A return to normalcy - DLHS leading the way with start of Speed and Strength program

Coach Mike Labine runs through a health checklist with his student-athletes before the beginning of a Tuesday session of the Detroit Lakes Speed and Strength program. Robert Williams / Tribune

Detroit Lakes high school is leading the area in getting student-athletes back on the field with the opening of the Speed and Strength program this week.

“Credit Rob Nielsen, we have a very proactive activities director,” coach Mike Labine said. “He and I have met four times since the middle of May.”

Nielsen and Labine’s meetings were to discuss changes in public policy, how it would affect the program and changes that were needed to create a program that was safe and effective at the same time.

“We would tweak it a little bit,” said Labine. “Are we in line and in compliance? Is everything we are doing right? We’re first, but we’re very confident that we are doing things by the book.”

Schools in the area like Perham are waiting to start in the middle of June.


Activities director Erin Anderson commented on Yellowjacket plans in the Paging Sports podcast, which is available on the Tribune’s website , along with the Perham Focus and Wadena-Pioneer Journal .

Frazee activities director Nick Courneya was in attendance at Monday’s first session at Mollberg Field to help model what Frazee will be doing when the Hornets’ open conditioning later this month.

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Coach Reed Hefta runs his Speed and Strength group through stretching exercises at Mollberg Field Tuesday, June 2. Robert Williams

The strength portion is seeing the biggest change from last year. There is no activity in the weight room through the month of June.

“We are hoping in July we’ll get in the weight room,” Labine said. “Right now we’re outside, we’re alternating speed day with a body weight strength day.”

Most of the strength portion is made up of pushups, lunges and other exercises of self-created resistance.

“It’s not a waste of time because in athletics it does apply,” said Labine. “It’s the new strength conditioning, but I’m just excited as heck that we’re here.”


Labine is not the only one. The program is full and the Mollberg Field parking lot on Tuesday was as full as it's been since the last competition.

The training brings back a sense of normalcy for both the coaches and kids.

“They’re excited to have somewhere to be, something to do, getting back into things,” head athletic trainer Sam Salathe said. “There are some who have been doing things for a while and some that need this to help get back into things.”

Labine and Salathe are joined by coaches Cali Harrier, Andrea Klug, Josh Bettcher, Steve Zamzo and Reed Hefta.

“We get to see the kids and probably focus on things you don’t normally focus on because you’re usually so busy pumping iron,” said Labine. “Agility, mobility, flexibility, injury prevention, we’re doing a lot of that stuff. Without being cliche, we had to think outside the box. We had to look at what we do have and what we can do with it.”

Space is limited with the six coaches.

Each coach has to have a 9 to 1 maximum ratio to comply with the mandated group meetings of less than 10 people. There is a potential to expand but it is completely adherent to the social distancing rules set by Gov. Tim Walz.

Players are regulated to their specific group of eight other athletes and the coach. That makes attendance important because there is a waiting list of kids who want to get into the program.


“When you sign up for a spot and you don’t show up I can’t add another kid to that group because my 9 to 1 is set,” said Labine.

His group was missing a couple Tuesday and he reiterated the importance of attending. “That bothers me because I’ve got kids at home that want to play and I don’t have a spot for them,” he said.

The program is much like a regular practice, but not, due to the fact that the empty space is just that. Normally, someone could take that place. The strict nature of the program is to assure the school is complying completely with the COVID-19 health parameters.

“We’ve been told very clearly that the guidelines are the guidelines and they aren’t negotiable or flexible,” said Labine.

Health screenings are done before each session, including taking body temperatures before the kids start a workout along with a checklist of relevant health questions.

For DL’s head trainer, the program is the start for some kids and continuing the workouts of others to work into shape for the upcoming seasons.


“Just getting them back into some fitness pieces and movement patterns that they haven’t done for a while,” Salathe said. “Kind of getting them back into a routine which they’ve lacked for a couple months. Doing these things now is going to help them. They’re going to feel better and be happier; they’re going to have that routine that they’re used to, getting back into shape so they’re ready for whatever is going to come in the fall, winter and spring. It’ll help in our injury portion too. Going into a season without doing anything is kind of tough. This will help down the line as well.”

The program is run in three sessions Monday through Thursday at 7, 8 and 9 a.m.

Organizers are hoping to see some flexibility with social distancing come July which could bring the weight room back into play.

“Our strength is not going to be the same as you’re going to get power cleaning,” said Labine. “We understand that, but we feel like we can get to where we need to get doing this.”

Robert Williams has been a sports editor for Forum Communications in Perham and Detroit Lakes since 2011.
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