With Farley’s Buccaneers squad alone, the demands to get bigger, stronger and faster have become a year-round responsibility. A majority of varsity players participate in a Grand Haven coaches-developed “speed school” from January through June, while Farley sees many of his players during a weight-lifting class he teaches.
Once summer vacation begins, the strength and fitness demands hardly die down. Players spend their week pumping iron with Grand Haven strength and conditioning coach Jim O’Neill inside the high school’s weight room, or two days a week on the field at Buccaneer Stadium for a new training practice that is becoming more popular with athletic teams at several West Michigan high schools.
Spring Lake-based Shoreline Sport & Spine is providing paid personal training sessions for hundreds of prep athletes this summer from its program called the S3 Sports Performance Institute.
The program is a blend of exercise science and sports medicine at its finest, with a primary goal of improved performance with decreased injuries. In its sport-defined circuit training, players are often asked to perform tasks that, at first glance, look like glorified aerobic workouts. But after a half-hour or so of work, when players are dripping sweat and gasping for breath, it is indeed much more.
The service is provided at a marginal cost for athletes; and, in some cases — like at Grand Haven — the tab is picked up by the school’s sports boosters or fundraisers.
This will be the second year Farley’s Bucs have worked with Patrick Wykes and other trainers from Shoreline Sport & Spine. Farley feels it’s a necessity to remain a consistently successful program in the O-K Red Conference — one of the toughest football leagues in the state.
“All the great programs have been doing this for years,” the coach said. “Now, if you want to remain competitive, it’s almost a given to (train) year-round.”
TRAINING ROOTED IN SCIENCE
Wykes’ training does not suit the predetermined notion of football weightlifting.
“Gone are the days when you’re trying to build up your kids to be 400-pound linemen or have them squat 700 pounds,” Farley said. “Now, it’s all about explosiveness, developing that core strength and creating hip flexibility and dynamic movement. These workouts have brought that, and our coaches have noticed the significant changes with our kids.”
Wykes, who will be entering his fifth year as Grand Haven’s head athletic trainer, said the workouts involve the three dimensions of body movements — rotation, back and forth, and side to side.
“We look at the body as a communications system full of various receptors,” Wykes said. “We consider those receptors conditionable or trainable — and when we have an athlete go through different positions of movement, we try to have those receptors activated.”
The thinking, Wykes said, is a player’s body becomes more in-tune to moving in positions on the football field that they normally wouldn’t make anywhere else.
“Activating those receptors (is like going) from dial-up to cable Internet,” he said.
So when a Bucs' running back is required to make a quick cut through a hole in the line of scrimmage, the receptors in his hips and legs are quicker to react and respond due to, in part, the quick stop and quick start side-shuffle exercise he did with Wykes in summer training.
“We’ve found a by-product of what we’re doing is called the ‘giggle factor,’” Wykes added. “An example is we may have them do a side-ways skip, while swinging their arms back-and-forth with their right eye closed. And you see these football players — who are supposed to be so serious — going through this laughing, and many are tripping over themselves. But that’s a part of it. It’s about having fun at the same time.
“It is fun because they see us as something different,” he continued. “It’s rooted in science and philosophy, and it influences the body differently.”
RABIDEAU ENJOYING NEW SCHOOL THINKING
Spring Lake varsity football coach Jerry Rabideau said he’s been fed up with the Lakers’ string of first-round exits from the Division 4 playoffs. Adding Shoreline’s program was a way to improve his program, he said, and hopefully help get over the playoff hump.
“We’ve noticed huge gains with our kids as far as flexibility, coordination and balance,” Rabideau said. “We’ve been doing it for the last 7-8 weeks.”
Rabideau said there are currently 50 kids from his program in grades 8-12 participating in the training. There is a cost, but proceeds from the program’s mattress sale fundraiser are keeping it minimal.
“I wish we had more (involvement),” Rabideau said. “The kids are absolutely spent (at the end of the workouts). It’s an entire body workout and it’s so advanced, people would be shocked. It really challenges the brain to multi-task. The kids are exhausted afterward, but they’re exhilarated at the same time.
“You see these old-school guys in coaching who think all you got to do is squat, lift and bench,” the coach continued, “but we’ve moved past that into more core strength training. There are more muscles in the body that we need to use on the football field that you don’t realize.”
Rabideau said he approached Spring Lake Athletic Director Cavin Mohrhardt about adding Shoreline’s training — and, for now, football will be its ‘guinea pig.’ But the way Rabideau raves about its effectiveness, more Spring Lake athletic teams may soon follow.
Shoreline Sport & Spine has also started working with Muskegon Oakridge football, Whitehall volleyball and North Muskegon cross country, among others.
Spring Lake football players are led by Shoreline trainer Mike Braid on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 6:15-7:15.
“We then head immediately into the weight room,” Rabideau said. “You find out pretty quickly what kids are committed to football.”
INJURY PREVENTION A GOAL
Grand Haven girls basketball coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said injury prevention was a key factor in her decision to have her team workout with Shoreline’s trainers this summer.
“A lot of it is ACL injury prevention training, which is big,” she said. “A couple years ago, we had three girls suffer ACL injuries.”
Fruitport varsity volleyball coach Nicole Bayle has also noticed her team was relatively injury-free a year ago — which she believes is an end-result of going through Shoreline’s training last summer.
“We didn’t have any significant injuries, and there were not even many aches and pains that are so common in volleyball,” she said. “I think you can attribute that to the workouts.”
Kowalczyk-Fulmer said there are 30-40 girls who participate with Wykes in a 15-station circuit training workout on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for an hour.
“It’s really intense,” said Kowalczyk-Fulmer, who goes through the workout herself. “The girls are sweating buckets by the end.”
The program is sport-specific, Wykes said, so squats or lunges designed for exploding for rebounds or kills are incorporated, as well as specific shuffling which aids in the motion of defense on the court.