Oct 12, 2018
Digital Assist

Imagine if an athlete’s sport coach, strength and conditioning coach, and physical education teacher were all on the same page and able to coordinate workouts. That’s the goal behind AthleticU — AU for short — a web-based fitness program designed by a strength and conditioning coach at a Chicago high school. The program is being used by 70 schools and more than 9,000 athletes.

According to a recent story in the Chicago Tribune, Mark Feldner, CSCS, Strength and Conditioning Coach at Niles North (Ill.) High School, began developing the program a few years ago to help in his own job.

“I felt like I was missing out on so many opportunities to coach and teach better,” he said. “We as teachers didn’t have the technology to do the best job we could at the scale we wanted to do it.”

Working with a tech-savvy family member, Feldman began creating a program that would allow everyone who was working with an athlete to communicate about his or her goals and which would capture a lot of data that could be used to create customized plans.

“As each day went by, I saw new and better ways to add to the functionality and data reporting,” Feldman said. “A few years later and we have something really cool to bring to schools.”

For coaches at the schools using AU, one significant advantage is that the program allows their athletes to complete workouts during PE classes, saving time for skills work in practices. For example, a PE teacher who has several football players in their class is able to help them implement their strength and conditioning program during class using the app. Non-athletes in the class are able to focus on their own unique fitness goals, while the football players get their workout done.

Hillcrest (Ill.) High School has adopted AU, and Stacey Lane, Power Strength teacher, is using this feature, coaching football players through workouts for their sport while helping other kids work on personal goals.

“I believe fitness is specific to each individual and that everyone moves at their own pace and has something unique to work on,” Lane said. “AU can help students move forward at a rate that works for them. We don’t have to teach physical fitness in a box.”

Personalized workouts are another big feature of the program, which allows coaches to check in on student’s progress digitally.

“This frees up a lot of my time because I can offer assistance to someone who is struggling or really needs help while other students can continue their workout without being interrupted,” Lane explained.

The program can even be used to communicate with physical therapists about injured athletes, allowing coaches to customize a rehab workout for the athlete instead of having him or her sit out. Athletes who miss workouts can log on and complete them at home. Some coaches are using AU to give their athletes a leg up when they sign on to play in college, by getting the college’s workout schedule ahead of time and loading it into the app so the athlete can begin training for the next level.

Soon, Feldman hopes to include sport psychology offerings, such as guided meditations, within the program. Those who are using it say it is already offering a major benefit in terms of motivation.

“After every class I show my students their workout results,” said Cassie Gaines, Power Strength teacher at Tinley Park (Ill.) High School. “They can see their score and how well they completed the workout. The next day, they come in with the mindset to beat their score from the day before.”

More information about the program can be found at https://www.athleticu.org/.

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