Jan 29, 2015
Living the Dream

By Ryan Johnson

New contributor Ryan Johnson, CSCS, is a Coach Practitioner and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minn. From time to time, Johnson will share his take on the challenges facing high school strength and conditioning professionals. In this blog, Johnson introduces himself and describes his role at Wayzata High School.

I have the best job in the world: I am a high school strength and conditioning instructor. A high school physical education teacher that teaches strength and conditioning classes during the school day, I supervise the weight room after school. In the fall I coach football as well, while a couple of colleagues keep an eye on the weight room. My wife tells me that it isn’t fair that I am so excited to go to work in the morning.

I tell my students on the first day of the term that the only thing better then being able to work out during the day would be to get paid to do it. As the students exchange quizzical glances someone usually asks me, “But don’t you get paid?”

My reply is always, “Living the dream baby, living the dream.” This is good for a laugh and gets us going in the right direction for the term. It’s true that I get paid to work out, but there is actually a lot of work behind the scenes and my role is quite multifaceted.

First and foremost, I am a teacher. I started out my career in education teaching health and physical education classes. Along the first four years of teaching sexual education and team handball–not a combined unit mind you–I became involved in the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (CSCS). These credentials are important, because they were what my present employer was specifically looking for when they set about to hire a full-time strength and conditioning instructor.

My second duty is serving as my high school’s strength and conditioning coach, which goes hand in hand with teaching strength classes all day. Obviously there are a lot of athletes taking the classes during the day so that role is a natural fit.

As someone who is somewhat knowledgeable in the function and structure of human movement of the human body (I have a Masters Degree in Applied Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota), I also assist our school’s certified athletic trainer with therapy, icing, taping of ankles, etc. Another unofficial duty of mine is that of an emergency medical responder. In the community I live in, I serve as a member of the local volunteer fire department/first responder team and am on my high school building’s emergency response team.

Our high school holds grades nine through 12 and houses 3,200 students with another 150 faculty/staff members. In fact, our building has a larger population than my hometown. We have 30 varsity sports that I am responsible for. Some utilize the weight room more then others, but 30 sports is still a lot of kids.

Our weightroom has trained teams that have won conference, section, and state championships. It has also trained several athletes that have gone on to be All-Conference, All-Section, All-State, and even All-Pro. Ben Hamilton of the Denver Broncos, Marion Barber III of the Dallas Cowboys, and James Lauranitis of the Ohio State Buckeyes are some of our distinguished alumni.

It is a great place to work, the hours are long but the rewards are worth it. Most days we open up the doors around 6:15 a.m. for morning workouts, don’t lock up until around 5 p.m., and we operate year-round.

The highlight of the year for me is our summer strength and conditioning camp. During that period, I am as much an administrator as I am a coach. Last summer we had 550 athletes working out from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. at our facility. Our summer staff totaled 15 coaches–a mix of former athletes and current sport coaches. This camp is the primary source of our strength-training budget with the athletes paying $130 dollars to take part in the seven-week speed- and strength-building camp.

We utilize a lot of unique ideas and techniques when working with this large population of students and athletes. I am the only paid coach. However we have enlisted the help of a couple of other colleagues to help out. I have been blessed to work at an excellent school with terrific community support. The people who surround me believe in our system and want to be a part of it.

But, it wasn’t always this way. It took a lot of work to get where we are, and I hope that I can help speed other programs along by pointing out what has and what has not worked for us.

We certainly do not have all of the answers, but we’re confident that we have a few good ones that work at this level of athletics. And we are very proud in how we’ve gotten to our present situation. Hopefully, I can be of assistance to anyone else interested in establishing a high-quality high school strength and conditioning program. To see more about how we conduct our program, check out program and facilities at: www.wayzata.k12.mn.us. And please feel free to email me with any questions at: [email protected].

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