A bigger, stronger Hayden | SteamboatToday.com

A bigger, stronger Hayden

Program helps athletes build sports skills, set personal goals

Melinda Mawdsley

John Rowbotham is comfortable in front of strangers. He stands tall, speaks loudly and walks with a bounce in his step.

It wasn’t always the case.

“When I was in ninth grade, I was 6-foot-2 and weighed 125 pounds,” he said. “I ran a 5.3 40-yard dash. I had no self-confidence, and I could, maybe, squat 150 pounds.”

Rowbotham began the Bigger, Faster, Stronger program as a freshman. Four years later, he was a Division 1 football player at the University of Utah.

“I trained for four years and never missed a workout,” said Rowbotham, who came to Hayden on Monday and Tuesday for a Bigger, Faster, Stronger clinic. “As a senior, I was still 6-2, but I weighed 210 and ran a 4.47 40. I squatted more than 500 pounds and power-cleaned 300.”

Although Rowbotham is tangible proof a fitness program can work wonders, the Bigger, Faster, Stronger clinic isn’t solely about athletic enhancement.

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“Discipline comes with the program,” Hayden football and boys basketball coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “Hopefully, it carries on to the athletic fields. More importantly, it carries over into the classroom.”

Baumgartner and Sally Mor–ton, physical education teachers for grades six through 12, have been talking about holding a Bigger, Faster, Stronger clinic for more than two years. Morton secured the financing, and Hayden High School Principal Troy Zabel gave the go-ahead.

“For Mr. Zabel to allow us to do this for two days, I really thank him for that and his support,” Baumgartner said. “As a school, we need to see the importance of goal setting and character building in the building.”

Four Hayden High School students recently were charged with crimes related to a branding incident at a party March 11. The school’s administrators, teachers and students are searching for something positive after the incident.

Enter Rowbotham, with his shaved head, enthusiastic disposition and passion for helping high-school students.

The two-day clinic was open to all Hayden students in grades eight through 12. On Monday, Rowbotham helped the individuals and athletic teams set goals.

“It was getting our brains focused and getting ready,” junior Jessica Martin said. “He talked about, on a scale from one to 10, being an 11. I really want to do this.”

Martin plays volleyball and basketball and is a member of the track and field team. Most of her teammates were alongside her Monday and Tuesday, and she hopes they are as motivated as she is.

“I really want to go in and lift after this,” Martin said. “I think I can get faster and improve my vertical jump.”

Bigger, Faster, Stronger was founded in 1976 in Salt Lake City, where Rowbotham lives. Even in the 1970s, he said, Bigger, Faster, Stronger was ahead of its time, emphasizing a complete workout as opposed to just bulking up.

“There was a body-building mentality,” he said. “This is very different. We focus on kids becoming better athletes.”

Many Front Range schools have implemented the Bigger, Faster, Stronger system, which also is used collegiately. Nationally, Rowbotham said, 500 teams have gone on to win a state championship the year after starting the Bigger, Faster, Stronger program.

“The whole concept of the program is based on doing everything with perfect technique,” Baumgartner said. “You always have a goal to reach. They are set before you begin a workout. It’s set up to progress with your ability.”

In a circuit-style atmosphere Tuesday, the Hayden students spent 12 minutes at each station, lifting weights with proper form, testing their flexibility and power and stretching. When 12 minutes had expired, Rowbotham yelled out instructions, while the students crouched uncomfortably low in an athletic stance until he was done.

Then, they clap–ped twice and rotated.

For the most part, everyone was taking the experience seriously and listening to Rowbotham’s advice.

The students will be tracking their progress on forms Rowbotham handed out. For more information, visit http://www.biggerfasterstronger.com.