This installment of Facility Finders is unique because it is not about the biggest or the newest facility. Instead, we’ll be looking at a facility that was perfectly redesigned for its athletic population through a process that didn’t miss any necessary aspects.
Coach Pat Doyle is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Grand Island Senior High School in Grand Island, Nebraska. While in his third year at Grand Island, Coach Doyle is in his fifth year at the high school level after previously working at Riverton High School in Riverton, Kansas. When he took over at Grand Island, the space was heavily designed around machines, as that was the priority with training at the time it was built. To adapt the space for his high school groups, he wanted a design where space was king.Coach Doyle wanted to change the training space from one heavily designed around machines to one where space was king. Click To Tweet
Video 1. Virtual tour of the Grand Island training facility.
This renovation was completed this past May—before the remodel, the space was original to its 1996 construction. The old facility had too many single-use machines, which Coach Doyle said made training youth athletes very difficult in a short amount of time and with limited space. He was able to get rid of the machines they had, allowing him to open up the area a lot more so he could add in power racks and other types of multi-use machines.
“When adding new equipment, the only ‘machines’ I bought were pit shark belt squats (HUGE FAN), posterior chain developers, and lat pulls,” Doyle said. “The posterior chain developers allow us to do so many variations of different exercises—really a universal machine.”
Flow is always critical in facility design, and Coach Doyle prioritized this with the renovation. To maximize the space around the racks and be able to move around, Coach Doyle decided on 10 double-sided racks and five half racks that athletes can use in their training. This enables him to keep his young athletes in one area for safety and better coaching; he was able to do this because of the choice to create an auxiliary space to house the non-rack exercise equipment.
“The combo racks saved some space and money and allowed us more room for an auxiliary lane for the pit sharks, posterior chain developers, dumbbells, and lat pulls and a turf strip running the length of the room into an entirely turfed area in the back of our room,” Coach Doyle said. “The turf allows us to do a lot of different things year round without having to rely on our football field for turf—pushing sleds in the snow in single-digit weather isn’t the greatest—and also to do some more sprints and change of direction drills inside our room without having to rely on gym space as much.”
To me, choosing equipment is the hardest part of the whole process because the right company will make everything else easier on you so you can focus on COACHING. Power Lift did just that for Coach Doyle; they were involved in advising on the design for the space based on how he coaches and on his budget. Coach Doyle believes in the racks being where the athletes do all of their training, so those need to have everything there—with large groups of 14- to 17-year-olds, keeping them focused on what’s in front of them is the best way he saw to train his athletes.
The actual budget ultimately plays the biggest part in design—sometimes, it doesn’t come down to what the athletes need but what the program can afford. (This is okay because, as coaches, we can still get done what we need to do.) Longevity was a huge piece of why Doyle decided to use Power Lift again for this project. Power Lift outfitted the original building, and the equipment survived almost 30 years of use by Grand Island athletes. Y’all will love the response when I asked Coach what ultimately led him to pick Power Lift over everyone else.
“You obviously want to get high-quality equipment, and Power Lift is notorious for that, and their reputation confirms it,” Coach Doyle said, adding, “along with [it] being a great small-town company right here in the heartland of America. (Still… Nebraska > Iowa).”
In terms of specialty equipment, Power Lift offers a range of attachments that allow Grand Island athletes to do A LOT at their rack station without creating more congestion by needing to move around the room. Each rack is outfitted with rotating utility pads, band pegs, dip stations, landmines, chains, bands, 10-, 25-, and 45-pound bumpers, an extra bar, and physio balls. Plus, there are almost enough trap bars for each rack.
“We also purchased safety squat bars for the ability to load a squat with poor mobility/injured upper limbs if necessary or to even do the hand-supported variations, which I am super excited about,” Coach Doyle said. “Our flooring is all custom inlaid platforms as well, which tops it all off. The auxiliary space houses pit sharks, lat pulls, glute ham machines, and a large turf strip, all of which were made possible with one phone call to Power Lift.”
PurposeWith the redesigned strength facility, Coach Doyle ‘ultimately wanted to create an environment that got kids excited about training and make it a spot they WANTED to come to every day.’ Click To Tweet
“Ultimately, I wanted to create an environment that got kids excited about training and make it a spot they WANTED to come to every day,” Coach Doyle said. “I personalized as much as I could with Grand Island’s logo, ‘ISLANDER POWER,’ and our core values to really make it a home for our athletes. I still have plans in the works for adding some artwork to the walls and hanging some flags and banners from the ceiling to highlight all of our athletic teams.”
I think the core value personalization is really special because it allows the athletes to see what the fundamental goal of training is. The easy stuff is getting stronger and faster—the more challenging part is teaching young kids about stewardship or how important communication is because it is something they will need for the rest of their lives. So, seeing that every day was a stroke of genius from Coach Doyle.
Tips from Coach Doyle
Projects like this are more and more common because we have to find a way to make our current space work. This is sometimes harder because there’s an odd post in the middle of the room or the shape of the space is impossible to work with. New builds can be easier because you’re building that space to fit your needs, but with projects like this, you are really retrofitting the space with new equipment. A few key suggestions:
- Get an accurate budget and see how much wiggle room you have—then maximize what you can get with it.
- Create a list of needs and wants for your room and be able to recognize the difference between the two.
- Space is king.
- Brainstorm a lot of the common problems you see with your current training and reverse-engineer your weight room design to solve a lot of those problems.
- If you’re going to do it, do it right. Buy it nice or buy it twice, essentially.
- Flooring gets really dirty quickly once you get a lot of traffic going through, so pick your floor colors wisely. Black shows a lot that other colors don’t, so decide what you can tolerate and what you can’t.
- At the end of the day, make it a place where athletes want to spend their time and put a lot of value into as a part of their overall athletic experience.
Projects like this are becoming more and more common because we have to find a way to make our current space work. Sometimes this is harder than starting from scratch because of things like that odd post in the middle of the room or, like Coach Doyle, you may have a weight room designed for the popular training methods of the 1990s that don’t match the training styles now. New builds can be easier because you’re building that space to fit your needs, but with projects like this, you are retrofitting the space with new equipment. It may be more difficult, but it’s entirely doable.
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