By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Spring 2003
Bob Rowbotham and his son John trained in the basement of their home all through the years John played football in high school. When John’s teammates saw the quick results of the BFS program, they asked if they could train in Bob’s basement too. Soon a group of about eight players were consistently training for the football program at Skyline High School, the winningest program in Utah during the 1990s. After his team won another state championship, John graduated and said goodbye to training in his dad’s basement. But that wasn’t the end to the story: the next round of Skyline’s underclassmen asked if they could continue the tradition in Bob’s basement.
Coach Rowbotham is a man who delights in helping others, especially if they are willing to work hard, so he honored their request. To this day, eight athletes are invited each year to train in Bob’s basement. After the season, the seniors invite eight promising underclassmen to take their place. This tradition is now in its eighth year. Bob’s basement is the place to be. Bob never charges a dime; his payback is the satisfaction he gets from the athletes’ progress.
“I do have several rules,” says Coach Rowbotham. “First, I want each athlete to make sure his teammate’s technique is better than his own. Second, if the technique is not correct, the athlete is required to tell his teammate. Then, if he does not adjust his technique, the teammate must put the bar away.
“It has been so fun to see them understand the BFS Program and make progress. These athletes are there because they want to be there. Once we’ve finished the main instruction, they train a lot on their own with their teammates. Of course, if I come in and I see something wrong, I get on the spotters.
“Everyone breaks at least eight personal records every week. Actually, breaking eight records is nothing—they always break more than that. All the athletes are really focused on breaking records and running faster. Once they see the magnitude of their progress, it’s easy for me to get them to believe in the program. Out of the 30 athletes who have trained consistently, four have power cleaned 300 or more at an average bodyweight of only 205 pounds.
“Having these athletes train in my basement has made me a better BFS Clinician. Year after year, I see the way these kids respond so positively and challenge themselves to break records each week. It’s inspiring to see them just take off.”
A Second Chance for Isaak Duncan
Skyline student Isaak Duncan plays football as a running back and also runs the 100, 200 and 400 meter in track. His early years of training in high school consisted mostly of upper-body exercises and some machine work. As a junior, Duncan sustained a severe knee injury, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, the lateral cruciate ligament and a lateral meniscus. Isaak was returning a punt and planted his right foot to make a cut. “My knee went outward and back in really quickly,” said Isaak. That was September 26, 2001.
“Duncan was told that he would have a very difficult time coming back after his injury. I told the other athletes to make really sure that Duncan’s technique was perfect. When I was teaching Duncan, he was an Eleven listener. He had an extremely high intensity level and was always so focused. Therefore, he made quick progress. There was a real team effort to help Duncan. After six months he became one of the group’s strongest leaders.”
Duncan had surgery to repair his ligaments and cartilage. After three months of rehabilitation, Duncan was asked by a senior to train in Bob’s basement. Duncan started a watered-down BFS Program along with continuing his physical therapy, but time was running out. Only nine months remained before his senior season of football. “I knew it was a good thing to be invited,” remembered Duncan. “I had two other teammates as training partners. We trained consistently.”
“I started slowly: first with light box squats and door squats. For the Hex Bar lift and the power clean, I used only the bar plus the five-pound training plates. I did this for one month. One day I told my partners to take the weight down to 135 on a box squat. There was a mix-up, and the weight was actually 225 pounds. I did 10 reps easy. I was shocked when I found out the true weight, but it gave me a lot of confidence.
“From then on I progressed quickly. I started to do parallel squats, and then the power clean with 135 pounds. I kept on breaking records. Coach Rowbotham was awesome. The best thing was his patience. He just kept teaching the basics. As we got closer to the season, my knee was feeling strong and my confidence kept building. That meant a lot to me, because I remember the doctor saying that it would take six months just to return to normal. There were a lot of people who doubted that I could even play football again.”
Duncan not only showed up for football practice the first day but also quickly became, for the first time, a starter for the Skyline Eagles. At the end of the season, Duncan was one of the leaders on the team that finished second in the state (within its classification of biggest schools). Duncan was First Team All-Conference and a Second Team All-State running back.
“I made good strength gains during the season,” added Duncan. “The week before our state championship game I got a new two-rep max on the clean at 280 pounds. Everything that happened was a pleasant surprise.” Duncan’s totals at the end of the football season included a 295 bench press, 415 parallel squat, 300 power clean, a 405 Hex Bar lift and a 4.62 forty. As a sophomore, Duncan’s time had been 4.95. Needless to say, Duncan overcame his knee injury and a whole lot more.
“Your confidence is everything,” advises Duncan. “Get that going and your body will follow. As you break records and you get stronger, your confidence increases. Without the BFS Program and Coach Rowbotham, I would not have been as successful. Plus, training alongside all the guys in Bob’s basement, we all became best friends.”
Duncan has developed into a true Eleven. On a scale of one to ten, Isaak is an Eleven. He maintains a 3.65 GPA. He has never gone near a drug. Duncan can look you square in the eye and tell you that he has never had even one beer; and as for tobacco, never. He’s planning to play college football somewhere next fall, and because of his injury experience, he’s looking into a career in sports psychology or physical therapy. And maybe, just maybe, someday Duncan will continue Coach Rowbotham’s tradition by training young athletes in a basement of his own.