Student-athletes putting in work in summer program

Student-athletes putting in work in summer program


Even at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday during the third week of summer break, there's still plenty going on at Faribault High School. 

Some students are sprawled across mats doing sit-ups in the hallway outside Nomeland Gymnasium. Others are just outside the south entrance flipping tractor tires across the practice field and zig-zagging between cones set up for agility drills. The Fielitz Fitness Center is buzzing with the sounds of students talking, coaches yelling words of encouragement, weights clanging and up-tempo music blaring through the sound system.

It’s the 10th year of the high school’s Strength and Conditioning Summer Program and about 120 student-athletes from across every sport FHS offers are preparing themselves for the upcoming season. Physical education teacher and coach John Frank has been helping lead the summer program since it started with 60 students in 2009.

“The whole model is about building athletes. We’re developing the body to take on a full season of whatever sport you’re in,” Frank said. “We’re not only challenging the students physically, but mentally. Every day we preach that failure is an opportunity, so if a student is struggling with a drill, they can keep working at it until they get it, and that builds confidence. When they commit to improving and then add that confidence, you can see the difference on the field. It’s awesome to watch them grow.”

Improving her performance, bonding with teammates and feeling a sense of accomplishment are reasons senior Lilli Ruisi, a member of the track team, has participated in the summer program since seventh grade.

“Overall, it helps in the long run. When you get to your sport you can do more because you’ve already worked on your strength and endurance,” she said. “Plus, you get to meet new people and you feel accomplished when you reach a new personal record for something like squats.”

Senior Dylan Lippert said the team-building element is an important one for the football team, as well. He estimated about 40 members of the team are participating in the summer program.

“It’s a great team bonding thing,” he said. “It’s a really big deal for us to be here going through this together… When practice starts, you can tell the difference in conditioning and physical strength. This just puts you one step closer.”

The summer program lasts seven weeks and runs four days per week. A new group comes in every 15 minutes beginning at 7:30 a.m. Each group rotates through six stations: warmup, speed (drills), quickness (drills), core Olympic lifts (squats, cleans, bench press, on different days of the week), auxiliary station (gluts, triceps, pull-ups), and finisher (core). Student-athletes then record their lifts and set goals for the next week.

Frank said two major changes have improved the program this year. The first is there are more coaches. While there used to be, at times, only three coaches on hand, there are now 12 coaches involved with the program and about eight are present every day – Frank, Jake Stocker, Eric Hildebrandt, Tara Melchert, Larissa Rasmussen, Anne Pientka and Anthony Gustufson, as well as Falcon alumni Cade McAdam, Cal Schultz, Hawque Christenson and Ahnika Vaninski. The new coaches provide more individual instruction for students and provide expertise in new disciplines like yoga that haven’t been part of the program in the past.

The other major change to the program this year is the incorporation of more progressions in the weight-lifting portion. Using progression, instead of every student doing the same sets of cleans, students start with a basic front squat and then advance to more complicated lifts based on their skill level. This allows for a more customized workout.

“Only 5-6 out of 100 may get to that last lift, based on experience,” Frank said. “It helps build a new mindset to push past your comfort zone.”

Frank said the dedication and leadership he sees from student-athletes participating this summer gives him confidence about the future of athletics at FHS.

“When our programs saw the most success – football at state, volleyball in the section finals – you had great leadership among the upperclassmen. That’s what I’m seeing now. We implemented that leadership class during the school year and we saw a strong group of kids who are going to carry that leadership over,” Frank said. “With what we’re doing now, kids are having a positive experience, having fun and still working hard. We’ve revamped things and it’s created some excitement. The future looks bright with the kids we have coming up.”

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