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Tigard High starts Nike strength training

Nike Football launches pilot program at Tigard High to boost player performance


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tigard High football players gather around to watch Nike strength coach Derrick Gleason demonstrate good and bad push-up form during team testing.Tigard High School’s football season may have ended more than a month ago, but players are already setting their sights on next year, and they’ll have a secret weapon with them: Nike Football.

The school has partnered with Nike for a first-of-its-kind training program that will help condition student athletes in the next year.

“Nike is known for shoes and garments, but it really wants to get into the athletic training of football players,” said Tigard High School Football Coach Craig Ruecker.

The pilot program is a first for Nike, which will provide special training routines and workouts for athletes in schools across the country.

Tigard is the only school in Oregon chosen for the pilot program. Other schools included football powerhouses, Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, St. John Bosco High School near Los Angeles and DeSoto High School, south of Dallas, Texas.

“We have never had anything like this,” said Tigard junior quarterback JT Greenough. “It’s January now, so we have six months. And by that time, hopefully, it will be proven on the field.”

‘Athletics is motion’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tyler Walker performs a vertical jump test while Nike strength coach Derrick Gleason evaluates his performance. The company and high school are working together to boost the performance of Tigards athletes.Tigard High School’s prowess on the football field is well documented.

For the past two years, the school has earned back-to-back Pacific Conference championships, sending the team to the state playoffs.

In December, the Tigers reached the state semi-finals before falling to Central Catholic High School.

Ralph Greene, Nike Football’s vice president for business development and a volunteer coach at Tigard High, runs the pilot program and said the tests will help trainers come up with routines for the athletes.

“Athletics is motion and sports in motion,” Greene said. “Before you can improve the output, you have to know how you move.”

Nike trainers were at the school several times in the past few weeks, measuring each of the team’s 104 players’ flexibility, balance, speed and strength.

“They did balance tests with us, to find out what our deficiencies are,” said Tyler Walker, a junior running back and linebacker. “It turns out I’m not good on my left side, so they can take that and build a workout from that. Hopefully, by the time football starts back up, I’ll be evened out.”

Starting next week, players will receive individualized workout routines to improve their performance on the field, Ruecker said.

“The program is individually fit,” he said. “If a young man is not as fast as he would like to be because his hips are out of whack, he’ll do special hip exercises before he starts working out.”

The partnership isn’t just designed to make players stronger and faster, but also can help reduce injuries on the field, Ruecker said.

“We did not have the knowledge to say, ‘OK, this young man always seems to hurt himself right around here, why is that?’ They are measuring the balance and flexibility of players, and hopefully that will lead to not only bigger, faster and stronger athletes, but also make them less injury-prone.”

Ruecker said the new program is a good fit for the school.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “This will help our athletes.”

‘Half Nike, half Tigard’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tigard High football players undergo testing by Nike during an offseason evaluation.Back at Nike, Greene said Tigard was chosen because of its performance on the field and because it was a traditional public school.

“It’s the regularness of it,” Greene said. “It helps that I live here and work at Nike. But more than that, it’s just a regular public school. Athletically, the programs (chosen for the pilot program) perform at the high end of the spectrum. At the end of the day, we are trying to learn things that can apply to everybody. This is an ordinary school.”

The schools in the pilot program represent all walks of life — from inner-city schools to private Catholic schools.

“This way we can get a look across the country and different school backgrounds, and we will see what we learn,” Greene said.

Strength and athletic training is common during the off-season, Greene added, but the partnership gives Tigard players something they haven’t had before.

“These kids work pretty dang hard,” Greene said. “But what we will be giving them is more organized and a little more interconnected between off-season, pre-season and competition.”

If successful, the pilot program will help coaches across the country train their players, Greene said.

“A lot of the concepts you see in the sports world are all ad hoc,” he said. “We work with a lot of football players. And for Nike, it’s about how we can bring this experience to everybody.”

The pilot program will last through the 2014-15 school year.

“We will chronicle the journey and help the coaches interpret the results,” Greene said. “We will look at the journey and learn from it.”

Having a local school be part of the program helps Nike also, Greene said.

“(Tigard’s) athletes are as good as any other, and it being in Nike’s backyard does help,” Greene said. “It gives us an ability to watch them a little closer. We’ll be along the journey with them. It’s pretty exciting. I like it because I’m half Nike and half Tigard.”

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