In this interview with Head Athletic Trainer and Community Living Parent Kirsty Ridings, Liz Steensma (Brewster’s Assistant Director of the Annual Fund and Varsity Field Hockey Coach), learns why a strength and conditioning program for female athletes was needed—and how its debut opens up a new path to greatness.
What inspired the need to create a strength and conditioning program specifically for Brewster’s female athletes?
Over the past few years we have been able to make uniquely specialized strength and conditioning programs for our basketball, ice hockey, and lacrosse programs. These programs were typically dominated by our male athletes, as the majority of our female athletes were multisport participants. However, as female athletes begin to specialize more and more in their primary sport, the interest in joining a strength and conditioning program for their own development also grew. With growing numbers of students looking to participate in these programs, we began to look at how best to serve our students and develop the program offerings. Dividing up by sport was an easy first step, but being able to offer something that was unique and specific for the female athlete was something that I have wanted to be able to offer for years—and I'm thrilled that it's finally happening.
What makes this program different from our other fitness offerings?
The fitness classes that we currently offer are very diverse in the student population and allow students to independently workout, or to begin learning about their own personal fitness. The Advanced Strength and Conditioning Programs that are offered for Basketball, Ice Hockey and Lacrosse have become tailored to the needs of the sport, but also to the needs and goals of the male athlete. This new program of Advanced Strength and Conditioning for Female Athletes is tailored for female field sport athletes (soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey) and also for the strength needs and goals of the female athlete.
Why should a female athlete sign up for this class?
A female athlete should sign up for this program if they have a desire to develop as an athlete beyond the playing field. Putting in the work to become stronger, faster, and more agile off the field is a key component of player development, especially for those who are looking to play at the next level.
Are there any myths or misconceptions about the class?
As with anything new, there are misconceptions. With this program some people may think that it's going to be easier or less challenging than the male-based programs, but that would feed into the notion that female athletes aren't as tough or motivated as male athletes...definitely not true! This program will challenge the participants to work extremely hard and push outside of their comfort zone exactly the same way the other Advanced Strength Programs do. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some may shy away from this program as they don't want to get "too big" or bulky with muscle tone. Again, not true. Any strength and conditioning program will help male and female athletes reach their maximum potential, and all of our programs fall into the preseason timelines for athletes, so our focus is on building strength in a functional way and developing speed and agility skills, not bulking up!
What is the importance of creating a program strictly for females?
Whenever you sit down to create a new strength and conditioning program you have to complete a needs assessment so that you can ensure the program is focused on the specific movement patterns for the sport, and for the participants of that sport. Having an ice hockey player and a basketball player complete the same strength and conditioning program is going to leave major gaps in the development for both athletes. Being able to further adapt these programs for male and female athletes is exciting because it allows us to focus further on the needs of each population as they try to achieve the same goals. Female athletes have the same physiological responses to strength training as male athletes; however, a specific focus on preventing lower extremity injuries through strengthening and developing upper body strength is very important for the female athlete.
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