weightlifting? Check out an in-depth instructional video on the backsquat from PLT4M. 

2) Understanding Students’ Busy Schedules 


Once students are in high school, Paul and Kim wanted to be mindful of students’ incredibly busy schedules. At Honesdale, coaches encourage students to workout three times a week. Paul says that this has a variety of benefits for students, 


“First, we want them to recover and maximize their training with us. But it also allows our student-athletes to be kids still. We can get a lot done without adding countless hours of training to their plate.” 


And because of this approach, strength and conditioning becomes a much more manageable commitment for in-season teams and off-season athletes. 


Now, the strength and conditioning program has seen a dramatic increase in participation across male and female student-athletes. More teams and coaches carve out time during the season. And more off-season athletes make it part of their routine and schedule. 

3) Implementing A Unified Training System 


With lots of change happening at Honesdale, Paul also wanted to invest in a unified training system for coaches and athletes, 


“One of the first things I did as a new head coach was get PLT4M. It just made sense for us as a school to help develop and build our program.” 


Kim, who had traditionally written workouts on the whiteboard and notebooks, saw PLT4M as an opportunity to continue evolving the program at Honesdale, 


“It really gives students a new sense of accountability and ownership. It helps to push students to make progress in ways we weren’t seeing before.” 


And because there are so many multi-sport athletes at the school, Paul says the addition of PLT4M has helped to unify coaches and athletes at the school, 


“We aren’t competing for time or working in different directions. PLT4M has made it easy for everyone to get onto the same page and help a lot of coaches who were previously hesitant about the weight room. It has been a huge addition to Honesdale.” 

4) Motivating Students & Making Connections 


With the addition of PLT4M, students see their progress and improvement in real-time. Honesdale has even added a new “personal best bell” in the weight room to build excitement with students. Kim says that the bell has added an extra layer of fun and motivation, 


“It creates a great sense of camaraderie among the students. When students can see and celebrate each other improving, it brings everyone together.” 


On top of the real-time progress, Paul says that the long-term results also show students just how far they have come, 


“One of the coolest things with PLT4M is looking at students who have been with us for a few years and seeing how much progress they have made. It validates the hard work that our students are putting in.” 

5) Advocate and Grow The Program Over Time 


Over the last five years, Honesdale has made tremendous strides in the weight room. With this success, Paul and Kim are eager to continue building the program. 


Each year, Honesdale hosts a “Liftathon” as a culminating school event that raises money for the program. The funds help to reinvest in the program to continue building the program. And beyond just raising money, Paul says that the Liftathon is a fantastic community-building event, 


“It is a great way for all the students and athletes to come together and celebrate each other. It is high energy, and we see a lot of personal bests and big lifts that everyone gets excited about.” 

Key Takeaways on Honesdale’s Stronger Together Approach 


When Paul first set out to make changes to the strength and conditioning program, he knew that change took time, 


“Change can be challenging. But with invested coaches and the right resources, the results will come like they have at Honesdale. Now, we are a well-oiled machine. The reason we are all in this is for the kids, and seeing them succeed is rewarding and reaffirming of why we do it.” 


When it comes to high school strength and conditioning, Honesdale showcases the power of patience, persistence, and positivity. Honesdale’s motto is “swarm together,” and as they get stronger together in the weight room, be on the lookout for the Hornets in the coming years!

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