Listen closely. There’s a distinct sound coming from Central and Stickney. If you listen for it over the clanging of dumbbells and shouts of encouragement in the new $100,000 weight room at Woodward High School, you can hear it. It is the sound of progress and change.

Woodward’s head football coach Marek Moldawsky recently oversaw a voluntary training session of the 25 football players.

“We’re looking to keep improving the Polar Bear culture,” Mr. Moldawsky said. “We are looking to develop our student athletes properly and adequately. Our goal is excellence and every day in here we strive towards that goal as a team.”

The renovation at Woodward includes a newly refurbished and supplied weight room, donated courtesy of Keith and Michelle Zoellers of Fitness4All.

The entire student body and faculty now have access to a whole set of free weights, an astounding variety of stationary machines, and gear for cardio.

The new look extends to new workout gear and lockers, and, maybe most importantly, customized training programs provided by volunteer staff from Fitness4All.

“Mr. Zoellers is the best trainer I’ve ever worked with, hands down,” Mr. Moldawsky said. “He has the ability to create training programs that fit the needs of athletes from high school all the way up to professionals.”

For his part, Mr. Zoellers knew immediately that Woodward was the right school for this project.

“We have worked with other groups in the past and have not had nearly the response we’ve received here at Woodward,” Mr. Zoellers said. “Everyone is excited to train, to learn new techniques and build the stronger personal character that comes along with this effort.”

The response has been overwhelming. In the one month that the weight room has been open for voluntary workouts, the facility has been averaging visits of more than 20 students a day, with some days seeing as many as 42 students.

“... Different sports teams are signing up for times to come in here and train,” Mr. Moldawsky said. “This is a school-wide effort. This is an opportunity to give our student athletes the resources they need to compete at a higher level and also build connections as a team.”

“Any time you’re in a sport you strengthen as a team and develop a deep camaraderie,” Mr. Zoellers added. “This gives students something to work for. And the impact on the community cannot be ignored. This opens up avenues for scholarships and colleges and opportunities these students might not have had otherwise.”

Developing well-rounded students is integral to the project as a whole.

“We actually just implemented a new Bear Track system here at Woodward,” Mr. Moldawsky noted. “This system helps ensure academic success by allowing student athletes to connect with teachers, business owners and other role models. These people work with the students to ensure success. They follow up with the students’ teachers and make sure the students are performing academically as well."

He added, “If the grades are below the acceptable limit, students cannot come to training and instead are paired with the appropriate tutor.”

The students have been quick to buy in to this new program.

“This lets me get stronger so I can block,” sophomore left tackle Caleb Baryaruha said. “But it also helps me get better grades in the classroom and be well-rounded outside of school.”

Fellow sophomore and offensive lineman Deontrey Law quickly agreed.

“This helps us get faster and stronger and brings more of our teammates in here together,” Mr. Law said. “We’re strong and the other teams are going to be turning their heads when they see us coming out in the fall.”

One of the personal trainers from Fitness4All, Derek Hosler, was happy to contribute to this new attitude.

“This is the first time for many of these guys to have a structured program where they can learn about how the muscles work together and how to properly prepare their bodies,” Mr. Hosler said. “These kids have always been determined, but now they don’t have to work out in the hallways. They’re not only getting stronger but you can see them pushing each other and coming together as a team.”

Most of the young men in the weight room on a recent day had volunteered at Claire’s Day on May 16.

"This all fits in with our holistic approach to training — it is much more than physical,” Mr. Moldawsky said. “We want our students to get exposure to all sorts of opportunities that can enhance their experience and get them out in the community and in a position to help.”

“Hopefully, this project can get other members of the community involved,” Mr. Zoellers added. “This is a real chance for people to overcome their preconceived notions and judgments and see that these outstanding students deserve the chance and return the effort with such gratitude and appreciation."

He added, "But don’t get me wrong — we here at Fitness4All get as much out of this as they do; we love helping shape students into the best individuals they can be.”

All of us TPS Proud thank Mr. and Mrs. Zoellers for their amazing contribution and know that the Polar Bears are going to be stronger and better suited to face the challenges of the day all the better because of their continued generosity.

Posted on May 22, 2015