The state of Georgia has joined the nationwide surge of high schools investing in strength and conditioning and their athletes. Gainesville High School is the first location in Georgia I have seen in this new era of high school strength and conditioning, and it will be tough to beat! This facility is overseen by Taylor Williams, Director of Strength and Conditioning, and Nate Mathis, Director of Optimal Performance/Wellness. The duo is implementing training for injury rehabilitation (Mathis) all the way to training the potential next Heisman trophy winner (Williams) for the Red Elephants.
Video 1. Virtual tour of the Gainesville High School weight room.
Coach Williams—who was at Gainesville during the renovation of the 10,000-square-foot facility—mentioned there were a lot of things that needed to change with the new $1.5 million space. Before that, the space held 32 racks and felt very cramped, so they decided to switch to 28 racks to allow for a better flow and spacing for their room.
One unique element is the garage door addition for the program and the facility, which I love.
“One of the major renovations to this room consisted of adding two garage doors, which are functional,” Williams said. “This allows our athletes to quickly transition from being inside the weight room to continuing their training sessions outside on the track/turf field area.”
I have said this many times; space is king, and especially for a high school strength coach, it’s everything. Gainesville chose Rogers and Pendulum Strength equipment because of their knowledge of using Rogers football equipment. I think this was the first time I had ever heard that Rogers made weight room equipment—the logo is burned into my brain after years of pushing a five-man sled as an offensive lineman, so I was also surprised to see that same brand on incredible weight room equipment.
I think a “new generation” shift between coaches choosing a full, high-density flooring throughout the space over the wood overlay is something that will stay, and it really does allow for a sharp-looking room. The space has a large middle opening with seven double-sided racks on each side. Coach Williams has the room split up into three areas:
- Lower body
- Upper body
- Explosive/plyometric area
Like many Division I football weight rooms, you see the adoption of the “pod rack method” here at Gainesville. The pod method creates an all-in-one-area training space for the athletes to come and complete the entire lift in that pod.
The hardest part of a weight room renovation project is deciding between all the best companies in the world to pick which one should outfit your place. The smallest detail can be what makes or breaks it for one company or another. The biggest decision-making factor for Gainesville was their familiarity with Rogers/Pendulum products, as well as the vision that the coaches needed to best outfit their athletes—small things like the bumper plates being suspended in a trough-type setup (instead of the traditional weight pegs) and the fact that the DC Blocks they bought can be stored under the racks to save space.The hardest part of a weight room renovation project is deciding between all the best companies in the world to pick which one should outfit your place, says @johndelf99. Click To Tweet
These are the tiny details that schools, facilities, and home gyms look for when purchasing, and I find it fascinating.
Another piece for Coach Williams was that the companies were trusted by places he trusted. “Their work speaks for itself,” Williams said. “Some of their best projects include Arkansas baseball and Michigan football.”
For all things sports science and wellness, Coach Mathis is in charge. The Gainesville weight room has it all, including:
- Massive TV screens to help with the delivery of the program.
- Perch VBT system for their racks to help track bar speed and bar path during lifting.
- Catapult, which they use for GPS data during field sessions or practice.
Seeing a high school invest not only in the equipment but also in the two coaches heading this charge is truly impressive. I know I’m just the facility and equipment guy, but I also wanted to highlight how special these two coaches are in this whole process. I always find it interesting to look deeper at incredible facilities, but full-time leaders in those spaces are what makes the equipment really special.
“The technology helps drive decision-making to ensure our athletes are provided with training that fits their individual needs and is transferable to their sport,” Coach Mathis said when I asked him why they wanted to include all the sports science tools in this project instead of buying more benches, bars, bands, etc.
What else can you add to a place that has already thought of everything?
Coach Williams mentions some cool extra pieces they bought to really take their training to the next level. These pieces include DC Blocks, safety bars, neutral bars, flywheels, and finally, the nutrition station. I like to include DC Blocks in the specialty category because of how versatile they can be, and as a strength coach, that’s what we demand. How many different ways can I use this piece of equipment? Coach Williams does just that with them, between step-ups, block cleans, and injury prevention tools.
The specialty bar category is near and dear to my heart because I am such an advocate for them, especially for special population athletes and injured folks. Safety bars can be beneficial for upper extremity injured athletes to be able to do more than just leg press all day, every day. The trap bar is a staple for me because of all the uses a coach can get out of it; most importantly, it’s the safest and best way mechanically to deadlift.
They also designed a cardio/rehab area in the weight room that the coach can use to service the recovering athletes before they are released back into the herd…of Red Elephants. Finally, a key “specialty” piece—especially at the high school level—is the awesome nutrition station (seen in the virtual tour video).The nutrition station will be the differentiator for what makes the Gainesville H.S. facility probably a top 10 facility in the state, no matter the sector—high school, college, pro, or private. Click To Tweet
This is another piece that Coach Mathis oversees, and it’s really going to be the differentiator for what makes the Gainesville High School facility probably a top 10 facility in the state, no matter the sector—high school, college, pro, or private. This has been the first facility in this series with a comprehensive station to fuel and refuel athletes pre/post practice or workout. Coach Mathis uses it to start the conversation about how nutrition is a lifelong skill that these athletes will be learning from 14 years old and on, which is really special.
Coaches Williams and Mathis did a great job deciding on the pieces that would drive training at Gainesville High School for decades to come, not leaving a single rock unturned, from the flooring and space-saving decisions to the extra pieces and flair. I didn’t mention enough about branding for the place because of how much else was important—but they truly have their brand and culture installed with every new screw and bolt.
The last thoughts will be from both Coach Williams and Coach Mathis when asked about their tips for coaches looking for equipment.
“I would say establishing your goals for the renovation is the most important part,” Coach Williams replied. “Once those are set, then you can begin to reach out to the company that you would like to partner with for the project.”
“When deciding on technology equipment, it is important to consider the program that will be implemented,” Coach Mathis added. “We considered the exercise selection, grouping, transitioning, time, etc. The equipment needs to be user-friendly and easy to navigate for players and assistant coaches. We also looked for companies that provide not only reliable data but also relevant data that can be used to better program training for our athletes.”
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