Tarpon Springs, March 8, 2019- East Lake football is separating themselves from the pack in many alternative forms, without neglecting the foundation fundamentals provide. I got a chance to speak with a key contributor that aides both the high school’s classroom education as a special-ed teacher and in the house of gains for Eagles football. Let’s get the details from a heavily involved piece in the program’s puzzle, in this week’s edition of the quote-based school feature.
“This is my fourth year here at East Lake, and we go by the Delta Force motto- surprise speed, strength, and violence of action; but that’s just one aspect of it. Every day we lift, the surprise for the kids is variant of weight and repetitions, the speed of the bar for speed and violence of action as in, when the music is off, you should hear the rattling of weights. These are a portion of the many things I learned from legendary strength and conditioning coach, Johnny Parker, who’s had a huge influence on my life and in my teachings,” states strength and conditioning and offensive line coach Mike Lube, when asked about the philosophy and significance of weight training in their offseason.
“Technique, speed of the bar, and rattling the weight with purpose is what we preach; those are three keys that play a big part in our strength and conditioning program. Prevention of injury is the number one reason we are so thorough; to help them achieve their dreams, developing them into college products and pro players like Tyler Higbee (NFL Tight End for the L.A. Rams) and Artavis Scott (NFL WR for the L.A. Chargers) who came before them in this program. In my life, I love staying in great shape and health; that’s a passion of mine, and it’s a great honor to be able to teach these kids to lift and stay healthy. It’s also a big motivator for me as it pertains to their well-being and we’re always translating these things into life lessons,” exclaims assistant coach Lube on keeping the physical and mental state of these guys in game-ready form.
“All three of those things translate onto the football field too of course; on our worst day, we have at least four coaches here. I mainly organize the weight room, coach Lewis Caralla, the head strength and conditioning coach at Georgia Tech and a former East Lake alum that head coach [Bob] Hudson is close with, came up with having team runs where we had different simulations for in-game situations- so we do four quarters of situations once a week. I worked with Coach Lewis when I interned for South Florida, and he’s now putting his stamp on our offseason program as well.”
The blood, sweat, and tears committed to this man-child sport, along with the tunnel vision for the learning environment never go unrewarded. Over the past seven seasons, ELHS football has posted six playoff appearances, won five district championships, won 12 playoff games, took home two regional championships and appeared in two state semi-finals. The program has also maintained the highest cumulative GPA in Pinellas County six out of the last seven years, while also winning the FHSAA Academic Excellence Award for the highest GPA in the State of Florida, four count em’ four consecutive times, (2010-2014). Per elhs-football.com. This 2018 season, the royal blue and white recorded a 6-5 overall and 3-1 in their stiffly competitive, Class 7A district 10 standings.
The strength mentor and offensive line coach proceeds whole-heartedly, “Coach Ron McKeefery was my strength coach in college; I interned with him from 2004-2005 at USF and was a Graduate Assistant for him in weight room back in 2009 and 10. I was at South Florida for eight years as a coach and player, soaking up as much as I could from these mentors, talking for hours- they’ve have made a big impact on my life outlook and career. Coach Todd Brooks coordinates our team competitions and special teams, our defensive coordinator, coach Chris Brown coordinates our team runs and linebackers, and Coach Walsh is a new guy on our staff that’s also done a great job in many aspects for this team. It’s a combination of us five coaches, trying our best to give these kids the best opportunities and retain some knowledge without paying special trainers.”
“Track day is very important, and the last day in the week is our team competition; it’s a series of sled pushes, agility drills, and things of that nature. As I said, coach Brooks has been organizing that realm and keeps count for scores as an accountability factor- it’s been really great for chemistry and keeping that bond throughout the 8 weeks. team run competitions, track workout and recovery day, mobility training like stretching hip flexors and other stressed muscles out, to prevent the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. So with all that being said, it’s critical we devote a day or so to recover from the stimulus we put on them.”
“Everybody loves superhero movies, so we called the hardest week hero week and we let some of the biggest guys moving a lot of weight dress up in any costume they want, instead of our team workout gear. One player wore a cape as Batman, and one guy wore a full Spiderman suit and took it off soon after, realizing it got too hot too quick,” coach Mike said humorously.
“It’s just a fun and mentally engaging thing for the guys- there were probably six or seven guys that participated in it, and I’m hoping to have the whole weight room filled with superhero costumes. The energy was awesome after and they’re still working. Our last two weeks is combine week; I’ll pick a max weight and complete a workout just like they do in the NFL combine, so no big lifts on the same day. Another mentally engaging thing that helps them reach their goals, is looking at themselves side-by-side to pros at the combine in weight and drill aspects, getting a feel for what the next-level entails.”
Coach Mike concludes, sharing about the preparation he takes in his daily life to take on all these kids in school and on the gridiron. “We’re constantly keeping track of kids diet intake and what main nutrients they put in their body, or else you won’t get much back in return. I feel that, if I get the day started early and train myself, I can actually train these guys after teaching my class.”
“I had a career-ending knee injury in college, and three years back, when I had a head coach position in 2015 and was 20 pounds away from 285, I decided it was time for change and my wife got me a book about lifting. I was hoping I could still lift heavy but not rush into anything, and I started my regimen of meal prep and getting up to train at four in the morning. I’ve dropped a lot of weight and pains on my joints. Sometimes people will tell you things, but sometimes you have to hone that mental toughness to push through and disregard opinions.”
With near 80 football bodies on the roster to care for, not even counting his classroom efforts, it’s safe to say he’s got his work cut out for him, exerting his full energy each and every day. Major props to coach for taking care of himself to ensure that others’ health is at an ideal level; at the end of the day, I think we can mutually agree that, it benefits everyone to take care of one’s body foremost, before assisting someone else in their fitness endeavors.
“I made a whole change in diet and exercise so I could get back to where I wanted to be and take care of others; I feel I’m in some of the best shape of my life. I tell my freshman, if you put five pounds on the bar a week to all your lifts until you graduate, you won’t have to worry about being pretty strong when it’s said and done.”
Vaughan Sixbury, BCP Contributor