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PREP SPORTS: Baraboo, Sauk Prairie coaches adapting weightlifting programs for homebound students
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PREP SPORTS: Baraboo, Sauk Prairie coaches adapting weightlifting programs for homebound students


High school hallways are filled with a number of communities.

A strong one was building in the Sauk Prairie High School weight room, where up to 100 student-athletes from every sport gathered before school to work out.

“We really had a great group going,” said Sauk Prairie football coach and business teacher Clayton Iverson, who helps run the morning workouts. “Normally settling right around 50-75 student-athletes. It was an intense, high-energy program that tried to build not just strength, speed and explosiveness, but a camaraderie — between not just football players, but all student-athletes.”

“That’s a must with team sports,” Baraboo football coach and physical education teacher Steve Turkington said of working out as a group.

“The more these guys work out together, the more they’re going to be invested in each other. ... If you’re working out on your own and take a couple days off, no one’s ever going to know. But when you’re with your teammates, they’re going to hold you accountable.”

That camaraderie and accountability was put on hold when Wisconsin schools shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order. The coronavirus has left uncertainty in every aspect of society, including the fitness industry.

Gyms and fitness studios across the United States have taken their classes online. Sauk Prairie and Baraboo high schools are attempting to do the same with their workout programs, in an effort to influence kids to continue working out while they are stuck at home. There’s always some way to work out, but it’s not as easy to program large-group workouts when everyone has different access to space, time and equipment.

“I could see it coming, so we got together some information for the kids,” said Turkington, who will start to teach online physical education classes when Baraboo School District moves to remote learning Monday. “Either they could do a workout at home with weights, which would kind of go along with what we’ve been doing. Or if they don’t have access to weights, we provided some body weight exercises. And then I also put together some things for speed and agility work that they could do in the backyard. I told them to use whatever space they have. ... I wasn’t going to recommend them going out on the track... or out in the street, I don’t want to recommend something that might get somebody hurt.”

“This has been an interesting time,” Iverson said. “Kids’ access to weights at home varies a lot, plus we need to keep in mind if they are lifting on their own, do they have a spotter? Are they safe? So we have modified greatly — but found we can put together a four-day-a-week lifting program that focuses more on body weight, flexibility, plyos and short sprints. If kids have access to some weights, we ask them to be safe with them.”

Safety is a concern, as Iverson and Turkington are no longer in the room to oversee workouts and ensure proper form is being used. However, Google Classroom gives both teachers the capability to track workouts and offer feedback.

“We post the workout and ask athletes to email us with questions,” Iverson said. “In the end, we trust our kids to do what is right even though we are not over their shoulder watching daily. I know I am guilty of over-talking... kids don’t need a speech everyday. They need to know we love them and we trust them.”

“It’s not a mandatory thing,” Turkington said of Baraboo’s remote learning, including his strength and conditioning classes. “We track, and it’s really just to give feedback to kids. And then as far as the weight room is concerned, it’s just giving them more info about what they could do better. It’s really all based on feedback. We aren’t holding kids accountable necessarily with ‘you’ve got to do this at this time.’ It’s a little bit different. It’s a new world.”

Turkington hasn’t seen the level of participation that he was hoping for, but acknowledges everyone is still adjusting.

“I think there’s some uncertainty about the future from kids,” he said. “They’re thinking ‘well, we’ve got all this time, and I don’t even know what’s going to happen this summer.’ So I think it’s just human nature. And now with school coming Monday, where we’re going to be delivering more content for school, I’ll be delivering more content for workouts for the football players and the general athletes that are in my class. And then I think there will be more expectation for kids to get that done.”

Ideally, if the coronavirus situation clears up and society returns to normal, high school athletes will be in good enough shape to return to the workout setting they’ve grown accustomed to.

“I hate to speak for them, but once they got used to getting up and being in there, I think they really enjoyed the feeling of getting their workout in, the pace we go at, the attitude we have in the weight room and understanding they were doing something special,” Iverson said. “Their discipline gets them up. I can’t be in their ear at 5:50 a.m. when the alarm rings, so understanding that if they want to be successful as a group they have to develop disciplined habits. They did that, and it was fun to watch. I can’t wait to start again.

“It starts and stops with the kids. They are making a choice to make it important and it has showed. We have a lot of coaches working in the weight room, so those relationships are growing. I think what us as coaches can do is open the door and encourage kids to walk through it. In the end it is up to them. I am very proud of this year’s student-athletes for showing what can happen when you raise your care level. It is a credit to them.”

Follow Brock Fritz on Twitter @BrockFritz

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