Jan 29, 2015
A Proud Look Back

ryanjohnson-head.jpgBy Ryan Johnson

With the Wayzata (Minn.) High School summer Trojan Power Program all wrapped up, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan Johnson shares his highlights from a busy “off-season,” which include his players rubbing elbows with NFL greats, a fresh approach to training younger athletes, and off-the-charts female participation numbers.
August at Wayzata High marks the end of our summer Trojan Power Program. We have finished up a week of testing and have crowned our Trojan Olympic Champions in both the boys’ and girls’ categories. This year’s competition is the 11th overall and the first year that we have officially crowned a female champion. This year, the boys’ champ was a middle linebacker on the football teams and the inaugural girls’ title was awarded to the captain of the dance team!

This summer marked several significant accomplishments that the Trojan Power summer staff is very excited about. First and foremost, we continued our trend of ever-increasing attendance numbers with 675 participants.

I also implemented a new weight training curriculum this time around that had unbelievable results. It will carry over to this fall and for years to come. The program is basically a progressive way to teach Olympic lifts to any athlete regardless of age or ability. It focuses on mastering skill levels in athletic lifts by supplying minimal resistance at first. This was perfect for our female athletes as well as our middle school aged kids. (I will blog on this later.)

Our summer program employed 32 staff members, another record for the program, and we had the highest percentage of female staffers ever. This was no accident, I went out and recruited some of our finest former high school athletes/lifters ever to come back and coach for us. I sought these women out with a conscious effort to get more female athletes involved in summer training, and it worked. One-third of our attendees were football players, and another third were female athletes–by far the highest turnout ever. The remaining third were a collection of various athletes and middle school students.

The collection of all-star female staff included our triple and long jumping wonder kid Jordan Helgren from the University of Wisconsin, who was home in Wayzata for the summer. We also had Natalie and Tami, both athletes and interns at the University of Minnesota, and Jamie, who was on loan from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. These four young ladies managed to collectively establish a new culture for females training in our weightroom. And their efforts were recognized beyond our school, as the Minneapolis Star and Tribune featured them in an article on females training in the weightroom.

The intro to the piece described a packed weightroom with tunes blaring and football players slamming weights around, but mentioned that at a second glance it was obvious this wasn’t your father’s weight room. Reading that passage (during a lunch with one of our former athletes James Laurinaitis, now a member of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams), I couldn’t have been any prouder.

There were other great female instructors throughout the program as well, but I must give credit to these four as they led the charge and completely blew away any expectations I had for this summer. They had our girls training and testing like never before, and along the way they found themselves helping out in other ways as well.

For example, some of our younger beginner football players sought out our female coaches on plenty of occasions. Those kids felt comfortable taking direction from the female coaches, and didn’t feel pressured to have to have a lot of weight on the bar.

Our barter agreement with our partner in off-site training (which I blogged about in July) was equally amazing. I am proud to say that my son is on a first-name basis with Larry Fitzgerald and other NFL players. He even had the opportunity to try on a Super Bowl ring from Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Matt Spaeth and pose for pictures with Jerry Rice and Chris Carter. My son’s experience was magical and I cannot say enough about the character of Fitzgerald and his NFL colleagues.

Watching Fitzgerald and the other elite professional athletes was a dream come true, but believe it or not, it was not the highlight of my summer. Instead, my favorite moments were given to me by our wonder team of Jordan, Natalie, Tami, and Jaime who reached out to my oldest daughter and showed her that it was okay to be a female and train in the weightroom.

My daughter is only 10 and wasn’t training to build muscle, but she built up an amazing amount of confidence. I see this confidence on display when I watching her compete on her summer co-ed soccer team. She has three goals in four games so far, which is an amazing statistic when I think about last season, when she barely touched the ball because she was afraid of getting hurt by the boys. This summer, my heroes were the four young ladies that taught my daughter how to train like a girl.

You can reach Ryan Johnson with your questions or blog ideas at: [email protected].

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