Jan 29, 2015
Legends of the Fall

ryanjohnson-head.jpgBy Ryan Johnson

State championships in hand, Ryan Johnson, CSCS, Coach Practitioner and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minn., shares the strength and conditioning secrets behind his athletic program’s successes.

The Minnesota fall sports season officially ended last weekend with the conclusion of the “Prep Bowl”–the state football tournament–at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. I am very happy to say that the Wayzata Trojans completed an undefeated season and captured our second state football championship. Looking back on the fall season, I have to admit that I felt a sense of great satisfaction as five of our eight sports earned section championships and qualified for state tournaments. We also had two teams finish second in the section and one third-place finisher.

A major achievement came from our boys’ cross country team. Not only were they state champions, but they also won the Nike 7 State Midwest Regional Meet, avenging their only defeat of the season. They qualified for the national meet, which is held in Portland, Ore., and Head Coach Bill Miles was selected National High School Coach of the Year by Eastbay.

Not only did the football team finish the season as the top-ranked team in Minnesota, but right now Wayzata sits alone atop the Massey Ratings as the top team in the nation! The volume of e-mails and phone calls was amazing after our football team won the state championship. Many were congratulatory messages from friends and colleagues, but several were from people I had never met. I am still receiving e-mails and calls from coaches and programs all over, inquiring about our off-season preparations and protocols.

Most of the contacts are from people who have seen our Web site and would like additional information. I have also received several inquiries about visiting our weightroom to see first-hand how we train. This is a tremendous compliment, and I am more then happy to oblige once the college football recruiting parade winds down. The recruiters have been lining up at our door to visit with our kids, which is another tremendous compliment for us.

I honestly have to sit back and scratch my head at the thought of how in the world I ended up in such a place. I am just a guy who grew up in a tiny farm town in southwestern Minnesota with 54 other classmates, and now I am in charge of training one of the most successful athletic programs in the state.

The football team’s success has drawn the most attention. The fact that we won the state title is one thing, but the way we did it is quite another. Our offense had the most prolific season in the team’s 100-year history, setting several records for points scored and yards gained.

Our defense was quite simply amazing. The boys on D wouldn’t scare a whole lot of people if you saw them walking down the street in their sweats, but once they hit the field it was a different story. Every opponent we faced in the playoffs, as well as several other coaches and a host of college recruiters, told us we had the fastest high school defense they had ever seen. Our starting defense was on the field for 134 possessions this season and allowed a total of five touchdowns. We nabbed 57 turnovers and recorded 38 sacks on the season–both school records. And if that isn’t amazing enough, we also scored 10 defensive touchdowns! Not to take anything away from our very talented offense, but this is the group that caused heads to turn week in and week out and still has people talking.

Last week we celebrated our season, and during the awards presentation I started thinking about all that we did last year to allow us to finish up so successfully. To think, a year ago this all started with a bunch of kids playing dodgeball… and now here we are, the best team this school has ever had. It’s blows my mind.

Our base model is really quite simple: We spent the dead of winter in the weightroom getting stronger. It was a reverse hibernation of sorts, as we got bigger and stronger through intense strength training. We do not have access to a lot of sprinting and running facilities, so we did the best we could with what we had, and it worked well for us.

As the snow melted, we started jumping and running a bit more and lifted a little differently. We moved into a non-linear approach with strength training and added more core, plyometric, and agility training. The non-linear protocol allowed our winter athletes to get on the same page as our winter weightroom wonders.

We then spent the summer flat out flying, and were very precise in the lifts that we did. We lifted by position and ran in groups all summer. Rather than do large group agility training, we did position-specific metabolic training that mimicked what was required of the athletes on the field.

Through a series of individual pattern running and group speed sessions, we really put together something special. Basically, over the summer we trained the athletes on a position level, a group level, and a team level. The slogan on our playoff T-shirts ultimately tells it all: “Champions Wear Gold.”

To read more about Wayzata’s strength and conditioning program, go to: www.wayzata.k12.mn.us. You can reach Ryan Johnson with questions or blog ideas at: [email protected].

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