By Richard Dunn     11/5/2014

As Trinity League sports competition becomes ever keener, as coaches search for a critical edge in performance, and as student athletes strive for high school championships and possibly college scholarships, strength and conditioning training becomes an ever-larger part of the sporting repertoire.

So, with today’s technology and emphasis on training, which schools have the best facilities? And what are the latest measures being taken by strength and conditioning coaches to prepare athletes for competition?

“One of the most common techniques that we like to use for strength training is cross training,” says Vince Garcia, Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s Director of Strength and Conditioning. “Getting the athletes in the pool to work on their cardio strength is a key component of our programs. We also really focus on sports-specific training. Each sport really needs to have individualized training programs in addition to athlete-specific training programs. We also heavily focus on core strength development across the board. This helps to build the foundation for strength development. I strongly believe our success in the weight room can be attributed to focusing on core strength in the beginning and really emphasizing technique for all movements. All programs also focus on flexibility, stretching, agility, balance and plyometrics [rapid stretching and contracting of muscles]. This creates a strong base that we build upon as we add weight and lead up into power movements.”


With Santa Margarita’s football program enjoying success in 2014 and the Eagles’ girls reigning as CIF Southern Section Commissioner’s Cup champion in all sports, there is no doubt something special is going on at Santa Margarita. Many coaches point to the weight room, and the efforts of those utilizing the facilities, as the decisive element in building a champion.

“I strongly believe we have one of the top, if not the top, overall weight-training facility in Orange County,” Garcia says of the three-story, 39,000-square-foot Eagle Athletic Center, which includes a 7,000-square-foot state-of-the-art fitness center and weight room, team rooms with lockers, conference rooms, coaches’ offices, an 800-square-foot trainers’ room, wrestling training facility and campus storage.

The Eagle Center is the first LEED-certified building in Rancho Santa Margarita and in the Diocese of Orange. LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The materials used to construct the building are environmentally friendly, contain renewable resources and conserve energy.

Mater Dei, JSerra and Servite high schools also boast state-of-the-art athletic facilities and weight rooms.

“I would rate Mater Dei’s overall weight-training facility as not only the best in Orange County, but the best in the country,” says Mater Dei Strength and Conditioning Coach Greg Vandermade, who trains and mentors student athletes in the Monarchs’ 4,200-square-foot Strength and Conditioning Facility, which is fully equipped with Olympic barbells, bumper plates, dumbbells, 17 half racks, 22 platforms, and more than 13,000 pounds of free weights.

Mater Dei ensures that each athlete understands his or her specifically designed protocol and the proper lifting and spotting techniques to achieve maximum training success and safety.

“The strength and conditioning philosophy for each athletic team centers around improving their performance on the field, thus each specific training program focuses on the metabolic demands of the sport,” Vandermade says. “Once the metabolic demands of the sport are identified, the focus is turned to designing and implementing a strength and conditioning program that will enhance the athletes’ ability to perform in their given sport, all while lowering the athletes’ risk of injury.”

Servite has unveiled a new Strength and Conditioning Department under the direction of Head Coach Matt Chandler, while the JSerra Training Center encompasses a free weight room, a sports lab conditioning room, and two athletic training clinics.

“I believe JSerra has one of the top strength training facilities in Orange County,” JSerra Athletic Director Jim Hartigan says. “All programs utilizing our weight rooms perform various bodily strength-training routines to develop core, absolute and functional strength. This is accomplished in a multitude of movement patterns such as Olympic style lifts and body-weight resistance exercises.”