Aberdeen Central athletes get boost from Sanford POWER

Sam Herauf guides the POWER strength & conditioning program at high school

Sanford POWER strength & conditioning coach Sam Herauf advises Aberdeen Central student Brittany DeGroot during a workout at the Golden Eagles' weight room.

Basketball season is over for Aberdeen Central’s Colton Hansen, and it is time to turn the page to the benefits of Sanford POWER. In this case, that means preparing for Golden Eagles football and a quick transition to offseason strength training.

Hansen is a loyal and committed participant in Sanford POWER activities at Aberdeen Central. The minute basketball ended, it was time to think about next year. He has a set of goals for next fall and plenty more to meet between now and the start of practice.

“I didn’t think I’d get close to a lot of my goals for this spring until the end of the school year, but I’ve already reached a couple of them,” Hansen said. “I thought I was going to be lifting a certain amount by the end of spring, and I’m already doing it now. I’m reaching my highest potential.”

The start of something great

Four years ago, Sam Herauf moved from being a graduate assistant at Northern State University to representing Sanford POWER as Aberdeen Central’s strength and conditioning coach.

As Sanford POWER’s first leader in Aberdeen, Herauf has been part of an expanding effort to deliver expert strength and conditioning guidance to young athletes. He does this during the school year and during the summer.

Herauf’s first summer sessions attracted 110 student-athletes. It went up to 175 in 2017 and elevated to 180 in 2018, the maximum the program could take on at the time.

As a result, the summer program will be bigger in 2019, allowing more athletes in grades 6-12 the opportunity to benefit from Herauf’s guidance.  Middle school programs will run in two separate four-week sessions June 3-27 and July 8-31. The eight-week high school session runs June 3-July 31.

There is a Sanford POWER early bird rate for those who sign up before May 6, with a family rate also available.

Participation is up

According to those who have been around Aberdeen high school sports for a while, the steadily increasing interest has to do with more deeply embedding strength and conditioning into the culture. Plus, the kids like it.

“I got more girls to go because Coach Herauf makes it more inviting,” said Brittany DeGroot, a junior on the Aberdeen Central soccer team. “He helps you understand what you’re doing and how you can have more fun with it. You understand the lifts, something that makes you more confident.”

Secondly, they’re getting better both individually and collectively with guidance from Herauf’s Sanford POWER program.

“He is so organized, so professional and focused — he’s really changed the entire culture around our weight room,” said Aberdeen Central athletic director Gene Brownell. “Our weight room really wasn’t producing bigger, stronger athletes in the manner we wanted it to happen before. But if you don’t have someone like Coach Herauf, how could it?”

Executing an Aberdeen Central plan

Sanford POWER, now in its 20th year, gave Herauf the opportunity to configure the Golden Eagles’ weightlifting facilities to better suit athletes’ needs. Then he followed through. The basics are best, according to Herauf, who tailored a weight room redesign to programs that prove their worth.

“It’s pretty simple — a lot of people get confused trying to do all this fancy stuff,” said Herauf, who also works on behalf of Sanford POWER for Northern State University athletes. “We’re just trying to get kids stronger, faster and more powerful. It’s not, ‘Oh, we only do this for our football guys.’ Everybody needs to get stronger, faster and more powerful, no matter what the sport. That goes for cross country runners all the way to the football guys.”

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Sam Herauf encourages Aberdeen Central student athlete Nick Olson during a weightlifting session at the high school's Sanford POWER strength and conditioning room.

Coach Herauf’s ‘team’

Herauf is now an easily recognizable figure among young athletes in the Aberdeen area. They know him, respect him and enjoy his company.

“Coach Herauf’s naturally a big dude, and he looks a little intimidating when you first meet him,” Hansen said. “Once you get in the program and get into the swing of things, he’s a super-relatable guy. I enjoy going there every day because I know we’re going to have conversations about sports and everything else.”

Although Herauf does not coach a team at the high school, his approach via Sanford POWER is very similar: That is, build on effort and motivation. Every athlete in the school is essentially on Coach Herauf’s team.

“The first thing we learned, just like the kids, the parents and the coaches, is that we should trust him,” Brownell said.

“We’ve had coaches here who have been around their sports a long time and know what they want. Coach Herauf has done a great job of selling himself and his program. He’s a head coach, no different than the tennis coach, the track coach or the golf coach.”

Sanford POWER common goals

The result is that Sanford POWER  at Aberdeen Central has quickly become an accepted part of varsity sports. Within the school year, athletes can spend their offseason windows training for their next varsity sport. The summer sessions have become an extension of that.

“One of the added benefits that people don’t talk about a lot is that, yes, it’s hard work, it’s not always fun, but they get a sense of community,” Herauf said. “It’s not like only the volleyball players are lifting. It’s like age groups and different teams are all working toward one common goal, to get stronger.”

Because of that, athletes have established a culture hooked to the same mutual support and encouragement that sustains the school’s actual teams.

“Not a lot of high schools have strength and conditioning programs,” said Devin Schnaidt, a junior basketball player this season. “We go up there as a team for basketball to lift, and we all have fun. We’re all together trying to get better every day. It’s led to an improvement in all sports at Central, and it’s because of the Sanford POWER program.”

Sanford POWER sessions include speed training, plyometric training, agility and strength training.

“They get a good opportunity to work with a qualified professional who does it for a living,” Herauf said. “They get to be part of a big group, and they get a chance to be a part of it year-round. It used to be, ‘Oh, we train in the summer at this place.’ Now they have the chance to train with the same person all year.”

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