Culture is a popular buzzword in the world of education and athletics. Naturally, every school seeks to improve and champion all aspects of positive school culture. And while school culture consists of many different components, weight room culture is often an overlooked piece of the puzzle.
But at Prairie Ridge High School in Illinois, the weight room culture is helping to support a thriving overall school culture. Bryan Peckhart, the wellness division leader, explains how the weight room is one of the most popular and utilized places in the entire school building,
“There are 45-60 students in the weight room at any point in the day. Students come to workout in the weight room before school, during every period of the school day, and after school. And it isn’t just during the school year because we also have a very popular summer program.”
And beyond just showing up, Bryan says the energy and excitement around the weight room is palpable. Prairie Ridge High School students want to participate in the weight room and strength and conditioning program. Bryan says that the weight room culture is a result of three key factors,
“The weight room is a place for every student to succeed at Prairie Ridge. We have an incredible group of teachers and coaches prioritizing strength and conditioning, students motivated and excited by working out, and the space and resources to support the increasing turnout.”
Take an inside look at what weight room culture looks like at Prairie Ridge High School.
1) Teachers and Coaches Prioritizing Strength and Conditioning
In the world of high school weight rooms, there needs to be invested teachers and coaches. Bryan says that the team of PE teachers and sports coaches have embraced and prioritized the importance of the weight room for all students,
“It is a school-wide approach to strength and conditioning at Prairie Ridge.”
Glen Pecoraro and Kristen McGowan are two of the PE teachers that Bryan highlights as the champions of the weight room culture at Prairie Ridge,
“These two have truly worked to create the best possible experience for every single student that walks into the weight room.”
Glen Pecoraro, who has been a teacher and coach at the school for many years, explains his approach to high school strength and conditioning,
“The high school weight room is a unique place. You have brand new 9th or 10th graders who have never stepped foot in the weight room working out simultaneously with juniors and seniors who have been there for years. That means as teachers and coaches, we need to help build safety and confidence for each and every student, regardless of their background.”
As a result, the weight room becomes a place where the teachers and coaches look to meet each student where they are at. While this takes time and effort, the teachers say that the students respond with excitement and engagement that makes their jobs rewarding and inspiring.
2) Motivated and Excited Students
The teachers and coaches aren’t the only ones bringing the energy to Prairie Ridge High School. Glen says the students have embraced the weight room culture as well,
“We have general population students that take the class because they see it as an opportunity to get a great workout during the school day. And we have athletes pushing their teammates to join because they know the impact it can have on the field of competition.”
Regardless of the reason students are showing up to the weight room, Bryan says that it has become one of the most popular places for students to be,
“You can sense the pride and excitement about being part of the weight room culture. It is a testament to the students being invested and our teachers and coaches supporting our students with the very best experience.”
Check out the pride behind the weight room culture. Picture below shows a group of students who helped put the weight room back together at Prairie Ridge.
3) Investing in Weight Room Resources
As more students have embraced the power of the weight room, Prairie Ridge has worked to keep up with the demand and popularity of the program. Bryan says that the school has invested in the most popular room in the building,
“Once we started seeing the weight room growing popularity, we tried to match the excitement with the right resources.”
Now, the school has a state-of-the-art weight room facility. Part of that investment included the addition of Ipads and training software. Glen says that this took training to the next level,
“We only get about 30 minutes a day. So with technology, we can be as efficient as possible. And in addition, the training program allows us to do so many new things when it comes to supporting and engaging our students.”
Now students work in groups and log their workouts and weights on the PLT4M app. Bryan explains the thought process behind going with PLT4M,
“We had looked at other weight room software, but PLT4M was the perfect fit for high school. We can adjust the program to fit our needs as a school but also utilize the videos and technology to enhance how we teach and train students. It has brought us into the 21st century.”
The Results of Prairie Ridge Weight Room Culture
Prairie Ridge is reaping the benefits of their weight room culture. Glen explains how it supports the school’s athletics,
“We have a very competitive athletic program that benefits from students working out consistently. The results show in games and competitions. But it also frees up our students and allows them to be kids since most workout as part of the school day.”
In addition, Bryan explains the more significant school impact that the weight room culture is having,
“There is a shared sense of pride. Students have this sense of pride and ownership from the weight room. That directly results from our teachers and coaches prioritizing the weight room and our school investing in the facilities and technology.”
Check out some of the highlights from the school’s recent athletic successes.
Building on Weight Room Culture at Prairie Ridge
While the weight room culture is strong at Prairie Ridge High School, the physical education and athletic department are always looking to build on the success. Bryan shares how this looks and feels,
“We recently posted leaderboards throughout the school to highlight our students’ hard work. It is helping to build the buzz about the weight room.”
On top of that, Glen says that they are working to keep improving their day-to-day approach in class,
“We recently started using programs like boxing and mobility from PLT4M. It has helped us keep rounding out what we offer and get even more students to see different forms of fitness and its benefits on health and wellness.”
Key Takeaways From Prairie Ridge’s Weight Room Culture
When it comes to finding ways to enhance school culture, the weight room is a place with a significant return on investment. As Prairie Ridge has shown, the high school weight room can significantly impact the entire student population.
Some have historically seen the weight room as a place just for athletes or football players. But Prairie Ridge has showcased the power of strength and conditioning for all students.
Furthermore, we shouldn’t write off the fact that schools can and should invest in physical education and athletics via the weight room. For far too long, schools have let weight rooms be an afterthought, but Prairie Ridge demonstrates the positive effects of investing in students, teachers, and spaces through strength and conditioning.