The Blue Jays Strengthen Their Wings
After winning just one game in a single season, the Ravenna High School girls basketball team turned to BFS and finished at 23-3!
Published: Summer 2004
Occasionally a mediocre basketball team can beat a great team. But there was no danger of that for the Ravenna High School girls’ basketball team in Ravenna, Nebraska, a few years ago. “Mediocre” would have been a generous assessment of the 1998 team – they finished at 1-18. At the end of that season it was time to try a different coach and a new weight training program. That new coach was Jeff Thober and that new program was BFS.
“I have been coaching these girls the past five years and have implemented the Bigger Faster Stronger workouts,” says Thober. “Their strength, speed, explosiveness, size and overall physical performances have increased every year – which has given us a tremendous advantage over our opponents.” How much of an advantage? Take a look at their progress:
(Thober’s first year as head coach)
During the 1-18 season, Thober was already a coach at Ravenna, but not for basketball. A 1992 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Thober had been working primarily with the Blue Jays’ football team, becoming head coach in 1997. The football team was enjoying an impressive run, making the playoffs six out of seven years. Thanks to a point system that has since been replaced, the only time the team didn’t make the playoffs was in 1999, despite having an 8-1 record.
“Switching to girls’ basketball was an awesome challenge,” says Thober. “It was also a refreshing change to come out of one sport and into another and to get to work with a new groups of kids.” The first order of business was to get his new athletes on a serious weight training program. “The girls had never been on a structured program before and had not been held accountable for their attendance, so the percentage of girls who lifted year-round was very low.”
Although Thober’s education at the University of Nebraska had exposed him to other popular weight training programs, he evaluated the BFS program as the best choice for his athletes. “My athletes really relate to the BFS program because they can set individual goals and see continual improvements, and it helps me as a coach because I can see their progress just by looking at their workout cards. It has simplified the training process and helped motivate the athletes.”
In addition to having his new high school athletes use BFS, Thober makes certain the junior high athletes he will eventually be working with get a good head start with the BFS Readiness Program. He also ensures that all his athletes work together and cooperate unselfishly. “Every year we’ve had freshman come up and play in varsity games, even starting some games. The camaraderie is very good here because everyone wants to win and be the best.”
Another advantage the Blue Jays have is that the town of Ravenna, which only has a population of 1200, enthusiastically supports the girls’ basketball. Says Thober, “When a team makes it to the state championships which is in Lincoln, the town shuts down for a couple of days so everyone can come to the game.”
When asked what exercises are best for a female basketball player, Thober replied, “The clean is such an explosive lift and that’s especially important for rebounding and pushing off, and I like the straight-leg deadlift, but these athletes need all the core lifts. I also do a lot of speed ladder and mini-hurdler workouts to improve their footwork.”
To motivate his players, Thober established a recognition system for lightweight girls (under 130 pounds bodyweight) who total 400 pounds in the bench, squat and clean; and for heavyweight girls (over 130 pounds bodyweight) who total 500 pounds in these lifts. In addition to having their names placed on a record board, those who achieve the benchmark total receive a T-shirt. The following are listed in the middle
Concerning the differences between coaching male and female athletes, Thober says, “There’s a lot of myths out there about girls and weight training that need to be addressed,” says Thober. “Besides the fear that many of the girls have of getting bulky, some think they are going to get wide hips from lifting weights. I tell them if they want to blame wide hips on something, blame their genetic line!”
In looking over the accomplishments of his athletes, Thober reflects that he didn’t think he would stay this long at Ravenna High School. “When I first came here I figured I’d be here for maybe a year and then move on. But something has always made me want to stay here, and that’s the kids – you just can’t beat the kids in our school!”