Large and in charge
Basehor-Linwood athletes have new motivator in weight room
On the surface, Ross Schwisow's career path seems a little strange.
The Topeka native taught and coached at Rossville High School in Kansas before heading to the University of Missouri, where he earned his Master's degree in Health Education and Sports Nutrition. Schwisow became an assistant strength coach at MU, where he worked with the school's football and women's basketball teams and wrote new conditioning programs for the golf and tennis programs.
Schwisow appeared to be on the fast track at a national university, but here's where his career path took a twist: Schwisow left the money and prestige of Division I college athletics recently to become the new strength and conditioning coach at Basehor-Linwood High School.
While such a move might seem like a step backward for some, it made perfect sense for Schwisow. He had noticed that big high schools in places like Texas and California were starting to hire conditioning specialists, but that it was still a novel idea in the Midwest. When the opportunity at BLHS popped up, Schwisow jumped at the chance to be a pioneer in the region.
"The field of strength and conditioning has always just been at the pro and college level, but it's starting to dip to high school now," Schwisow said. "At that level you've still got top-tier athletes and you can teach and educate more. I've always enjoyed that."
Missouri's loss has been Basehor-Linwood's gain, as Schwisow took over the weight room this summer and has been working with about 150 of the school's athletes four days a week. The Bobcats' head football and track coach, Steve Hopkins, is especially excited to have the services of Schwisow available.
"We definitely have upgraded our summer and year-round conditioning by hiring Ross Schwisow," Hopkins said. "He is a great motivator and is highly educated in strength and conditioning for all sports."
Schwisow said his goal as a strength and conditioning coach would be to help prevent injuries, both in the weight room and on the field. While the Bobcats boys teams have been fairly fortunate in recent years in avoiding catastrophic injuries, the girls have perhaps been less lucky. The anterior cruciate ligament tears that seem to have swept the nation in female sports have not spared the BLHS girls. Just this year, basketball and track star Tiffany Waxmonski suffered her second ACL tear in three years. The injury, which requires surgery and many months of rehab, stole most of Waxmonski's junior basketball season and all of her junior track season.
Schwisow said that in his time working with the MU women's basketball team he had access to some of the newest research on the female ACL problem and had learned a lot about how to help athletes prevent it.
"A huge thing I learned spending time with the women's basketball team at MU is that it's not so much weight training as technique," Schwisow said. "With girls the biggest thing is to work on technique, teach them how to jump properly and land properly...Girls are going to get more of those types of injuries because of their body type, but there's steps you can take to prevent it."
In addition to preventing injuries, Schwisow will, of course, be focused on helping the BLHS athletes gain strength and stamina so they can perform at a higher level. Many of the school's athletes are already seeing those kinds of results. Austin Knipp, the school's leading scorer in both soccer and basketball, said that he's already noticed a difference in Schwisow's training and thinks it will benefit him in his upcoming senior seasons.
"He's given us new workouts, and a lot of variety in our workouts," Knipp said. "Before we'd just do a couple core lifts, now you do core and many other things."
Knipp said he'd especially noticed some serious strengthening from Schwisow's power squats, in which he has the athletes hold the weighted bar above their shoulders and bend their knees, holding a sitting position for five seconds before exploding back up.
"After that I don't even want to walk anymore," Knipp said.
Hearing those sorts of things are rewarding for Schwisow and he's hoping for even more rewards when the Bobcats begin taking the field in the fall. But for him the work starts long before that, as he begins to realize a dream that took him from the posh settings of major college athletics to the grassroots venue of a Kansas high school.
"I've always said I wanted to start up a high school conditioning program," Schwisow said. "Seeing the opportunity to do something that not a lot of people in the area have done was definitely a motivating factor."