New generation of high school athletes makes most of modern training methods

jcortez@modbee.comSeptember 11, 2013 

— Ask your dad about it sometime.

Training regimens for high school athletes, back in the day, consisted mainly of push-ups, sit-ups, toe-touches or deep knee-bends.

Sure, most high school football programs had blocking sleds, or even some tires through which players could run the high-knee drill. And one of those tires could be hung from a rope and the team's quarterback could practice hitting a moving target.

But there wasn't much in the way of weight training.

"I think it was the year before I started going to Escalon High," says Escalon coach Mark Loureiro, who, in 1969, was a freshman at the school where his dad, Bob Loureiro, coached. "They used coffee cans with cement in them for weights."

Oh, how things have changed.

Today, athletes are just as likely to know their VO2 max as their grade-point average. They keep track of their body-fat percentage and their body mass index. They know how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and sugar they consume in a day. They know what percentage of their total caloric intake comes from fat.

And they know how to train. We're not talking about three-sets-of-10-and-move-to-the-next-station, either. We're talking about high-intensity training. Plyometrics. TRX workouts. Sparq workouts. Speed training.

As for nutrition, yesteryear's athletes subsisted on steak, taters, and milk. And salt tablets. Every athlete worth his salt took salt tablets.

"It's definitely gotten more sophisticated," says Les Bonsu, owner of Bonsu Elite Athletics in Modesto. "And the offseason is huge in every sport — especially football."

Turlock High's Patrick Green is a perfect example.

Green is one of the state's top tight end recruits, with offers already from Arizona and Nevada. Plus, he's got other Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference schools sniffing around.

"Since I've been going to Bonsu, I've added 35 pounds and reduced my body fat by 3 percent," says Green, the No. 34 tight end in the country as ranked by ESPN. "I go five days a week and on Saturday we work on speed training and agility."

Green has egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast; almonds for his midmorning snack; chicken, turkey or salmon for lunch; more almonds in the afternoon; and meat and pasta for dinner.

Ja'Quan Gardner, the Central Valley High running back, also has worked out with Bonsu and has added 10 pounds of muscle, up to 175, on his 5-foot-7 frame. And he's only gotten faster.

"Fresno State timed me at 4.42 (seconds) in the 40," says Gardner, who has a legitimate chance at the Stanislaus District's all-time rushing record. "I've worked mainly on getting more burst, and acceleration."

"Kids are starting out younger and younger," says Bonsu. "We've got kids coming in as young as 8 who are doing speed and agility training, which is OK. They don't need to be lifting weights at that age. Bodyweight-based exercises are fine for them."

If that sounds farfetched, consider this: SEC football powerhouses LSU and Alabama have already made separate scholarship offers to Dylan Moses, an eighth-grade football phenom from Louisiana, for their 2017 classes.

But it's not just football. Bonsu trains athletes who play basketball, baseball, track and field, tennis, golf. No matter the sport, today's high school athlete is looking to get stronger. Like 2008 Central Catholic graduate Kendal Wesenberg.

Wesenberg played volleyball, basketball and soccer for the Raiders, then played club-level soccer at the University of Colorado.

After suffering a broken ankle during her junior year at Colorado, she got more involved in weight training as a method of rehabilitation. But there was a bonus to the rehab.

"My soccer got way better because of my lifting," says Wesenberg, who lives part of the year in Park City, Utah. "Way better."

These days, Wesenberg is training to make the U.S. skeleton team, gunning for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

But athletes aren't gunning for Olympic glory. They're mostly looking for a college scholarship.

"Training today is getting smarter, it's not getting harder," says Omar Cortez, fitness manager for Custom Built Personal Training at Manteca's In-Shape Fit. "But high school athletes still train hard. They're likely to have a coach for speed, and a coach for strength and a coach for drills.

"Parents will pay almost anything so they can be able to say, 'My son plays football at Notre Dame' or 'My son plays football at Stanford.' "

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service