No Offseason: One-on-One with Bonnie Roberts, Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach

By Wendell Maxey, King Sports Information and Social Media Liaison 

It’s safe to say student-athletes at King School are in extremely good hands thanks to the hard work and dedication of Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach, Bonnie Roberts. 

In her 12th year at King, Bonnie has not only helped students, coaches, and individual teams each season establish and maintain healthy habits in the weight room, with conditioning, nutrition, wellness, and stressing the importance of getting enough sleep, but she’s also set a standard for success for the King Athletics Department thanks to her care and leadership. Along with her role as Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach, Bonnie also serves as Associate Head Coach for the Varsity Girls Soccer team and has formed bonds with Viking student-athletes that extend well beyond the soccer pitch and the weight room. 

It’s a timely reminder that there really is no offseason when it comes to helping student-athletes improve in sports and as people. 

Prior to leading King boys and girls in “Intro to Weight Lifting” sessions throughout July that are designed to acclimate new members to the Vikings weight room policies, procedures, and the basics of weight lifting, Bonnie took time to share her thoughts on the importance of strength and conditioning, her work with King student-athletes, summer regiments, and preparing for the upcoming 2021 Fall Athletics season...

Before we get into your work this summer preparing student-athletes to improve their strength and conditioning habits during the “offseason”, can you share what your experience was like during the 2020-21 school year and navigating the pandemic? How did that time impact you and your work as a strength and conditioning coach?

This year was definitely both challenging and rewarding as a strength and conditioning coach. Because of limited capacity in the weight room, I was unable to provide access to the weight room for teams. We had to split the teams up and have them attend abbreviated sessions, which was challenging to get the kids to buy into the program because the energy level is different without all of your teammates cheering you on.

On the rewarding side of things, I was able to work with student-athletes individually more than I normally would. We would work on individual goals and aspects they needed to improve on. With the limited capacity, I was able to pay attention to each student-athlete more intently and also made stronger connections with them. 

What did you learn the most about the King student-athletes and even yourself during such an unprecedented time?

These kids are resilient and dedicated to improving themselves physically and intellectually. Not only were they consistent in their training, but they asked questions on how to improve outside of the gym walls including nutrition, stress management, and sleep.  I found myself addressing more life skills based around those things than merely just training with some of them, but it is all included in the total well-being of a student athlete. I found great value in that time with them. I believe that the weight room was a sense of normalcy for student-athletes where they could challenge their bodies, without being in a competition setting and relieve some stress from the day filled with screen time. 

It was also a busy school year personally as you moved into the lead Strength and Conditioning Coach role last February. What are some ways you are looking to provide student-athletes with the chance to grow even more? 

It has been a year of change in the strength and conditioning department and it has been a challenge to integrate into this position, especially when doing it alone the majority of the time. It is important for us in the department to provide a staff that is attentive to each student's needs and goals, and is able to guide them through safe and well structured programming. We will be implementing a player profile system in the Fall that will assist in identifying areas of improvement, but also and most importantly, injury prevention and treatment. We are looking to track our athletes throughout their athletic careers so they can look back and see what patterns in training lead to specific outcomes, either good or bad. Our team including the athletic trainers will be able to assist in reaching the utmost potential for each athlete here at King. 

Watching the 2021 Senior Class graduate was an end of an era in a lot of ways as you hand a hand in these student-athletes excelling in and out of the game for the past four years. What legacy do they leave behind for the underclassmen who now follow in their footsteps?

The Class of 2021 has been the first class I’ve really trained since they were freshmen. It's been impressive to see their drive and determination to get better at their sport. I am partial to complimenting the female athletes in the program, because they have all been so proud of how strong they have become over the years. They are setting a positive example when it comes to viewing weight training and exercise as an athletic enhancing activity, rather than an aesthetic activity. This is huge for the athletic department's future and will produce a strong program with minimal injuries, and increasingly enhanced performance on the fields and courts.

For incoming Grade 9 student-athletes, what word of advice would you give to help prepare them for the 2021 Fall Athletics season and their approach to strength and conditioning workouts?

9th Grade is the time to set the foundation for advancement. We need to solidify basic movements and emphasize the importance of safety and effective programming. Every athlete needs to train smarter, not harder. Proper rep ranges, exercises, and rest periods are essential to keep the athlete's body as efficient as possible. If there are weaknesses in the athlete's player profile, it is essential that we address them now, before loading an athlete as they continue through their high school career. 

What’s your biggest message to student-athletes as they’ve transitioned into summer workouts and look ahead to the ‘21 Fall Athletics season? 

The biggest message to student-athletes is START NOW for preseason. Do not wait to get in shape for an intense season 2 weeks prior. The further ahead of the season you start with a sport specific program, the more effect you will see from your hard work. This includes strength, power, and endurance training. Also, the earlier you start, the less likely you will suffer non contact injuries related to muscle fatigue, and increase the ability to endure contact more easily. Also, if we start training now, any adjustments that  need to be made, there will be enough time for the body to adjust to the changes made to the training program. 

Also, because the weight room is hot and the preseason training cycle is difficult, HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE! If you are even experiencing the slightest level of dehydration (3%), your power production decreases by 20%! Hydration and proper fueling is very important.

You are also leading a new summer program at King this summer. What can King student-athletes expect from that offering and other workout sessions in July and August?

We are offering preseason and offseason programs for all sports. Football has their lifts run by Varsity Football Head Coach Dan Gouin and there are several opportunities for athletes from all sports to attend sessions. We are available Monday through Friday between the hours of 3:30-5:30pm.

Also, new this year is our “Intro to Weight Lifting” sessions. These sessions are mandatory in order to use the weight room with athletic teams, or individually. These sessions will provide a basic understanding of how a workout is built, reinforce all safety precautions to be followed during each session, and how to do the major lifts (clean, deadlift, squat and bench) properly, reducing the chance of injury in the future. 

The work and leadership you provide is so crucial to each program and student at King. How do you and your staff measure progress?

Our staff constantly evaluates our athletes everyday when they walk in the door. We check in with them about their goals and how they feel about their progress, and what they would like to work on and we adapt from there. It's important for compliance and adherence to the program that the athlete feels that they have an opportunity to provide input on how their training is progressing. 

We also evaluate progress by having the athletes log their workouts. This will be an essential part of our player profile development that we will be implementing in the fall of 2021. The strength and conditioning staff along with the athletic training staff will be performing important assessments that evaluate an athletes likelihood of suffering from an overuse or non-contact injury. From those assessments, we can identify specifically what each athlete needs to improve, both from the injury prevention standpoint, but also the performance standpoint. For example, with these evaluations, we can identify if one leg is less stable than the other, which can affect many sports, but also the athletes ability to perform a proper squat without inflicting injury.

 

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