BEMIDJI - There are a variety of reasons why the Bemidji High School athletic programs have been so successful during the past few seasons.
During the 2011-12 school year, the Lumberjacks were in the hunt for state appearances in just about every sport. The trend started in the fall when Sam Carlson and Jenna Truedson represented BHS at the state cross-country meet. And the year ended two weeks ago when the baseball team finished second in the Class 3A state tournament.
Talented athletes are at the root of that success, but talent means little if there is not a year-long commitment to excel.
"In order for us to keep up with the competition and to achieve the kids' goals, you must develop an off-season work ethic," said BHS assistant football coach Bryan Stoffel. "Training in the off-season is a key ingredient for success."
To help the BHS athletes succeed Stoffel is directing the Bemidji Lumberjack and Sanford Health POWER Summer Satellite Program. The program, which is offered Monday through Thursday, is designed to introduce Bemidji middle school and high school athletes to the proper training methods. At the core of that training is improving an athlete's speed, agility, strength and plyometrics.
"Our goal is to develop an off-season work ethic that leads to in-season success," Stoffel said.
The POWER training regimen is intended to help an athlete compete in every activity instead of being sport specific.
"We purposely stress the complete athlete," Stoffel said. "Our philosophy is that Bemidji High School isn't big enough to allow kids to specialize. As a result, we want to train the athletes so their skills can translate to a number of sports."
There are a few single-sport athletes at BHS but the vast majority will be involved in at least two activities. During the past school year more than 120 students were multi-sport varsity athletes.
The POWER summer program consists of a series of exercises that, collectively, take 83 minutes to complete. The sessions for the high school athletes begin on the hour starting at 7 a.m. and the students can choose their starting time.
The middle school POWER session begins at 10 a.m.
Adding variety to the workout routine is an optional kettlebell session beginning at 4 p.m.
The middle school program has attracted about 50 students while another 170 high school athletes are taking advantage of the training opportunity.
"Our ultimate goal is to have every middle school and every high school athlete in the program," Stoffel said. "As a staff we will continue to work toward having 100 percent attendance."
Stoffel's staff is well versed in the specifics of the POWER program. Joining him are middle school strength training coach Jeff Wade, high school strength training coach Kyle McMartin, BHS trainer Jon Laakso, Kendra Cobb of the BSU women's track and field team, Brian Leonhardt of the BSU football team and Lumberjacks assistant girls hockey coach Jackie Robertson, who is a certified kettlebell instructor.
"In order for us to do what we do, we need a top-notch staff and that is exactly what we have," Stoffel said. "The staff is committed and the kids are committed. And we are seeing the results of that commitment."
A training session begins with a five-minute warm-up. A 20-minute agility/plyometrics workout is next and that is followed by a 10-minute lift session which follows the Olympic training technique.
Completing the workout are four sessions in the weight room, each 12 minutes long.
"The biggest thing we do is teach the kids how to properly lift weights and how to properly train," Stoffel said. "We also monitor the progress of each athlete and before long the kids are in competition with themselves."
The individual workouts can be modified to best enhance the talents of each student but the ultimate goal for everyone is the same.
"We care about the kids and we want them to reach their potential," Stoffel said. "The success Bemidji High School has had has allowed the kids to dream. I would love to see every kid at Bemidji go to a state tournament and because of our success the kids see that it is possible.
"We are all Lumberjacks here and we believe that Bemidji can be a dominant athletic program in every sport," Stoffel said. "And this Sanford POWER summer program is vital to keeping our tradition of success going."