Okemos Athletics Has Higher Standards
with New Strength and Conditioning
OKEMOS - Opened in February, the new Okemos High School strength and conditioning room is available for teams to use it a training tool for the first year.
"We wanna push ourselves more than we've pushed ourselves before in the past," Okemos Athletic Director Ira Childress said.
With it, Okemos Athletics hired strength and conditioning supervisor Kellie Fultz, who creates workouts that will help prevent injuries, prepare and improve athletes for their upcoming seasons.
"The easy part is doing the sport. The hard part is the preseason, the off-season, the in-season training, that they may not really like or it may just be more of a challenge to them," Fultz said.
Okemos student-athletes have been used to training only with their coaches, and Okemos boys soccer senior Joe Chappelle said that Fultz working with his coach has been helpful on and off the soccer field.
"It's like an extra set of eyes, almost like an extra perspective," Chappelle said.
Fultz said that there is a lot more that goes into being successful at a sport.
"When you're watching the professionals, when you're watching the collegiate athletes, they don't just do their sport. They do a lot of things outside of their sport, which is your strength training, your speed and agility training, your proper nutrition," she said. "There are so many different aspects to being a college athlete or a professional athlete, or just a top high school athlete."
The strength and conditioning center's purpose is not only for preseason, but for during and post-season.
"We work on a lot of legs and core work which translates into the soccer field because we need to be faster, we need to be stronger out there," Okemos boys soccer senior Neeraj Padmanabhan said.
To show high school athletes how necessary strength and conditioning workouts are, Fultz explains that what they do inside in that room will make them better on the field and on the court.
"Because they love the sport, when you can tell them if they can do this, then it will mean this, they get that and they respond to that and they go 'okay I understand why I'm doing this.' So I think that helps them push a little bit harder, because they look at what it can do for them on the field or on the court, Fultz said.
For example, soccer players do high jumps to improve their headers and to learn how to land, and they do quick feet so they are faster and able to dribble the ball better.
"When (soccer players) go up for a header, when they come down they're training how to land so they don't blow out their knees or come down with an ankle injury, things like that. So for the kids it's all about knowing why am I doing this? And I'm able to equate that to their specific sport," she said.
Fultz said she is a positive coach in the weight room, adding corrections when necessary, but mostly motivating and showing the athletes that they are capable of more than they think they are.
"I like to push them as much as I can to increase the weight or push just a little bit harder, and a lot of that is in your head," she said.
Creating a comfortable environment for every high school player, they can improve more and faster.
"There is no competition in here. There is no he's lifting, she's lifting more than I am, so you kind of have to talk to them a little bit about the mental aspect of it, is you're not comparing yourself to the person next to you," Fultz said. "It's all about that one person in here and how they can do better, and who if you write down your weights in a piece of paper, and in a month they can see that they've increased, that's a huge mental lift for them, like 'wow, I improved myself.'"
But Fultz keeps an eye out for slacking.
"I'm like really, that's what you decided to lift today? You know, kind of being sarcastic with them, because I know they can do more than that. And they kind of look at me and roll their eyes as high school kids do. But it's fun to see, it's almost as if they're testing me, 'is she really watching me or is she just here?' No I'm really watching and I'm going to make sure, okay maybe they are having an off they today and they're using only an eight pound, well next on Wednesday I'm going to make them use 10 because I know they can use 10," Fultz said.
And when the kids don't have much energy?
"I'm not a yeller, I'm not a screamer but I do like to get loud in here and I you know blast the music in here and I just kind of get it a fun atmosphere, and get them pushing each other too," she said.
Each athlete is paired with a teammate for the workouts.
"It just puts you in the mentality that I can't give up, let's keep working hard and I think this strength and conditioning place is a great place to get in that mindset," Okemos girls basketball senior Oghenehoke Johnson said.
They will then spot each other in all exercises, so that the teammates themselves are seeing how much improvement is being done and motivating each other to keep working hard.
"She's not too aggressive, but she makes sure that if we're slacking she lets us know and she whips us in shape," Chappelle said.
To teach the athletes to spot, though, Fultz "hammers form for them."
"First of all form is huge because obviously I don't want them getting injured in here," she said. "In regards to the sports or the athletes, we're trying to help build strength, help build speed, agility and in the entire bubble we're trying to prevent injuries, so with proper trainings we can prevent injuries. And that's what we want, we want the athletes to come out of their season stronger, better and injury free."
Fultz works at the Okemos strength and conditioning center Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon, and she said those are the best two hours of her days.
"The students, they're fun to work with. They're really fun to work with, they're willing to try anything and they listen. They're little sponges, they soak it up, if I give them a correction, they're really working hard and trying to correct and do it the right way."
For Okemos Athletics, this new facility means creating new goals for each team that uses it.
"Now we have somebody that can really help set that standard, and help our student athletes be the best they can be," Childress said.