When you think of schools, it is a place where children go to shape and strengthen their brain through learning. Lessons, projects and tests are the equipment used to make the mind strong. But while the primary focus of schools is education, it can also be a place that lays the foundation, chisels the formation and provides the necessary equipment to build a strong physique. That is why when the Fergus Falls Kennedy Secondary weight room looked to make a major upgrade, they reached out to the Fergus Falls 544 Education Foundation.
With the help of a 544 Education Foundation grant, the Fergus Falls weight room got several upgrades to its athletic arsenal. A $9,300 grant was used to help students and student-athletes to have proper exercise and weight training equipment. According to Fergus Falls Senior High strength and conditioning coach Paul Ratz, the grant was used to purchase a new medicine ball set, 2,000 pounds of bumper plates, 1,000 of new metal weights, two new back extension machines, a new rubber dumbbell set from 5 to 75 pounds, four new bars, 20 weight collars, 10 pairs of wrist wraps, four adjustable weight benches, a rubber stretch cord set and band set, a pair of miniature metal swing bats, miniature hurdle set, a pair of vertical jump cords, a pair of ab wheels, foam rollers and materials to upgrade the schools seven lifting platforms.
“These grants are amazing,” Ratz said. “They help tremendously with purchases that often times don't fit into the school budget.”
Ratz commented that when looking at what was needed in the weight room, he expressed that the new equipment was purchased primarily to keep the area as a “safe and inviting place to work out.” Although many of the school’s weight room purchases had a long life, items needed to be replaced. “We had broken dumbbells, benches that were unstable and worn out, cracked rubber bumper plates, platforms that were worn and slippery, back extension machines to replace two old wobbly ones, and cracked medicine balls,” Ratz said.
Some other added incentives to the new equipment were less wait time for equipment and the ability to design more sport-specific training programs. While the weight room had a variety of equipment to use, there tended to be times when large groups would have to wait for a bench, platform or machine to open up. In regards to training, Ratz had several ideas on ways to improve student-athletes onfield performance with workouts in the weight room. “The new jump cords, medicine balls, stretch cords, various bars and miniweighted bats were for sport-specific exercises I wanted to incorporate into the student programs,” Ratz added.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has kept the school and weight room off-limits to students, many of the pieces began arriving in late winter. “Every time we got something new the kids were so excited to open the boxes and see what we got. After all the new equipment had arrived I heard lots of kids say, ‘It's just like having a new weight room again!’ " Ratz said.
While students and the community wait for things to normalize, Fergus Falls students and staff know that Ratz is ready and waiting for them with a few new friends to help them achieve their fitness goals.