Ringing The Bell at Sycamore High School

Picture of the bell inside the Sycamore High School weight room.

A bell rings throughout the school day at Sycamore High School in Illinois. And we aren’t talking about the school bell. Instead, we are describing the bell inside the Sycamore weight room. Joe Ryan, PE department chair and coach, says that the bell is a sign of success for students from all walks of life, 


“Every student gets a chance to ring the bell when they hit a new personal best. From our top-level athletes to students in the weight room for the first time, we make it a point to celebrate success in all forms at Sycamore.” 


Joe, who is now in his 30th year as a teacher and coach, has always tried to emphasize progress and improvement, 


“There is a special feeling about doing something you have never done before. So whether it is a student adding weight to the bar for the first time or a student hitting a super heavyweight, we get the whole physical education class to rally around each other when someone hits a personal best of any kind.”

Sycamore High School weight room.
Sycamore High School weight room.

Teaching and Training the Complete Picture 


While much of the celebration happens inside the weight room, Sycamore has always focused on teaching and training the complete picture. Because the classes meet 5 days a week, Joe has developed a schedule that doesn’t just center around the weight room, 


“We are in the weight room 3 days a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we head to the field house to work on speed, agility, and conditioning.” 


Much like in the weight room, Sycamore uses data and numbers to motivate students, 


“We time and track things like flying 10s and 40s during our speed days. Students will always push a little harder when they have a chance to get a new best time or number.” 

Tracking and Managing All Of The Data 


Historically, Sycamore High School used pen and paper to log and track student data in physical education classes. While Joe had always considered going the technological route, it wasn’t until Covid that he made the transition, 


“I was always researching different options, and when Covid hit, I had to find a tech solution fast. So we signed up with PLT4M, and it saved us.” 


And while Joe admitted he was nervous about technology in physical education and strength and conditioning, he hasn’t looked back since, 


“I have been at this a long time, and I am certainly not a tech guru. But PLT4M is a program that any teacher or coach can use to fit their needs, just like we have at Sycamore.” 


So while Sycamore High School first started using technology in physical education during Covid, they continued as school returned to normal. 

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A Day In The Life at Sycamore High School


Now with PLT4M, Joe can write and create workouts that fit their unique schedule, 


“Although we meet daily, we have short class periods, so I have written workouts that can maximize our efficiency in the weight room but still lead to gains.” 


And because the workouts are now in PLT4M, students can access personalized workouts right on their Chromebooks


“We have all the data in one place. Once a student logs a new weight or time, I can easily highlight and showcase students’ improvement and progress.” 

Sycamore High School weight room.
Inside look at the Sycamore High School weight room.

Continuing To Evolve – Looking Forward For Sycamore High School


While Joe says he is just a few years away from retirement, he isn’t slowing down to make the weight training classes the best possible experience for his students. Because the classes have been open to all students with varying experience levels, much of the teaching focuses on helping beginner-level students.


But now Sycamore plans to offer weight training 1 and 2 courses so that there can be better focus and attention on both groups. Joe explains the new approach they will have, 


“Now, we can still focus on helping our beginners grow and develop. But with a level 2 course, those more advanced lifters will get more attention and be able to get after it.” 


And while this shift will help break the students up a bit more, the classes will still be open and encouraged for all students, regardless of whether they are athletes or general population students. 

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Continued Success and Ringing The Bell at Sycamore High School 


Sycamore High School is proud of the accomplishments of the students and athletes taking part in the physical education weight training classes. And while everyone gets a chance to ring the bell, Joe says that success is also translating on the field, 


“We are seeing the results pay off. For example, our football team has reached the semi-finals the last two years. The focus on the weight training and speed work is helping in that success.” 


While the bell will continue to be a staple of Sycamore High School, Joe is eager to continue evolving and growing in the world of strength and conditioning, 


“I am always reading and learning new and different ways to approach things. And the best part is that with PLT4M, I can continue to adjust and manipulate to find what fits our students and school best.” 


Whether you are a first-year teacher or a long-time veteran, there is something to be said for being open to change and evolution. Just ask the teachers and coaches at Sycamore High School, who are doing everything possible to empower students in the weight room during physical education! 

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