A weight training club is having a positive impact creating well-rounded athletes for high school and middle school students at Winamac. The Champ Club was started two years ago by Craig Barr, the current Warriors football coach. The letters of the club stand for Character, Heart, Attacking Attitude, Mission, Persistent.
It is a weight training club that brings together technology and good old-fashioned hard work in the weight room.
Students meet three days a week in the morning before school for workouts. The workouts are charted on an app called PLT4M, which is paid for by Winamac schools for each student. There are over 100 students who are on the app, Barr said.
“Now kids are in the weight room and they’ve got their workout in front of them. It’s all based on their maxes. They just enter it on their phones,” he said.
If the kids need help with a workout, they can watch a 30-second video on the app to find the proper form.
“The app is set up by exercise science people and it is designed for high school athletes,” Barr added.
Barr started the Champ Club for girls athletes two years ago this month and for boys athletes just over a year ago. He was hired as the head football coach at Winamac in January of 2017.
While the club is designed for working out in the mornings, students can also work out in the afternoons and record it on their phones.
Winamac’s school weight room was renovated with new flooring and all new equipment in 2016. There is also a 24/7 Get Fit NonStop center on the north side of town near McDonald’s where students can work out.
Barr said that ideally athletes will work out in the mornings from 6:30-7:20 a.m. before school three days a week and then attend practices or games after school.
“We’ve had to try to break some of the myths in the community about ‘We don’t want to lift on game day.’ If you don’t lift on game day in basketball or baseball, you’ll never lift,” Barr said. “The physiological aspect, from a science standpoint for a teenager, if you work out to fatigue in the weight room, it takes about 6-7 hours for your body to fully recover. So that’s why weight programs should be in the morning, so if we’re done at 7:30, by 2 or 2:30 in the afternoon, your body is ready to go. So you’re ready to go to baseball, basketball, football, track, whatever you go to.
“Once you’ve lifted for 6-8 consecutive workouts, your body, it will adjust.”
Barr said when he was at Noblesville, there were separate weight lifting classes for football, baseball and basketball players during the school day. While Winamac has two weight lifting classes, the club helps fill the gap for athletes.
“I started this Champ Club in the morning so kids could do it. It’s hard to get up at that time in the morning, but if you want to do it, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Barr said. “I try to sell our kids on it’s not special to get up in the morning, because the good programs around the state are doing it. This is just the way that we have found that works the best at Winamac. We call it the Warrior Way.”
Barr added that some of the girls who started with the club two years ago have had exemplary work ethic.
“I bet there’s about 10 girls that have been at about 285 [workouts out of a possible 290],” he said. “They just don’t ever miss. It’s fun to hear parents say ‘I don’t even have to wake my girls up.’ They’re just here.”
One of those girls is freshman Aubrey Gearhart, who plays basketball and softball at Winamac.
“After going to Champ Club for a while, it became a habit and part of my routine. I could physically feel myself getting stronger, which boosted my self confidence,” Aubrey said. “On my travel softball team I switched roles to become a power hitter, and I went from having zero home runs to seven.”
Aubrey’s mother, Gretchen, said the club has positive aspects outside of sports as well. Gretchen has three kids in the club, Aubrey, eighth grade daughter Ella and sixth grade son Max.
“My daughters have always been confident, strong girls, but this has given them confidence I never really expected,” Gretchen said. “They’ve always been hard working and played athletics their whole life, this has taken them to a new level.
“They have noticed strength, agility and speed improvements, but their biggest improvement has been their self esteem. For young girls today, that’s something you can’t just teach them, they have to find it somewhere.”
Discipline and accountability along with living a healthy lifestyle are life lessons that the club helps to teach, Gretchen added.
“This is just such a great habit to get into, the discipline, to start you on the right tone for the day. Then for your life, too, there’s such a rat race, so many things demanding of our time, but this is just part of who they are in the culture. Honestly, I think they’re confident young ladies because of what they’ve learned and the habits that they’ve made,” she said.
“That’s going to make them on time for their job. That’s going to make them have high standards for their job, or their family or their life. Because they’re not going to play softball or basketball all their life, but those are habits that carry on.”
Winamac volleyball coach Cathy DeFries also helps run the club. She’s a fifth grade teacher and plans to help steer her students into the club in the future. Students can join the club as early as sixth grade.
“I love the camaraderie it brings,” DeFries said. “Those who take advantage of it are going to see results. Hopefully as teams we do too.”