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Brainerd High School is located in the Brainerd Lakes region of central Minnesota. The city of Brainerd is a rural community of under 14,000 people that enjoys the rustic beauty and outdoor recreation of its abundant lakes and woods. As part of the larger Brainerd Lakes region, it also supports a large school district that includes a high school with a student body of around 2,000 students.

Coach Jason Freed

“In all of our sports, we are classified as the largest class,” explained Head Football Coach Jason Freed. “Football, for example, we play 6A.” This means that, when the Brainerd Warriors play tournaments, they need to be prepared to face all the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area schools, even though they are two hours or more away from them. This hasn’t kept Brainerd from having significant success upsetting those big city teams in football, basketball, soccer, swimming. hockey, as well as other sports.

Coach Freed said that Brainerd’s student body is made up of kids who like to fish, hunt and be outdoors because that is what is in their backyard. “When it comes down to it, for us it’s finding a real balance between being a highly-competitive school in our athletic department, but also allowing our kids to be who they are and live in the environment that we have.”

Coach Ron Stolski

Coach Freed is enjoying his 14th year at Brainerd High School. Before that, he coached six years in southeastern Minnesota as Head Football Coach at Houston High School. When the opportunity presented itself to move to the Brainerd Lakes area and be part of legendary coach Ron Stolski’s staff as defensive coordinator for the Brainerd Warriors, Coach Freed couldn’t pass it up. When Coach Stolski retired in 2019 after a remarkable 54-year coaching history—the last 45 of those at Brainerd—Coach Freed took the reins.

Coach Freed was about a year into being head football coach when he realized it was time for an overhaul of their weight room equipment. “I think one thing that makes our program unique is we’ve had a very strong weight program for many, many years,” Coach Freed said. “26 years ago we had probably one of the nicest weight rooms in the state of Minnesota. A lot of schools came to visit it and we were very much on the forefront of weightlifting and our programming.”

But, as with anything, the equipment became outdated and was showing wear and tear. The weight room was also getting very cluttered. They briefly investigated what it would take to refurbish their existing equipment, but when they factored in the expense along with realizing how much strength training has evolved over the last 26 years, it was quickly decided to replace the equipment instead.

Joe Labuda

It was at that point that Coach Freed came in contact with Joe LuBuda, a high school coach as legendary in Wisconsin football as Ron Stolski is in Minnesota high school football. Coach Freed learned that Joe was a territory manager for Dynamic Fitness & Strength, and that is when the planning officially began.

It wasn’t the first time Coach Freed had worked on remodeling a weight room—he had upgraded Houston High School’s weight room. Although not nearly to the scale of what Brainerd’s weight room would become, he had learned a lot from that first experience and applied that knowledge to preparing and planning out Brainerd’s room.

St. Cloud University Weight Room

As a starting point, Joe brought Coach Freed and his coaching staff to St. Cloud University, where Dynamic equipment had been installed several years earlier for the St. Cloud Huskies hockey team. “We got a feel for what Dynamic makes, got our hands on it, tried it out,” Coach Freed said.

When Coach Freed and his team left St. Cloud, they started formulating ideas on what their weight room could be. As their ideas started to take shape, they worked with Joe and the Dynamic team to formulate a vision for a new Brainerd High School weight room.

Coach Freed said, “I think the one thing that really stood out to me in the process is, I’m a visionary guy—without the vision, there’s no path—and I thought Dynamic did an awesome job of really helping us create a vision.”

3D renders of the equipment and the room were generated and tweaked. As things started moving into high gear, Coach Freed and the Brainerd team started fundraising for the weight room. “We put together a sales and marketing plan working with a few different people, and we put together a committee,” Coach Freed said.

By May, they had a target budget in mind and vision of what the new Brainerd Warriors weight room would be. They hit the ground running and started meeting with alumni and community members to make their weight room a reality.

Coach Freed said that what really made a difference with their fundraising was having the renders available to show what the weight room would look like. He said people got excited. “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.’”

Within four months they had all the money raised. “I do want to give a big shout-out to our committee and also the Brainerd Sports Boosters for really stepping up and helping us,” Coach Freed said.

In September of 2021, they locked in the order for the equipment. On January 4, 2022, one year from when they first decided to replace the equipment, the weight room was installed.

“We have 80-90 kids who come in our morning program,” Coach Freed said. “In our old weight room, we would have had kids standing and waiting to get on a squat rack or a bench or whatever.” Now, he said there is plenty of room for students to warm up, then get in groups of four at each of their twenty rack stations. Video monitors are in clear view for students to see the day’s exercise program, and the annex storage between the racks has everything they need right there. When students need to step out of the rack and on to the platforms, there’s ample room for additional routines.

“It’s allowed us to get more kids through faster, more efficiently, and it decluttered the whole area,” Coach Freed said.

The Brainerd High School weight room also includes breakout spaces for those who aren’t doing the organized workout or are recovering from an injury. These areas feature lat/low row machines, inverse leg curls, dumbbell rack and functional trainers. The functional trainers are excellent for adaptive physical education programs—they offer easy wheelchair access and are highly versatile for dual and independent limb training.

When the weight room was complete, there was little doubt the students would be excited and that it would advance their strength training, but there were other changes that occurred as well.

Coach Freed shared that when he spoke to staff at other high schools, “They said, ‘Just be ready. Be ready because it’s going to be a culture change.’ For us, I think the biggest thing, honestly, is now we have a lot of young ladies who really enjoy being in there, and I think a lot of it is how it’s set up, how it looks, how it feels.”

And that’s not only from the equipment and layout itself, but also the graphics they added to the room to make it more inviting and exciting. “You’re kind of getting rid of that old stigma of what the weight room was,” Coach Freed explained. “It’s much more of a training center than anything else.”

In the end, when it came to updating Brainerd’s weight room, Coach Freed looked at it this way: “Right now on any given day in our weight room, we’re probably talking 450 to 550 to 600 kids a day utilizing that space.” Outside of maybe the cafeteria or gymnasium, he views the weight room as the space that is affecting the most students on any given day.

One thing is apparent—it is certainly helping make champions out of every Brainerd Warrior.




One part of Dynamic Fitness & Strength’s manufacturing process that we’re most proud of is our multi-stage powder coat pre-treatment and powder application process. It is this intensive process that helps ensure the finish of all manufactured product has strong consistent adhesion and a long-lasting colored topcoat that will live up to your performance standards and expectations.

Of course, for a good, strong durable finish, we start with premium steel to apply it to. Our steel tubing and plate is American-made and produced to ASTM standards (American Society of Testing Materials). We elect for processing and efficiency reasons to purchase either hot-rolled or pickled and oiled materials based on application, utilization, and yield. Both our sheet and tube are laser-grade quality steel, held to the tightest tolerances for material and consistency.

In preparation for powder topcoat there are many things to consider, the most important being the removal of contaminants. Contaminants come in many forms when dealing with steel such as mill scale, edge scale, flash rust, weld B-Bs and even weld scale. With that said, profiling is also important such as edge radius and a consistent profile residing across the entire part leaving rounded edges and a larger surface area for enhanced adhesion and a consistent look. To properly prepare each component to receive the powder topcoat and achieve the strongest adherence in the industry, Dynamic Fitness and Strength starts with our mechanical descaling process where parts are automatically presented by means of passthrough rail while being descaled by a multiple wheel shot blast process removing all containments mentioned above leaving near white metal a consistent profile and a component prepped for adhesion furthermore unparalleled aesthetics.

It is then taken through our automated multi-stage wash where additional pretreatment is performed. First, degreasing components to remove any residual contaminants, then rinsed using water converted from city supply using a process called reverse osmosis and rinsing with 99.9% pure water. Our transitional metal conversion coating process takes place using Zirconium to provide increased adhesion and corrosion resistance. Parts are again rinsed and further dried all prior to our spray booth where electrostatically charged powder is applied evenly across the entire part. We offer a multitude of standard colors or a wide option of custom-matched colors to include glosses and texture.

From there, the steel takes a trip through our 450-degree curing oven to bake IN the powder coat, not just bake ON by means of bringing up the base metal temperature across the entire part to 450 degrees. This ensures the finish adheres to the base metal, provides a consistent look and an unmatched performance.

Our pretreatment and powder coating are just one of many ways we do not take shortcuts in our manufacturing. Our equipment, our processes, and our people are the three components that together result in the premium quality equipment that thrills and motivates students and athletes as well as provides schools and training facilities the highest level of performance for many years to come.

Want a tour of our facilities? We’re happy to walk you through our 200,000 square feet of operations. Give us a call at 844-678-7447 to schedule a day and time.




By Guest Contributor: Brett Bartholomew

Performance Coach, Author & Keynote Speaker

Last week I received a question from a coach who recently found themselves in a position where they were now in charge of coaching larger groups (20+) than they ever have been before. They were confident, but also concerned stating that they often found themselves rushing their words, slipping up in their cues, and rushing back and forth to make sure nobody went un-coached in some capacity. They later admitted that they believed nerves to be the culprit for their erratic behavior, and that these nerves were made worse since under normal circumstances (for them), where they coach 5–10 athletes, they have no issue whatsoever and rarely get out of rhythm in regards to what they do or how they do it.

In other words, once their group size doubled so did their level of self-doubt and anxiety.

It’s important to first acknowledge that for a coach, a certain level of anxiety is normal and even healthy. Many of us are brought up to believe that feeling anxious is a weakness, and that we need to instead puff out our chest and cultivate a sense of bravado that permeates a room and those in it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The error in this train of thought is that many people confuse anxiety with being nervous, yet there is a clean and clear distinction between the two. Nervousness is something you feel when you are unprepared, anxiety is something you feel when you care about what you are doing so much, that the emotions you feel often override the critical thought processes which should guide our actions.

Anxiety is an affliction of the relentless. The same emotion that can at times stifle us, is also the one that compels us to take the leap and push a little harder or further than most would ever consider. It’s the beast of burden that accompanies us over the long-haul of a journey where we strive for perfection even if we know it is out of reach.

This being said a “spectrum of usefulness” does exist in regards to the amount of anxiety we feel when preparing or taking part in a given activity. As with all things in life, the dose makes the poison so we need to be aware of strategies to keep it at bay when we are facing new or unique circumstances.

These strategies can include everything from reviewing your notes, being physically active, talking through the problem, listening to music or a stimulus change of any sort which helps you to momentarily detach from the issue altogether. Consider these moments of detachment incubation periods where your emotions can settle and your level of clarity can be enhanced. There are a litany of people out there who would also recommend what have become known as “mindfulness strategies” within popular culture, and for many people this works. For me, exertion of some sort, whether it is sprints, hitting a heavy bag, strength-training or listening to music always does the trick,

But discussing strategies for combating anxiety is not the main point of this article. My purpose with this post is simply to share what I believe to two of the most critical components of success when coaching large groups. These components are simple, but not always easy. So think twice before closing the window simply because you didn’t see me promulgate the use of some “next-level” tech, productivity “hack” or any other ephemeral form of productivity advice that promises a quick fix that will detach effort from a solution.

Success with coaching large groups mainly comes down to:

  • Having a consistent message/purpose

  • Managing logistics

Note, that I’m not saying this is ALL this comes down to. Of course, as I’ve stated in my previous work relationships and communication are also paramount. As is conflict management, understanding human behavior, managing perception and the like. The discerning practitioner understands that all of these components are linked together within these two points. They are not separate but unified.


Having a consistent purpose speaks to the critical nature of managing not only the content of your message, but also its delivery. Sure when you are coaching larger groups, there are going to be some broader strokes applied every now and then, but the main points that you are trying to get across should be embedded in a common and relatable theme. And please, skip the “rah rah” rants that have become quotidian in coaching culture. You know what works better than motivational speeches? Telling the truth and speaking to what truly matters to the people you are working with. I know, nearly every coaching book in the world would have you believe that everyone on the planet is striving towards a common goal, but this simply isn’t the case. All of us have varying agendas, and even if we do share a common goal in some respects, our view of what it takes to get there may differ.

What nobody wants to admit is that there is an “I” in TEAM. Athletes are individuals, and of course they want to see their team win, but you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think there are plenty out there who are also conscious and protective of both their stats and status in general. Does this make them bad people? Does caring about your own performance mean you are not a team player? If so, we should revisit if we as coaches should really care about the injury rates or our athletes along with body composition improvements, strength gains and the like. Of course we should, because our contributions to the bigger picture or “team” matters. We all need to be conscious of those contributions and find ways to maximize them. This is also why- when boarding an airplane- you are told to put on your oxygen mask before helping others. We don’t view this as selfish because it is evident that you will be of no use to anyone else unless you take care of your immediate needs first.

To a degree, it takes selfishness in order to be selfless. We need these types of personalities as well. It is not our job to “transform” everyone into what we leadership gurus would have you believe makes a good leader or captain as decades of research discussed in my course shows that effective leadership is contextual. I realize this may rile some of you up, but just keep in mind that many of the traditional leadership books many of us have read are written by ghostwriters and follow a standard template to ensure their placement on commercial “best-seller” lists. In other words, they offer safe and homogenized advice which has no place in the chaotic, dynamic, fast-paced, and sometimes Machiavellian world of sport or coaching in general.

Aside from the points mentioned above, having a clear and consistent message also helps you manage the chaos by having an “anchor” to revert back to when addressing the group. For example, if those you are coaching are going to be learning a highly technical exercise such as the clean and jerk, it helps to reaffirm principles such as “posture, pattern and patience” beforehand as well as using cues, terms and teaching methods which relate to the group’s previous experience with learning the exercise itself of components of it. The point is, when you are monitoring the room, your cues, phrases and strategies should be reinforcement of principles that have been ingrained in them via your prior teachings. Don’t forget that great coaching builds upon itself- session by session, day by day, month by month etc. Rome was not built nor destroyed in a day.

Ignoring this advice will lead you down a path where you run the risk of overcoaching. Many times, people think that because their group size has doubled or tripled, so do the amount of words they need to say, yelling they need to do, or the amount of running around that they should be doing. This is not the case if your sessions are structured correctly and resources are adequately managed. It simply takes clarity, consistency, patience and planning. The latter of which we will now dive into.


The coaching process has been described by many as a form of “orchestration.” Researcher Robyn Jones states it beautifully in saying that coaching is a “complex social system of which the coach is but one (albeit a leading) member.” Yet while social dynamics underpin the vast majority of the coaching process as a whole, logistical management of the session itself is something that is often overlooked due to many thinking it to be easy or something that will work itself out naturally.

  • How should one approach overall session design?

  • How can we set-up the equipment used in the session to optimize flow?

  • What type of equipment is needed?

  • Is this type or amount of equipment needed to run a successful session?

  • When should athletes be complete with a given part of a session?

  • What potential changes may need to be made?

  • How are the exercises/drills performed in the session sequenced?

  • Are there other coaches you will need to work around?

  • What are the time limitations?

  • What injuries do you need to work around?

  • Where should the coach leading the session position themselves on the floor?

  • What are the past training experiences of the athletes we are teaching?

The questions above are not presented for the sake of aporia, they are the questions we as coaches need to be constantly asking ourselves prior to leading a session and even writing a program.

It won’t matter what plan you have on paper if the plan is written in an idealistic fashion and requires excessive amounts of time, unique equipment, or requires your athletes to run clear to the other side of the facility just so they can do one exercise. Where you position yourself when instructing large groups also matters. I make it a point to ensure my back is never turned to an athlete when they are performing a certain drill or exercises. If it is, they better have a capable intern, therapist or assistant coach with them. Position yourself at angles that allow you to see the entire room from “rack to wall” and be conscious of not only HOW you are standing (non-verbal communication) but how long you have been standing in one place. The floor needs to be swept so to speak- and coaches need to make it a point to give as many athletes as possible a little bit of facetime so that they know they are a priority and so that you can give them true individualized feedback.

It is beyond the scope of this article to dive more deeply into demonstration, communication tactics, and optimized instructional skills, but these are also paramount in optimizing the coaching environment and helping you become a better manager on the floor.

The key point is that you need to see yourself as much more than a coach. You are a educator, a manager, and in a way, even an air traffic controller. Some of my best learning as a coach was when I would coach groups of 50+ non-English-speaking athletes or coaches. I’d often arrive at locations where I had little to no prep time, which forced me to think quickly about what scenarios and spacing issues I need to navigate, and how I would do so. Sometimes it involved me scratching out a portion of the session, but even doing that helped me to better prioritize what the goals should be based upon the constraints. Instead of trying to do everything, and squeeze it all in, in a rushed fashion, I could chop the session in half and coach with a higher level of detail, quality and adaptability. If there was time left over at the end, I could always bring back a part of the session I originally scrapped.

Once those matters were settled, I now needed to figure out how I would effectively and efficiently alter my communication style to overcome the language barrier. Gestures and strategically (and sometimes humorously) placed demonstrations were the linchpin in that regard. I’d also do my best to learn a few key phrases related to posture, action or intent prior to my arrival.


The inescapable truth we all face is that the quality of our coaching, our connection with the athlete, and the planning we do beforehand means more than anything else. This holds true regardless of whether you are a personal trainer leading small groups, a Division 1 strength coach leading groups of 30+, a private sector coach or anything in between. It’s not a matter of title or position, it’s simply a matter of preparedness and a willingness to adapt.


Reposted with permission. Find the original article and many more on Brett's blog page:

1 Comment

I remember that May, it seems like it was yesterday, and so much time has passed, but I have no regrets, because here I am very happy and satisfied with what I have and feel in my heart, because I know that the best is yet to come. Thanks to the changes that I made in May, I became a much better version of myself than I was before, which makes me very happy, because I know that you learn only from your own mistakes, so I am very grateful to this blog for bringing the gym into my life and changing my life radically.

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