With spring sports underway, off-season training, and people generally wanting to get fit, there is one room in particular at the high school that seems to get more foot traffic than any other– the weight room.
Mr. Puffpaff commented on how fortunate we are to have such a nice place to workout. He said, “We’re very fortunate to have a community that has supported the schools in getting an environment like this weight room built and put together. For our size school, we have an extremely nice facility with some great equipment.” The equipment didn’t just come along one day. The school has been greatly supported in order to have what it does. “Without that support of the school and community, an environment like that would not exist,” said the cross country and track coach.
There are many opportunities to get into the weight one, one being an elective class like strength and conditioning. Mr. Landis is in his third year teaching gym, health, and strength and conditioning classes. He explained their weekly routine, “On Mondays, we do leg day, on Tuesdays we do cardio/ agility, on Wednesdays we do upper body, on Thursdays we do lower body, on Fridays we do active recovery through modified games. We get swole and make gains.” They really do make gains, especially considering the fact that they are getting access to the weight room every single day. Landis commented, “Students have made really great progress, especially kids who stay in the program for several years.”
Average increases of the students are around 50-60 pounds per lift depending on the level of experience of the athletes coming in. It’s amazing to see so many non-athletes participating in this class and seeing their progress. Every year about a fifth of the class does not participate in a school sport and instead use this as an opportunity to get fit. Landis appreciates the level of commitment and dedication these students and student-athletes have. He said, “I’d say everyone on average goes 75-85 percent max ability. Obviously, there are people who come in and try their best every day and there are some people who try about 50 percent but overall everyone works hard.” He stressed that there is a direct correlation between effort given and progress made. Junior Cole Lombard has participated in cross country, basketball, and track & field, and this is his first year in the class. He said, “I really enjoy the class. My favorite part is game day Friday. The class has benefited me greatly by actually making me work and push myself to get faster and stronger.”
Walking into school in the morning students can always see athletes finishing up their training before school. The football program has been doing a lot of off-season work to strive for greatness in the future. Keno Hills is in his first year coaching at SLHS and is already working to build up the football program. He comes in every morning at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday so that the boys can get extra training in. Keno also offered up that morning practices for anyone in any sport who wants to participate. He commented on the benefit of off-season training, “Everyone is happy with success, but it doesn’t come easy. You get better with the hard work– lifting, running, conditioning. If you commit off-season, then in the season it’s just a joy. It’s like a cherry on top of ice cream. Sweat, pain, and tears with commitment are icing on the cake.”
Success in a sport comes with a strong program, and that is exactly what is being built. The eighth-graders who are planning to play football next year had a ‘signing night’ where they signed to play at the next level in high school. Since then you can always spot them filling up the weight room. Keno commented, “They’re committed. They come in at 6:30 and I find them waiting after school to get in the weight room. This process creates a bright future for these young kids and the program trying to create winning as a norm.” He stresses the saying, “technique before weight” for these kids who are just getting started. Good form now will help more in the future when they begin to add more and more weight. It’s hard work and a lot to take on for being younger, but they’ve been working hard. Keno said that they, “hate it but they love it,” and, “they sleep good too,” after a hard day’s work.
Soon to be freshman, Tiger Russell, commented on all of his off-season work, “I have been working out in the weight room getting my legs and arms ready for this upcoming football season. My favorite part is deadlift days because my friends and I have contests to see who can lift the most weight. My least favorite part is squat days because at the end of the week your body is dead. I am really excited for the new coaching staff and all my teammates. We will do well if we work together.”
The seniors on the football team started something that the juniors are picking up on like leadership and showing by example, said Keno. They’re putting in the hard work, especially the captains and people like RJ Macias, Justin Rodriguez, and Wisdom Zanquo. Even guys doing other sports are getting a lift in and giving football some time. “It’s great. It starts a winning tradition.”
This past winter the weight room seemed to be overflowing with students with indoor track practices, run club, football players, and others. Coach Puffpaff ran the weights for indoor track participants and run club members. He commented, “It has been amazing to see the numbers of students and student-athletes who are utilizing the opportunities to get better in the weight room increase. Over the course of this past winter, the numbers of the weight room after school started with a few and continued to grow throughout the entirety of the winter. It is amazing to see student-athletes take advantage of that opportunity as it will no doubt transfer to success on the court, track, and playing field.”
There has definitely been a major shift in the environment in the weight room compared to past years. It has gone from intimidating to inviting, and students feel more comfortable with starting training. Junior Mikayla Haag has gone to the weight room for the past several years and is participating in track this spring. She said, “I personally feel like the weight room has become so much more welcoming in the past year. I’ve always enjoyed going there, however, even when I’m lifting alone, it feels welcoming no matter what. It always feels like people are encouraging you and they’re supportive of whatever progress you’re making.”
This welcoming environment has definitely been a key factor in the increase of women in the weight room. There were many times this winter where the number of girls outnumbered guys during after-school lifts. This is a major step in St. Louis’ sports programs and improvement in girls; sports. Haag also commented, “I’m sure being a woman in the weight room has somewhat of an effect on my behavior as well. In the past, I’ve felt a bit more intimidated by all the others. However, this year I’ve felt a lot more comfortable so I’m less worried about having to do small things like grabbing weights or using a bench.”
Overall, whether one wants to get fit, train for a sport, his or her health, or all of the above, they shouldn’t be afraid to step into the weight room for good times and gains.