BFS clinics pit three St. Louis high school teams in a battle to be the best.
By Laura Dayton
Published: Winter 1997
It began a couple of years ago in St. Louis when Frank Smith of Hazelwood East High School decided to hold a BFS clinic. Clinician Jim Brown gave the clinic and went a step further by staying in touch with the school staff to help them redesign their weight room.
“We feel that we’re here not only to motivate, but also to guide and direct them in the things they need,” says Brown, a 12-year veteran with BFS.
The next year, Hazelwood East’s football team went 14-0, were Missouri State Champs and nationally ranked.
Not quite as newsworthy was the fact that Smith, who at the time was an assistant principal, moved to Hazelwood Central to become principal. Central was the bigger of the two schools (nearly 2700 students) and had good athletes, but Smith knew the program was too autonomous and the talent wasn’t optimized. Smith promptly picked up the phone and booked a BFS clinic, once again with Brown.
“There was more pressure on the Hazelwood Central clinic,” recalls Brown. “The principal had certain expectations. We had to produce equally well, or better, and we knew it.
“Games between the two schools often came down to nailbiters in the playoffs. Both teams have great talent, but talent can only take you so far. Those final minutes in the fourth quarter are won by busting your butt in the weight room and in all other aspects of training. We start off our clinics with a coaching season about what to do, what not to do, and when to do what you’re supposed to do. But it’s mainly talking about unification. Just because a school has ten athletic programs, it shouldn’t have ten stretching programs.
“Both these schools were hungry. The kids were hungry. The coaches were hungry. Both brought their staff down to watch and found out, ‘Gee, you can get this stuff done in 35 minutes, and it’s 35 minutes of unbelievable intensity, total attention to details, organization and discipline.’ The coaches could see how this program could really work to optimize their teams’ talent.”
The Central Clinic
Assistant varsity football coach John Pukala, himself a Central High graduate, was 100 percent behind the BFS clinic—he’d seen what it had done for Hazelwood East. The clinic was held in March of 1996 and all the coaches were present.
“The biggest change was that it helped solidify our entire program,” says Pukala. “Before the clinic, everyone was doing their own thing. A kid would be on one program for football, then switch that program for basketball. We began to see how this could actually be counterproductive. Approaching everything from a sport specific attitude is also very expensive—it requires different equipment, and most high schools are on pretty limited budgets. Of course, what we learned from BFS is that even though the sport may change, the training shouldn’t.”
Like their sister school, Central’s weight room received a complete make over. “Back when I went to the school here,” recalls Pukala, “our weight room was one small room with a bench press and truck tires stacked up for a squat rack. Now we’ve taken over two classrooms, knocked the wall out in between and have three of each of the essential equipment: Flat Bench, Incline Bench, Squat Rack, Lat Pull, Neck Machine and the Glute-ham. We’ve got six Power Platforms down the center. The three stations give us the opportunity to work each exercise light, medium and heavy. This is great for the female athletes.”
Has the BFS clinic made any difference on the playing field?
“Oh yes! Last year we won the Missouri 4A State Championship,” says Pukala. “But even more than that, our injury rate plummeted. I believe the reason is the glute-ham machine. In years past we’ve averaged five and six hamstring injuries a season. Last year we won, without one single hamstring injury. We’d been into the program about nine or ten months leading into the season, and I’m certain that BFS is the reason we were injury free.”
Pukala shares the strength coaching responsibilities with two other coaches, all BFS trained. He recalls a little reluctance to the program at first particularly from the female athletes. With the expanded weight room and light stations, that seemed to evaporate. The Parallel Squat took a little while for people to accept as well, but when the team played a successful season with no injuries, even the skeptics had to admit there was merit to the program. He says that while the varsity sports are already pretty much unified on BFS, some other sports like golf are coming around as well. “Most classes participate,” he says. “My class does BFS exclusively, some of the other athletes do it on their own.” He estimates about 30 percent of the school’s students participate in a sport of some kind.
In addition to beating rival Hazelwood East, Pukala hopes to see all the athletes on the program in the coming year. He’d also like to see more expansion of the weight room, particularly for cardiovascular equipment. He has a strong feeling he’ll see the entire school’s athletic program following the BFS guidelines; but with the cost of a stair climber hovering around $3,500, he admits that the latter wish of his dream-scheme may not be realized for a while!
The McCluer North Clinic
Dr. Greg Shepard went to McCluer North High School in St. Louis last June. Coach Jim Schottmueller wanted extreme motivation, especially at the end. Coach Shepard split the athletes into 8 groups and had a competition which also encompassed leadership and helping each other. They competed all day but the last event was special.
Each 8-man team had a 415-pound Olympic set which was placed outdoors at the base of a hill. A 1,000-yard course was laid out: One hundred yards up a gradual slope, then a steep section and around a pole to a soccer field. The final leg was to come down the hill and across the finish line. Each team had to run the course twice. The first time by themselves and then go around hauling the 415-pound set. The winner had to have all eight athletes plus an assembled weight set cross the finish line first.
They were given five minutes to discuss their strategy and come up with a game plan. Some rolled the weight while some carried the individual pieces. During the competition the athletes got spread out across the course. The first athletes crossed the finish line exhausted about ready to puke. But then they looked back up the hill.
They saw their teammates exhausted and tired carrying their weight. Without exception, all those who had finished went back up the hill to help their teammates. Afterwards, an emotional Coach Shepard with tears in his eyes congratulated each team by saying, “You are all winners. You are all Upper Limit. Today you were elevens. Those who finished first could have rested but you didn’t. You went back up the hill.
Right now I believe every person in this room would go up the hill for each other. This is what being on a team means. This is what being in a family means. Keep this feeling and you cannot fail.”
This season McCluer North (enrollment 1,300, smallest of Missouri’s 4A schools) battled defending state champs Hazelwood Central. McCluer North came out victorious and at this writing have only one narrow 2-point loss.