BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – There’s a sense of something happening here.
The Fort Madison High School athletic programs have a tradition like most schools in terms of your sporadic state champions and championships, the ups and downs of programs, and the revolving coaches.
But something is happening at FMHS with a younger generation of coaches coming in, mixed with some more traditional names, and a supportive administration.
Derek Doherty, an assistant football and wrestling coach, works up a summer athletic enhancement program each year, that on Wednesday had roughly sixty boys and girls ranging from incoming seniors to as young as sixth graders.
“Well, it was a lot of explaining but we got through it,” Doherty said after the 90-minute workouts. “We’ll find out in about two weeks who’s committed. It’s tough the first couple of weeks because they get sore, but they need to realize the best thing for soreness is movement.”
Doherty said the program is a compilation of guidance from several nationally known strength trainers including Chris Doyle, the University of Iowa’s Director of Strength and Conditioning, and Chip Morton, the Cincinnati Bengals strength and conditioning coach.
The student-athletes work the program in about 15 stations in groups of three to four kids. Each rotation is about one minute and the next person in the group does the station workout. After all in the group have done the station, the whole group runs to the next station. The students work out as a group and run along side each other for encouragement and support.
The program runs all summer with three phases Doherty has set up to maximize the impact.
“We’ve got it mapped out for three phases. We do hypertrophy phases for two weeks, then move to a strength phase for four weeks, and then we go to a power phase leading into the season, and then we go into our in-season phase which is just a strength and power phase,” he said.
“But this isn’t just physical. I think as much as it’s physical, it’s also a huge mental test. I think they did good today, but they’ll get better. We focus on not losing hustle and being able to finish.”
Fort Madison Head Wrestling Coach Ryan Smith was one of about seven coaches at the program manning a station.
“I think that AE is such a great opportunity for our student-athletes,” said Smith said Wednesday. “Those that commit will see tremendous gains in their performance and will be less likely to get injured. It is not just a luxury anymore, but a necessity to keep up with the other schools that offer the same opportunities.”
Andy Mitchell, FMHS’ activities director said the program was up and running before he came and not only is good for the student-athletes but also for the coaches.
“This was a program that started before I got here with previous ADs and coaches,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel. We’ve encouraged our coaches and they know that every program needs to have kids that are stronger, more flexible and more explosive. Right now this is the type of coaches we have. They understand the benefits of the program Coach Doherty is running.”
He said FMHS has a strong group of coaches right now.
Right now we have real good rapport amongst our coaches,” he said. “They realize they share so many kids and we push that multi-sport mentality. They realize that working together is just going to benefit all the programs. We have some real good people as coaches right now. Good guys and ladies and they work to get along and push our kids to do what they need to do.”
Coach Shiffman said this kind of program is somewhat new to him.
“I’m more used to seeing preseason workouts. This is kind of new and different and cool for me,” Shiffman said.
“The really neat thing is it’s not just football training for football, basketball training for basketball, and softball training for softball. Everyone is training for the whole school year. We’re building multi-sport athletes.”
Shiffman said Doherty has created a program that the school should be proud of and it comes from his multi-sport commitment to the school.
“This is his baby and he should be proud of it. You can really tell from this the ones who are believing. The multi-sport girls are really working and they’re showing the results because they’ve bought into it. We’re just trying to get everyone in there and buying into it,” Shiffman said.
“I got a great comment from Coach Doherty that he’s a multi-sport coach. He’s coached track, tennis, soccer, and is coaching wrestling and football. Coach Smith was out there, Coach Rickelman was out there, Coach Bailey was out there and he was loving every minute of it. These are multi-sport coaches. I think it’s important that we’re out there for our benefit of course, but it’s also important to the kids, seeing that we are believing in it.”
Kent Bailey, who’s been in the FMHS coaching circles for decades and is the current head volleyball, assistant basketball, and assistant softball coach was also working a station Wednesday.
“Our athletes have talked about wanting to change the culture,” he said. “They are now beginning to realize you have to work for it. It was very encouraging to see the 60-plus kids making a commitment each morning. Twenty-six of those were volleyball players who went to skills training right after athletic enhancement.”
Doherty said he’s sent the program to Doyle at the University and then tweaks the program year-in and year-out to take advantage of new thinking and technology.
“I’ve worked with Doyle, sent him off our program and he’s been in contact. I’ve got a couple others I communicate with. We went and watched the Bengals guy speak and that was really cool because he not only was working with the million dollar athletes but he was also working with his kid’s high school. I’m constantly doing research and trying to stay relevant and give the kids the best program we can.”
Doherty said he made the connection with Doyle during the summer when he coached Doyle’s son in a wrestling program.
Right now the program focuses on lifting Monday and Tuesday, agility and speed on Wednesday and then more lifting on Thursday. Fridays are off days for the program.
Mitchell said the basics of the program are the same.
“The core of it is essentially the same. Our coaches show up, you’ll even see our golf coach out here, but today you saw the football, wrestling, volleyball. Brian Mendez runs a similar program for the track kids, but they get going a bit earlier in the day.”
He also said the program is good at building camaraderie among the coaches.
“There is a sense of friendship among or coaches. Comfortable with each other, can take a jab at each other, but when it’s time to go to work, it’s time to go to work.”