Mar 06 2020

Bringing Tech into the Weight Room

Data collection and analysis are driving improvements in student wellness and athletic performance.

Classrooms are not the only areas in schools where technology can make a difference in students’ lives. Physical education and athletics programs are starting to see the benefits of applying technology to students’ training regimens, especially in the weight room at the high school level.

John Beerbower, director of strength and conditioning at McHenry Community High School District 156 in McHenry, Ill., walked IDEAcon 2020 attendees through the forward-looking program he oversees during a presentation titled, “Strength and Conditioning Technology Integration.”

How Technology Supports Students' Athletic Progress

The core of McHenry’s strength and conditioning program is a platform called Teambuildr.

It’s the one digital connection point where program managers can build out their training programs, where students can input their training data and where coaches can analyze and generate reports using the collected data.

Teambuildr also has calendar features, which Beerbower used to set up each student’s individual training program at the beginning of the semester. With more than 2,200 students at McHenry, split between two campuses, collecting all of the training data in one digital location was a huge win for Beerbower and his team, allowing them to avoid the paperwork that’s typically involved in writing up individual training programs.

The Benefits of Using Tablets in the Weight Room

Students can access their training regimens on Teambuildr via tablets in the weight room. When they enter the facility, they simply grab a tablet from a wall charging station, sign into Teambuildr and carry their tablets around from station to station.

Students can also log their progress on the tablets as they go through their workouts. Plus, they can record their reps and analyze their workouts with coaches afterward, making adjustments where needed and improving their training performance over time.

The tablets also provide learning opportunities for athletes as they make their rounds among the machines and weight racks. In between reps, students can read up on strength and conditioning tips that apply to their sport.

Beerbower also uses the tablets to garner student feedback on individualized training. These questionnaires give insights into students’ physical wellness while training and lets coaches adjust their training programs on the fly. For example, if a questionnaire reveals a student is feeling tired or sore that day, the coach can jump onto Teambuildr and adjust the training program to better align it with that student’s physical status.

MORE ON EDTECH: Discover how virtual reality technology is helping get kids moving.

Optimizing Training Programs with Performance Data

A great deal of performance data is collected on Teambuildr over the course of a semester. Beerbower and the coaches have access to that data and are able to slice and dice it into a number of different reports that show progress over time or strengths and weaknesses among students.

Coaches can also use that data to set dynamic goals for athlete groups by focusing on particular training steps that can emphasize gains in specific areas. Meanwhile, athletic program leaders can quickly generate reports on overall performance metrics of the physical education program using Teambuildr and share those reports with school administrators.

Beerbower said he recently discovered an interesting correlation between the data collected on Teambuildr and the district’s academic data, noting a positive relationship between strong academic performance and students who performed well in the strength and conditioning program.

Among a host of other tech innovations he oversees, Beerbower’s use of Teambuildr for McHenry’s strength and conditioning program is helping lead the way for schools when it comes to integrating technology into PE and athletics.

However, he emphasized during his presentation that technology is a means — not the end goal. For him, technology is a tool that frees up time for him and his staff to spend in one-on-one sessions with students, building the relationships that are at the core of their success.

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