5 Steps to Upgrade Your Weight Room

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

The first step in upgrading your program’s strength and conditioning program might be making renovations to the weight room. There are ways to make that happen that don’t involve increasing your local community’s taxes. Include as many sports teams and athletes as possible into your plan so that the community can share the expense.

Shortly after being promoted to the head football coaching position at Lynden High (Wash.) in 2016, Blake VanDalen turned his attention to the weight room. Lynden High had a great space for the weight room, as the previous administration blocked off a 60 x 70-foot space for strength training when the school doubled in size in 1993.

“I give the previous head coach and Principal credit for establishing that footprint,” VanDalen said. “The space was there. That’s the best thing the district did 25 years ago. They moved all of the weight equipment from t he 1950s, 60s and 70s into that weight room as part of the physical education program.”

However, none of the weight room equipment had been upgraded since that time, and most of the equipment was at least 30 years old.

“I said, ‘We need to upgrade the weight room,’” VanDalen said. “But the School Board had just passed new bonds for a brand new middle school and elementary school. New taxes and bonds wouldn’t work.”

VanDalen took the following steps to get almost $200,000 in funding for a weight room upgrade.

  • Share a plan with the School Board. VanDalen, along with students from the football and volleyball teams, asked the Lynden School Board if they could ask the community for support to remodel. Lineman Cooper Brown, running back Trevin Melendez and a couple of volleyball players went to the school library and lifted weights while VanDalen made his pitch to the school board.
  • Seek out private donors. From March 15 into June, VanDalen met with 60-70 companies, families and organizations in Lynden and was able to raise $150,000. Lynden High recently partnered with Papa Murphy’s for a day on which all pizza proceeds went toward funding the weight room.
  • Give the players a fundraising goal. Kids themselves have been a big help too. They put together a lift-a-thon in the spring that raised $8,000.
  • Find a contracting partner. VanDalen partnered with Sorinex, an exercise company out of South Carolina. One of its employees, Kevin Kamphouse, was a student and player for VanDalen when he coached and taught at Nooksack Valley for a year. Sorinex recently installed a new training facility for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Other clients are the Boston Red Sox and the University of Oregon.
  • Complete the project in steps. The equipment was ordered in June and a new floor was installed in preparation for the equipment, which was delivered Aug. 22. The total project cost is $200,000, so there is still bit to go.
  • Customize it to your team’s history. Giant framed photos of past Lynden High School state championship teams and athletes line the walls of the Lions weight room.

Finding a strength program

Once he had all of the equipment he needed, VanDalen needed to find a program that worked for every student in the school.

As a teacher of the classes: Weight Training and Fitness for Life, his reach extends beyond just the football team.

“I have a special education degree, so I needed to use many resources to build a program for every kid in the school,” VanDalen said. “I want to provide an opportunity for each kid to individualize the program to work for them.”

VanDalen takes advantage of the school’s block schedule by maximizing every minute of the 83-minute class periods. His class consists of a full warmup, stretching, and a 1-hour lift before the students get changed back into their school clothes.

He also offers an advanced weight training class for athletes who are familiar with lifting. He teaches eight of those classes throughout the week.