The obvious effects of powerlifting on a young athlete’s body is pretty hard to miss.
Not only does it develop musculature, but it creates compound strengths that can cross over from sport to sport.
In essence, the body becomes a temple of weight work.
“Powerlifting has helped me a lot in other sports,” Basehor-Linwood powerlifter Phillip Perez said. “Powerlifting gets me stronger, faster, in great shape and more competitive. It has helped me in my personal life by showing me that there will be hard challenges in life but when I put my mind to it, I can do it. It also helps me do math and keep track of numbers.”
New BLHS powerlifting team coach Justin Wieser sees the allure of the sport as it brings in people of all shapes and sizes.
“Another cool aspect of what we see in our powerlifting team is the participation of students who don't normally participate in athletics at our school,” Wieser said. “I have met numerous students who have no desire to compete in the ‘normal’ team sports at the school, but love the idea of competing in powerlifting. It gives these students the opportunity to be a part of a team and to compete in a very unique environment where they can have individual and team success at the same time.”
Leavenworth High head powerlifting coach Sean Sachen also understands what the work in the sport does for a youth’s physique.
“Physiologically, there is a major benefit to powerlifting that helps prevent injuries,” Sachen said. “At Leavenworth, we talk to kids about balance in the body, push/pull, front/back. Most people only work what they can see (the front) but athletes are built in the back. We focus on the ‘posterior chain’ for our athletes. We also follow any pushing lift, the bench press, with a pull, pull-ups. This keeps the body in balance and less likely for ‘non-contact’ injuries.”
A number of girls continue to flock toward the sport.
“Powerlifting has only made me a better and more well-rounded athlete,” senior BLHS powerlifter Maria Howard said. “Being a transfer as of my junior year, I was already somewhat experienced in the weight room but the growth that this program has brought me is tremendous. It works on all aspects of your game, the speed, the power, the strength, the stamina, you name it, and powerlifting has improved me in ways I never could have imagined. Powerlifting and the weights program in general here is amazing because it is filled with driven and committed athletes.
“This program has taught me the value of commitment and how important it is, whether it be a team that depends on you now or a family or job later in life. (Former coach) Ross Schwisow instilled a habit in me that I will carry throughout life. In order to have wellness in our lives we must take care of our bodies and I love the fact that powerlifting is not only a way to keep my body in tiptop shape but there are rewards behind it and you see the results whether it be your numbers jumping 20 pounds by the end of the season or by getting into better physical shape. There is nothing but positivity that I have gained from being a part of this program.”
Schwisow, now Basehor-Linwood’s athletic director, sees the sport as completely indiscriminate of either gender.
“Our program has always been very focused on teaching all students no matter age, gender, sport or non-sport,” Schwisow said. “In the winter, there is basically only basketball for females. What are the girls who are preparing for spring soccer, track, softball or their next sport doing? It has picked up a lot of growth around other schools as well for females. The key is that if a proper training program is in place that is ground-based and focuses on movement of the hip, knee and ankle, you will develop the speed and athleticism that the sport takes. For us it has grown because they see the power and speed they develop as well as the strength.”
Even the teaching technique doesn’t vary between boy and girl.
“Most females will have better mobility and focus more on the technique,” Schwisow said. “Males tend to focus only on the result or the amount of weight. We work hard to re-wire that way of thinking. With solid form and technique, special things can happen. We are very Olympic-based on our principles and do not train either gender differently.”
Sachen feels that a lack of powerlifting could hurt an athlete’s progress.
“I feel that if you are not lifting in a structured program in high school and in the summer, you are falling behind,” Sachen said. “Talent can only take you so far. I tell kids that if there is a player at another school that is just as talented as you, it comes down to which one of you is working the hardest.”
Hard work and discipline are very much factors in becoming a strong powerlifter.
“We have a set of nutrition guidelines we have all students follow,” Schwisow said. “We talk and address these tips during each training session so they can use it to mold them. It is important that they don't worry about weight gain or weight loss but focus on body composition and improvement. It is vital that they hydrate as well as eat the proper amounts of calories their bodies need for energy and regeneration. It is not just during powerlifting season but making it a part of their lifestyle.”
The sport has made such an impact on Howard that she sees it being a major fixture in her life for years to come.
“I wish to come back once I have graduated and hopefully be able to be one of the coaches in the summer program or the powerlifting program,” Howard said. “I wish to share the love for this sport that the coaches have instilled in me. I want to be that positive influence on someone, that someone else was for me.
“Like Schwisow said day in and day out, these are the habit-forming years of your life so what you do now is going to determine what you will be doing later in life. If I continue to do this and make it a habit like Schwisow has said, the only thing I am doing is setting myself up for success. So I will for sure make it a part of my life, no doubt.”
She isn’t alone in her thoughts.
“I definitely see myself sticking with this,” Basehor-Linwood powerlifter Justin Jennings said. “This is a very special thing that Basehor-Linwood has. It's something we shouldn't take for granted. It's not just lifting weights that makes me keep wanting to do this. It's the atmosphere the I have engulfed inside of me that I don't want to let go.”