Pulling his weight at Portage High School
The key to athletic success at a small school is a good coaching staff and a year-round weight training program
By Kim Goss
Published: Summer 2004
With approximately 320 students, Portage High School in Portage, Pennsylvania, is one of the smallest schools in a 32-school district. Too miniscule a school to have much of an athletic program, right? Think again. With the help of a good coaching staff and a year-round weight training program, athletic director and head football coach Gary Gouse has found a way to make his athletes shine.
In the past five years the Mustangs football team has made the playoffs four times, losing only one game in 2000 and in 2001. “Our kids are physically strong and tough,” says Gouse. “One of the things we take a lot of pride in is that for 12 straight years we’ve had one of our kids rush for over 1,000 yards.” In fact, in 1999 two players hit the 1,000-yard standard, and in 1996 one athlete rushed for 2,400 yards.
Gouse believes that a key to coaching success is surrounding yourself with a good assistant coaching staff. “It’s very difficult to keep a staff together because of the demands of coaching today. You have to find people with a lot of patience and a lot of understanding.”
Gouse says some of the personal challenges facing today’s high school athletes are more daunting than those of his own generation. “There are so many kids today who come from broken homes, so many kids with single parents and a lot of kids without parents. To help these kids, we try to be with them as much as possible – try to become like father figures to them. We run our program year-round, and in the summer we are with them all the time – taking them places, going to camps. That puts a lot of strain on our personal lives, being away and doing all these things with the kids, but that’s the only way it can be done today. You have to be on it consistently.”
BFS for All
From the very start of his coaching career 25 years ago, Gouse has been using the BFS program. “I needed a system to help teach kids weightlifting, and I’ve never been sold on anything but the BFS program. It systematically enables kids to know where they are, and that’s a big thing with young athletes.”
Another big selling point for Gouse, who coaches several sports and is primarily responsible for administrating the workouts, was having a program that would enable him to handle a large percentage of the student body. “We deal with everybody on our weight training program. Our kids lift four days a week, and we’ll have about 55 boys and 40 girls in the weightroom every day of the week.” In fact, Gouse estimates that approximately 50 percent of the school is on the BFS program. Needing to accommodate such large numbers of athletes and wanting to have sports-specific programs that are individualized for each athlete’s strength level, Gouse found the computerized version of the BFS Total Program program to be a perfect solution.
“All our kids are now on the BFS computer program,” says Gouse. “Having their own workout in their own folder with their own weight progression makes our kids feel that much more important.” His athletes also love seeing the top ten rankings generated by the BFS computer program. “The kids love to see the rankings. They can’t wait to go into that weightroom and see who made it to the top ten in every grade. Overall it’s a wonderful program.”
Another aspect of the BFS program that Gouse finds gives his athletes an advantage is an aggressive in-season program. “Our athletes lift throughout the season, and they believe in what we do.”
The Mustang’s weightroom consists primarily of individual workout stations and one BFS elite station, but Gouse’s plan is to eventually have just elite stations. “We’re going to try to replace all our weights with those, and we recently budgeted to buy one each year until we have six total. They are so much safer, and they help protect the floor. We just put a new floor in the weightroom and we want to preserve it. It’s awesome.”
With his coaching success established, Gouse faces the possibility of moving to a bigger school but says he finds it difficult to leave. “I have a daughter who is in the 8th grade and she wants her dad to coach her in high school. In one sense I would like to move on, but I’m happy where I’m at. I’m a hometown guy.”