It was a sold-out crowd at Butler Fieldhouse for the 1952 state championship game. With a tied score and seconds left on the clock, the Hickory Huskers huddled up for Coach Dale’s final play. Coach Dale wanted Jimmy Chitwood, the best player, to be a decoy.
Jimmy looked at his coach with confidence and said: “I’ll make it.” We all know how the rest of this famous scene plays out from the 1986 classic Hoosiers.
Since Hoosiers, Indiana High School Basketball still reigns supreme. But, if the Hickory Huskers wanted to contend for a title in today’s high school environment, Jimmy and the boys would probably need to hit the weight room.
A Shift To The Weight Room
One Indiana high school basketball coach, Josh Thompson, has seen a significant shift towards the weight room over the years. He feels high school basketball coaches have embraced strength and conditioning as a crucial key to success.
“I think the big shift has come from the emphasis college programs and trainers like Alan Stein have placed on strength and agility training.
Particularly in the last decade, coaches’ mindsets have changed dramatically when it comes to thinking about the weight room.”
A Tradition of Excellence (On the Court)
Coach Thompson was hired last year to be the Head Basketball Coach at Barr-Reeve High School. Although a small school of 300 students, Barr Reeve prides itself on a rich basketball and athletic tradition.
Barr-Reeve Hoops has had an impressive 44 winning seasons in the past 45 years, 6 trips to the state championship game, and 1 state title.
“While the tradition of excellence on the court had always been there, we hadn’t been known as a school that really promoted the importance of a strength training program,” says Coach Thompson.
When Coach Thompson first started at Barr Reeve High School, he and other sport coaches agreed that something needed to change.
“One of the reasons I was hired was to change the mindset and culture of our athletes and community towards strength and agility training.”
Coach Thompson knew that to stay in the hunt for state championships, they needed to invest in the weight room. With the support of the school administration, Barr Reeve set out to make significant upgrades — in both equipment and programming.
Progress – On and Off the Court
With some updated equipment and new investments like PLT4M, Thompson aimed to provide high-level programming that would help get his athletes in the best overall shape possible. He started working with his basketball athletes, with the hopes of expanding school-wide.
Using the progressional programs within PLT4M, Thompson could assign workouts for both his beginner and advanced basketball athletes. Before the season, every athlete could be challenged in the weight room, while building a solid foundation of movements.
This fresh start allowed them to hit the basketball season prepared and in shape, ready to shift to the in-season program. The Barr Reeve basketball team was able to achieve progress in the weight room and see significant gains even while in-season.
Better yet, Barr Reeve was able to make it all the way back to the state championship game. While they came up just one game short of a title, this was just the beginning for Coach Thompson.
Past Basketball: School Growth
What started with the basketball team, has now grown into a school-wide training approach. Coach Thompson is now teaching Advanced PE and helping other sports like cross country, girls basketball, and baseball incorporate strength and conditioning into their training.
Everywhere he looks, he sees the success of the strength and conditioning focus. While just the pure physicality of his students is improving, they are also becoming students and teachers of strength and conditioning.
“In Advanced PE, I had an athlete teaching a new student key components of a clean. The very next day at our Breakfast Club training sessions, I watched one of our basketball players power-clean like a beast.
The first thought that came to my mind was that a little over a year ago, most of these kids didn’t even know what a power-clean was. Now they are killing it and coaching up younger kids.”
Big Gains, Bigger Goals
In Coach Thompson’s eyes, Barr Reeve still has big goals and a long way to go as an athletic program. But, he knows the shift made as a coaching staff and administration, has helped students to see big gains on and off the court and playing fields.
“Our kids were always winners, but now we have brought another edge to the plate. We feel we are in better physical condition than other schools/teams in our area. We are now physically on the same level as schools four and five times our size.”