This article originally appeared in the fall 2015 Harker Quarterly.
The football team and the boys and girls basketball teams trained particularly hard over the summer to get into peak shape before school started, said Jaron Olson, head athletic trainer. “Girls volleyball team members were also in the gym, working on moves and staying fit for the season start.”
“I never really had a routine until postseason last year,” noted Satchi Thockchom, grade 10. “Before that the only time I was exercising was in the gym during practice. Last year I could only do arm exercises with 15s-17.5 lb weights, but now I’m ranging from the 20-27.5 lb weights. I think I’m much stronger mentally as well.”
Thockchom noted additional benefits to summer training. “Every offseason’s an opportunity. It’s also a great team-building environment for us to push each other and meet the incoming freshmen,” she said. “We had an open gym a few weeks ago, and I could see a huge difference from last year. I think a lot of that comes from staying active in the weight room.”
“Physical preparation in the weeks and months prior to the start of a sports season is critical to an athlete’s success regardless of skill level,” noted Olson. “In addition to the performance advantages, our goal with preseason strength training is to help reduce or prevent injuries.
“Student athletes who neglect to adequately prepare for the rigors of a sports season put tremendous strain on their bodies once practices commence. Essentially, trying to go from zero to 60 very quickly doesn’t always work out so well, making otherwise preventable injuries more likely. Hard work and conditioning during the summer also helps athletes acclimate to the heat before practices begin in August, which is often the hottest part of the year,” he noted.
Football had a robust summer program, training on the field as well as in the weight room in preparation for a new season with new coach Mike Tirabassi. About 25 football players trained almost daily over the summer. They were joined by more than a dozen basketball players and another dozen or so volleyball players, so there were about 50 students training several days per week, Olson said.
The athletic department hired two new people to help manage the athletes’ health. Garret Jones joined Harker this summer as strength and conditioning coach. He jumped right in, advising and directing athletes as they trained.
Jones, who has trained youth athletes to senior citizens, holds various personal and group training certifications. “My personal motto is movement quality before quantity!” he said. “Gaining strength and speed greatly reduces the risk of injury with all the acceleration and deceleration athletes must do. It is imperative to have strong muscles, joints and ligaments. Above the physical adaptions, training improves mental focus and confidence. We are teaching life skills in the weight room and every student would benefit from better quality physical activity.”
Jones is joined by Jon Marques, a certified athletic trainer, who was hired as an assistant athletic trainer. Meanwhile, Jenna Allen returns for her second year as an athletic trainer. All three work under Olson.
Having the athletic trainers will allow the department to provide better coverage for teams, particularly on the middle school campus. They will continue to address students’ needs across the spectrum from therapeutic and corrective exercises to strength training and performance enhancement, all critical elements to maintaining general health and building winning teams.
In addition, a kinesiology and sports medicine course, introduced last year and taught by Olson, will allow students who complete the course to work as athletic training student aides. They can practice taping and injury care skills on our athletes under the supervision of faculty athletic trainers.
The athletic department also added two sections of a strength and conditioning course during the school day.
“I have really enjoyed working with all the student athletes this summer,” Jones said. “The encouragement and camaraderie developed in the gym will carry over to the court or field. These athletes are going to be tough both physically and mentally, and I am really looking forward to watching them compete.”