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Weightlifting key for local athletes

August 06, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

Over the past 25 years one of the biggest changes affecting sports is weight training.

Whether it is football, baseball, basketball, even golf, male and female athletes around the world know to compete in this age, lifting is a must.

Weightlifting has gradually become a major part in high school athletics in the Imperial Valley and a way of life for many Valley football players.

Ask just about any football coach the secret of success and the answer will be "in the weight room."

One of the best examples of weightlifting equaling success on the field is with the Brawley Union High football team.

When John Bishop took over the Wildcat program in the early 1990s he implemented a year-round weightlifting program, which has helped produce a nearly perennial league champion.

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"I think if you have a good lifting program, it will definitely give you an advantage over those who aren't lifting," said Bishop. "Before I got here, lifting wasn't a requirement. But now it is. If a player doesn't come in and lift, then he's not going to play. Football is a sport where strength is really important and we need our players to be strong out there. Lifting not only gets these guys big and strong but it also helps reduce injuries."

Bishop runs three lifting sessions four days a week. From 6 to 8 a.m. his varsity players are lifting, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. his freshmen pump iron and from 3 to 5 p.m. the junior varsity players lift. This summer Bishop said he's had about 95-98 percent attendance in the weight program from his players.

"Lifting is like a philosophy and it's the same as coaching. If you believe in an offense or defense you're going to stick to it so you can be consistent," said Bishop. "That's the same with lifting. I know that we wouldn't be as successful as we are without the weight program. Everything starts in the weight room."

While most other Valley schools are taking about a week break from lifting before "hell week" starts, Bishop's players will continue to lift until the day before their summer practices begin Aug. 16.

That leads to questions about whether some players are being pushed too far.

With Minnesota Viking Pro Bowl offensive tackle Korey Stringer recently dying in practice of heat stroke, that question has been brought to the forefront at all levels of football.

Bishop has spent more than 10 years studying weightlifting and workout programs and has gained knowledge about players' limitations. He knows not to push his players to the edge.

The same is true with Imperial coach Mike Swearingen. He too is a firm believer in the weight program but knows when enough is enough.

"I am really cautious about what our players are doing and make sure they just stay hydrated," said Swearingen. "Whether it's in the weight room or on the field, our coaching staff makes sure these kids get lots of water breaks to prevent dehydration."

But it's one thing for a coach to implement water breaks and ensure a players' safety and it's another for a player to watch out for himself.

Some players have conceded to feeling embarrassed or like they were letting down their teammates when wanting to take breaks.

But there are those who know how far they are able to push themselves.

"When you first start lifting you get all sore and you don't want to go back. But you just have to push yourself to keep going. I've learned my limits and I know how far I can push myself," said Brawley freshman running back Zay Shephard. "But I know the more work I put in the weight room and the more I'm dedicated, it'll help me get stronger so I can be better on the field."

Said Southwest senior running back and linebacker Chris Gonzales: "I know my own limits and I know when enough is enough. And I know a lot of guys who do, too. But at the same time, when I'm in the weight room I'm pushing myself as hard as I can because I know all this is going to pay off during the season."

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