In This Issue:
WHY CUSTOMIZE? Weighing the Benefits of Customization in High School Weight Rooms
ON THE ROAD: Dynamic Team Attending NHSSCA NatCon
FEATURED ARTICLE: The Continuing Trend Toward Specialization in Athletic Programming
THE BENEFITS OF CUSTOMIZATION IN HIGH SCHOOL WEIGHT ROOMS
The days of dark basement school weight rooms with flat and worn Olympic benches, a row of skeletal squat cages, a set of dumbbells and a couple lat pulldowns is long gone. The modern school weight room has become a featured space and a showcase not only of the school’s athletic programs, but of its overall dedication to serving the health, wellbeing and safety of its entire student body.
And, let’s face it, it’s also a prime location to show off your school’s pride.
Weight room equipment customization means reflecting your school’s brand on your equipment. From color scheme to screened logos on bench pads to laser-cut logos and lettering in steel, there are endless customization options available now. The question is, does that added expense really serve any purpose other than to flaunt your school spirit?
It absolutely does.
In fact, coaches across the country have found that an investment in customization and presentation can have a significant effect on student/athlete motivation, community engagement and fundraising as well. When weighing the options of what effort and funds should be put into the customization that reflects your school pride, keep these factors in mind.
Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois, certainly went all-out in customizing their weight room to boldly display their Wildkit spirit. The bold blue and orange color scheme, the dramatic bridge emblazoned with their Evanston ‘E’, laser-cut chrome uprights, custom inlaid platforms and bench covers, custom bumper plates and dumbbells, all work together to create an irresistible space.
Evanston’s Coach Mark Feldner said, “When our athletes, our students, walk into this fully-customized weight room, they’re blown away and they’re highly motivated to return, and they’re highly motivated to dive deep into their training and really learn about what they’re doing because they have so many options and they have a place that screams, ‘Work out. Come here. Be here after school. Be here as much as you possibly can.’ The room itself really speaks to them.”
Of course, even minimal customization can have a big impact when in a great space and with top-line equipment. Lee County High School in Leesburg, Georgia was chosen as a top 10 high school weight room by MaxPreps in 2019. For their impressive room, they choose a red and black color scheme to match their school colors, and customized bench covers to display their school logo. The overall result was the same.
“When you have a beautiful weight room like this, kids want to be in there,” Lee County’s Coach Dean Fabrizio said. “The neat thing is, kids come back to town from college when they get a break and they’re coming here to lift because the facility’s so nice.”
In particular, a weight room that displays a certain “wow factor” of customized options can not only push athletes further, it can attract students to strength conditioning who otherwise might not have considered it “their thing” because the room invites and excites them instead of simply intimidating them.
From alumni to parents to booster clubs, the wider community is a vital part of any school district. Time and again, coaches have expressed how a new and dramatically-customized weight room can ignite the spirits of their community.
Coach Mike Alexander of Grapevine High School in Texas said that their weight room "provides such a sense of pride for not only our kids but our parents in the community.” Grapevine has an impressively-customized facility complete with customized equipment and striking wall graphics that call out Mustang pride.
Many alumni who see their school’s new weight room often end up coming to the school regularly to use the equipment when available. As Coach Fabrizio from Lee County and other coaches have reported, many high school graduates coming home from college in the summers return to these weight rooms to lift. In that way, the weight room is helping maintain a stronger connection to their alma mater.
Coach Kathryn Otwell of Charlene McKinzey Middle School in Mansfield, Texas spoke about their dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting when a new addition to their school was added. Tours were offered that showcased the new wing of their facility. She said that, “the highlight of pretty much every parent and student athlete’s tour was coming out to see the weight room and the gym, which is pretty remarkable considering the entire school is beautiful.”
Many schools need to raise the money for their new weight rooms. This means getting parents, alumni and key stakeholders excited by sharing the vision of the new weight room and what it can bring to their school. One way to raise excitement and incentivize giving is by presenting a weight room that truly reflects the pride and passion of the school.
When the booster club, fundraising committee and coaching staff at Brainerd High School in Minnesota went out in the community to raise the dollars for their new weight room, Coach Jason Freed said that what really made a difference was the 3D room plans with all the customizations represented. He said people got excited by the visual. “We could go to these people and we could show them something that was tangible. The first donors I went to gave $50,000. I was not expecting that. And when I talked to them, they said, ‘We know where our money is going. We can visually see it.’”
Evanston Township also raised dollars for their weight room. Beyond the level of customization to show off school pride, they also created donor levels that offered donor names and dedications laser-cut into XMembers attached to the upper rack. Customization can be as much about honoring the community members who support the room as it is about calling out school spirit.
When you mention motivation, community involvement and support, something that ties into all these elements is pride. Pride motivates, deepens involvement, and garners support.
Tremendous pride can be generated in a weight room by fully and dramatically displaying school spirit through customized branding options.
Head Coach Grant Belisle of St. Croix Falls High School in Wisconsin said, “We have the logos on everything, from our bars to our weights to our benches to our racks to our floor to our turf to our wall. It’s awesome.” The reaction of their students when they first saw the weight room was tremendous. “Oh, they couldn’t believe it. They just couldn’t believe that they got to work out in there.” He said that their students’ enthusiasm still hadn’t died down many months later.
David Pruder, a student at Lansing Catholic High School in Michigan, was extremely excited the first time he saw his high school’s new weight room. “I went in between classes just to see it because I couldn't wait until after school! I saw that massive Cougar Head (and bridge) and I felt an overwhelming sense of pride to be an LCHS Cougar.”
Coach Pete Traynor of Urbandale High School in Iowa—another top 10 high school weight room named by Max Preps—said, “When somebody walks into our room, they know that they’re walking into Urbandale High School, they’re not walking into just any other weight room … The cherry on top was the bridge systems that really truly bring our room together, so when people walk into it, it gives us the ‘wow’ factor, but yet it’s completely functional and something we’re going to use in everyday training.”
High schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools, are investing more than ever before on their weight rooms. Why? For all the reasons above, but perhaps most importantly because they recognize it as a critical part of their mission to serve their student body. Coach Freed from Brainerd High School looked at it this way: “On any given day in our weight room, we’re probably talking 450 to 550 to 600 kids a day utilizing that space.” He recognized that, outside of maybe the cafeteria or gymnasium, a school’s weight room is affecting the most students on any given day.
When explaining the broader purpose of a modern school weight room, Coach Krauss of Lansing Catholic said it best:
“The times have changed. It used to be, just grip and rip and let’s throw up some weight. Now, our weight room is a place where people have more school spirit because they see our school pride reflected in each piece of equipment. You see everybody coming in as a community. They’re all trying to help each other out to get better holistically. Not just physically—there are great conversations in there, great teachable moments in there. It’s just overall a great space.”
If your school is looking for new weight room equipment and interested in what customization options are available, contact Dynamic Fitness & Strength, a leader in premium, American-made strength equipment and an industry leader in customization.
ON THE ROAD
DYNAMIC TEAM ATTENDING NHSSCA NATIONAL CONFERENCE
This year’s NHSSCA National Conference is in Nashville, Tennessee and our entire team will be there June 23-25! We’ll be featuring some Dynamic equipment, including our extremely popular Iconic Inverse Leg Curl. We’ll also be showcasing some of our rooms we’ve installed across the United States.
If you’re attending this year’s Nat Con, be sure to stop by our booth, hop on the Inverse Leg Curl for a test run, and check out some awesome new storage solutions that will give you MORE STRENGTH PER SQ FT! In addition, we’re giving away a $250 Dynamic Gift Card as part of the NHSSCA’s raffle. We’ll also have lots of other merchandise available on a first come, first served basis, so you won’t want to miss out!
Dynamic Fitness & Strength is proud to be a sponsor and partner of the NHSSCA, and we’re excited to meet up with all the fantastic high school strength coaches across the country so we can catch up with old friends, and make new ones!
THE CONTINUING TREND TOWARD SPECIALIZATION IN ATHLETIC PROGRAMMING
By Joe Kenn, MA CSCS RSCC*E SCCC MSCC
Vice President of Performance Education
Hard to believe, but all things considered, the position of “strength coach” is still relatively new to the athletic world. Having originated in the 1960s with Alvin Roy with the San Diego Chargers, by the 1990s, strength and conditioning coaches had become as important in the NFL as the team surgeons and trainers. The collegiate world followed right behind, and by the early 2000s, there were more and more strength coaches at the high school level. Today, even middle schools are adopting them into their programs.
All this to say, what starts at the professional level will often—when relevant—eventually find its way across many levels and arenas of athletics.
What’s happening now at the top tiers of athletics? We continue to see institutions deepening their investment in the individual athlete. Back in the day, as strength and conditioning coach, by default I was also a nutritionist, rehabilitation specialist, and when an athlete came into my office saying, “Hey coach, you have a minute to talk?” I became a psychologist.
Today, at the professional and collegiate levels, these have all become full-time specialized positions. On the performance support roster, we now have rehabilitation, nutrition, sports medicine, sports science and sports psychology in addition to strength and conditioning. Each of these roles work parallel to one another and, let’s face it, sometimes bump into one another. Why is that? Because each role is working as hard as they can to support the athlete within their specialized area, and that will inevitably lead to competing for time, attention and priority. As important as each field is, friction within an organization takes away from what otherwise is beneficial to the athlete.
LEADING THE PERFORMANCE PACK
High Performance Manager? Director of Wellness? Director of Performance? Senior Associate Athletic Director for Performance and Student Athlete Welfare? Whatever you want to call it, this position has made it way into the professional and collegiate levels of athletics out of the necessity of guiding and moderating these specialized roles to maintain focus on helping the athlete succeed.
It’s really no different than any well-run working environment. If every department in a business had the same level of authority and responsibility, nothing would get done in the end. You need a division head that strategically coordinates the departments and optimizes outcomes. In athletics, we’ve had that on the training end for years. It was inevitable that we’d see that develop on the performance end.
Meanwhile, as we move on down academia to the high school level, will we see more and more specialization move in? It’s certainly possible, at least to some degree, especially as the coaching field fills up with more specialized skillsets. Obviously, to what degree this happens will depend on what division the school is competing in, among other factors.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR NEW (AND EXPERIENCED) COACHES
If this is a continuing trend, which I certainly think it is, those who plan to enter the coaching profession on the health and conditioning end of the spectrum may find opportunities if they gravitate to a niche model. Specialization is certainly the name of the game as collegiate and pro levels continue to invest more in the entire athlete welfare approach.
Meanwhile, for coaches that have accumulated a decent amount of experience in the strength coaching field, it may be an opportunity to look into becoming an administrator of athlete wellness. Those with a broader base of knowledge in these niche fields can use that to successfully coordinate the efforts of a specialized staff to do provide each athlete the absolute best opportunities for success.