As a McPherson High graduate and former standout Bullpup athlete, Travis Sears — now a teacher in the McPherson school system — knows first-hand the impact the SPS (Speed, Power, Strength) program has had on Bullpup athletics.
When Tom Young arrived at McPherson High in 2006, he instituted the program in full force. It’s no coincidence that MHS athletics, not just football, currently are on an extended and inclusive run the likes seldom seen. All you have to do is look in the Roundhouse rafters and see the number of banners accumulated in the last decade, thanks in part to the SPS program.
Sears has been an assistant football coach among his USD 418 duties and for the 2014-15 school year, he’ll be taking over for the retired Doug Gayer in the physical education department at McPherson Middle School.
Sears’ first order of business is establishing the SPS program there and so far reaction to the news has been overwhelming. According to Sears, he’s expecting anywhere from 75 to 90 MMS students to take the class each semester. He knows the positive results it can have.
“SPS has helped every sport here at MHS,” he said. “It has reduced injury rates, improved athletic performance and helped create lifetime habits of exercising. One thing that is nice about McPherson is that we do strive for excellence in many things. Because of this, I knew that middle school students would really like this opportunity to start lifting at this age and to be taught how to lift, not just show up at the gym and do their own thing with no coaching or teaching of how to lift.”
Sears said the MMS football locker room will be turned into a weight room, covering 1,500 square feet. His goal is to have 10 weight stations and each will have a squat cage, adjustable bench, 15-pound bar, 45-pound bar, and rubber and metal weights. “That will allow us to do all the classical lifts to teach form,” he said.
Of course, the lifters won’t get into heavier lifting until they’re ready.
“I just want to emphasize that lifting at the middle school will begin with lifting sticks (1-3 pounds) to teach form,” Sears said. “And not until form is mastered will students begin lifting with a 15-pound bar and then to a 45-pound bar. Students will be allowed to progress at their level and our biggest priority is correct form and injury prevention for this age level.”
Sears has no doubts the SPS program will have an impact at the middle school level.
“I am hoping that this will help all sport levels here in McPherson,” he said. “I am hoping to see a direct impact for middle school sports and see an improvement in high school sports as these kids begin competing in high school. I can't predict what this will do, but weight lifting correctly will help athletic performance for all students who take the class.”
At this point, the majority of those expressing interest have been boys, but Sears emphasizes and encourages girls to take part as well.
“Currently we have around 15 girls signed up for each semester,” he said. “This is an aspect I would like to see improve to get closer to a 50-50 mix. We currently have between 75-90 kids signed up each semester right now and would like to get more females in the mix.”
SPS at the middle school level is not a suddenly novel idea. Sears said McPherson would not be the first school to have it at this level.
“There are many middle schools in Kansas that have a weight lifting program,” he said. Hutch, Hays, Concordia, Halstead, just to name a few. This is not a new thing as many schools have this type of program.”
Starting up the program doesn’t come without a price tag. Sears already has a strong head start on donations (he needs about $15,000) and he’s about halfway home to his goal.
“We are currently needing donations to help buy the equipment,” he said. “We have fundraised some of the money already, but are still needing some more. We are hoping to order the equipment on June 1 so that we can have the weight room set up by Aug. 1 for the start of the school year.”
Donations can be sent to MMS at 700 E Elizabeth in McPherson. Checks need to have the word “weight room” in the memo. Donations also can be sent to Sears at McPherson High School at 801 E. First. Sears can be reached at email@example.com or 241-9500 or contact McPherson Middle School principal Brad Plackemeier at 241-9450 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.