WOMEN'S SPORTS AT FRANKLIN HIGH SCHOOL
FHS began its BFS program in 1992. Over the next four years, Franklin High won seven men’s and women’s cross country state titles, two men’s track and field state championships and dozens of Western<
By Eddie Sutton and Shelta Young
Published: Spring 1998
When Franklin High School, in North Carolina moved up from the 2A to 3A division in 1986, the school’s
athletic teams struggled to compete with larger schools. Slowly, the FHS programs built up and some even flourished, despite Franklin High being one of the smallest 3A schools in the state.
Part of the recovery has been the school’s Bigger Faster Stronger program. FHS began its BFS program in 1992. Over the next four years, Franklin High won seven men’s and women’s cross country state titles, two men’s track and field state championships and dozens of Western Athletic Conference titles in cross country running, basketball, baseball, softball, track, swimming, soccer and golf. In the 1996-97 school year, Franklin High teams won eight conference titles and eight Franklin student-athletes earned Player of the Year honors within the conference.
Franklin High School also won the five consecutive Wachovia Trophies, which each conference in the state awards to its top overall sports program every school year.
Graduates of Franklin High and its BFS program are now involved in collegiate athletics at schools ranging from the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Clemson, Appalachian State, Western Carolina, UNC-Asheville, Liberty, Mars Hill and Anderson College.
Of particular interest has been the growth of the women’s sports and of the women’s BFS program at Franklin High. There were 10 students in the first women’s BFS class in 1993, a number that grew to around 15 the second year. By the fall semester of 1997, there were two classes comprised of 47 students and more than 50 others had to be turned away due to space and class-size restrictions.
Since 1993, the Lady Panthers have claimed four state championships in cross country along with 15 conference titles in cross country, track, swimming, softball and the school’s first-ever conference titles in women’s soccer and tennis. In 1994 and again in 1997, the FHS cheerleaders won conference cheerleading championships with routines that were equal parts dance, gymnastics and cheering.
Not all of the girls in Franklin’s BFS classes are “athletes,” in the sense that they aren’t on any of the high school’s sports teams. In fact, about half of them don’t play an organized sport, but that doesn’t mean they are overshadowed in the physical training. Some of the non-athletes have excelled in BFS, in both ability and determination.
Junior Holly Boynton is a good example of what BFS is doing for all the students, said Sheila Young, one of Franklin High’s BFS teachers.
“Holly started out as a non-athlete,” Young said, “but now she’s decided to join the swim team. I just wish some of the athletes would watch her and pick up from her.”
Female students in Franklin High School’s BFS program get much more than weight-training and plyometrics, however. Young has included other areas of study into the BFS program to help the students understand what athletics are doing to their bodies, and why.
“We developed our own curriculum,” Young said, “incorporating anatomy, physiology, psychology and nutrition into the program.” Young also uses articles from medical journals to help the students learn the causes of such things as knee and ankle injuries, shin splints and back problems.
“I don’t like the idea of just going into the weight room and telling them, ‘Pick up this’ or ‘lift that.’” Young said. “We want them to understand what they’re doing and why they are getting the results they are.”
From their first day in BFS, the students are required to keep notebooks in which they chart their progress through the years. They begin by measuring themselves — height, weight, body fat, the size of their arms, legs, chest and waist. They also keep charts of their blood pressure and their heart rate, as well as their statistics in the various disciplines of BFS, such as vertical jump, shuttle runs, push-ups, pull-ups, dot drills, bench press, squats, trap bar, power cleans and mile run.
The notebooks reflect their students’ hard work and show the expected improvements in strength, agility and cardiovascular health, but the notebooks are more than just a source of raw data. Also, in the books are inspirational notes and reminders of their goals and the reasons they took BFS in the first place.
Young refers back to the notebooks often, encouraging the girls with proof of their progress, and stressing the importance of building a positive self-image and in believing in themselves and what they’re doing.
Another unique aspect of Franklin High’s BFS program is its poetry. The girls are required to memorize a different poem — one usually connected with athletics or self-improvement — every six weeks, and to write poems of their own.
“You can not separate the mind from the body,” Young, a former English teacher said. Not only can she see an improvement in her students’ memory due in part to their physical and mental workouts, but Young added that group tasks such as memorizing poetry contributes to a sense of teamwork among the students.
The overall results are striking, Young said, “I can see them all getting so much more self-confident,” she said. “They all feel so much better about themselves, particularly the older girls, who have worked so hard for three-and-a-half years. It’s sometimes just the little things that they now pay attention to, like the changes in their nutritional habits. A couple of cheerleaders stopped one day and said, ‘See Mrs. Young, we’re drinking juice and not Dr. Pepper or Coke.’”
Most of the girls list “getting in shape,” “improving in their sport,” and “losing weight” as their primary reasons for taking BFS, but they also acknowledge the other benefits they’ve received from Young’s class.
“We’re learning about bones and muscles and stuff,” said Amanda McCoy, who’s been in BFS since the second semester of her freshman year. A senior who plays softball and basketball, McCoy said she believes that memorizing and writing poetry is paying off in other areas of her schoolwork and athletic career. “It helps me remember,” she said, “and helps me concentrate.”
Junior Amanda Waldroop, a cross country runner, sees another benefit to the poetry.
“Sometimes, when I’m not feeling good, I remember a sentence from a poem that makes me feel better.”
Junior Penny Thompson, who plays softball, volleyball and basketball, admits she doesn’t particularly like having to memorize poems, but said, “They do give us a lot of good messages.”
And Krystal Laughlin, a junior goalie on the soccer team who enjoys the physical challenges of BFS, said those messages are important.
“It makes me feel better about myself,” she said, “and teaches me that I can accomplish things, and that makes me a stronger person.”
One of the keys to the success of the program is that Young never lets it get stale.
“The seniors have seen me change the course every year,” Young said, “according to the things I’ve learned over the summer. I think that helps keep them interested and gives them another reasons to take BFS.”
By Elana Breedlove
BFS has made me have
so much more respect.
It makes me remember and
do the things I used to wanna
It makes me push myself,
it makes me wanna succeed,
Because of BFS I know what
I really need.
I need to work hard, push myself,
and try to be the best,
When you think of how the
why would you wanna rest?
“Push yourself, come on, faster”,
that’s all Mrs. Young used to say,
When running the mile
she was with everyone
every step of the way.
Everybody needs someone to
help you find the way.
I’m glad I get to meet that person
every single day.
BFS isn’t only about the