Valley Christian High School has long had one of the best athletic programs in the state, especially in the small-school conferences.
But despite the school’s success, Valley Christian lacked adequate facilities to take each sport team to the next level. That is, until now.
Opened in late July, Valley Christian’s remodeled weight room with state-of-the-art equipment has already begun to shift the culture surrounding both athletics and the rest of the school.
“Athletically, we felt our school wasn’t up to par with other schools strength wise,” said Troy Hanzal, Valley Christian’s head athletic trainer. “We needed to increase the strength across the athletic department. But it’s also open, to students and teachers. We really tried to make this a whole school thing, but it really focuses on increasing the strength activity for our entire athletic program.”
Hanzal became deeply involved with the project from the original inception of the idea last school year. By December, the funds were secured from a donor to begin the project. Originally intended to be completed in May, the weight room was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hanzal took on most of the demolition process himself with help from athletes and head football coach Jake Petersen.
Once gutted, a new floor equipped with 25 yards of artificial turf customized with the school logo and custom equipment from American Barbell in Las Vegas, Nev. was installed in the room.
“There’s just so much we can do in this room,” Petersen said from a football standpoint. “The motivation they have when they come in here, it’s just different. And that’s something that had started to change with our culture even the last couple of years when Kirk (Sundberg) was here.
“It’s only been a month they’ve been able to work in here so we haven’t seen a lot of progress yet, but I know we will definitely see it over the next few years.”
A glass garage door entrance opens to a large space equipped with several power racks that include TRX bands. Benches that fold away for easy storage can be used in each rack for a variety of exercises, including decline, incline and standard bench press. Squats can be completed inside the rack, while deadlifts can be performed outside directly on the soft, durable flooring.
Each rack also has the ability to add attachments. Landmines are equipped at each one already, and Hanzal said they are in the process of adding more, such as a dip attachment and others.
Bumper plates, kettle bells, dumbbell sets and specialized medicine balls that can be used either on the floor or walls sit on racks connecting each station. In the center of the room, an all-in-one station with cable rows and other light exercises is set to be utilized by trainers for physical therapy as an athlete recovers from injury.
Valley Christian even went as far as to purchase lighter weights for a section in the room dedicated to beginners. The area is typically used for weightlifting classes.
“We had the kids up at the front office trying to switch into weight training classes just to come in here,” Hanzal said. “It’s awesome because we can have a section dedicated to athletics, one to more advanced weightlifters and then another for beginners.
“Everyone can take advantage of this room.”
The classes and athletic programs have the ability to utilize a special software called TeamBuildr, which allows them to login to an application on their smart devices and track and create their own workouts. The data is fed to monitors set up around the room, allowing coaches and teachers to keep track of exercises. Hanzal and Petersen agreed it also creates a little added competition between athletes.
The school is still in the process of adding custom logos to each rack, as well as a large monitor on the north wall that will show all-time lifting records. It will also present the opportunity to put on sports during workouts or to watch game film.
The project cost the school north of $200,000. Originally, the estimated total was set to skyrocket above the $400,000 mark. However, due to labor from Hanzal and others, as well as cutting costs elsewhere, the final mark was brought down to within budget.
Part of the labor Hanzal has done since the room was finished by American Barbell includes honoring athletes of the past. Large banners were hung on the eastern wall of the room, with all of the region championship plaques from every sport on the western side.
Both Petersen and Hanzal said the weight room has created a stir in the Valley Christian community, both for alumni and current students. They both believe it will not only benefit the athletic programs but also promote a healthy lifestyle among its general student population.
“Every time kids come in here, their eyes just get wide and they can’t help but smile,” Petersen said. “There’s a new motivation to get in here and workout. We are excited to see how much this will benefit our athletic programs and all of our students and staff.”