There are tough challenges being met in the Skyline High School weightlifting program. New standards being set. Personal bests achieved. And, it doesn’t come easy.
After all, as Skyline strength and conditioning coach Brandon Bedinger likes to say, “the world’s not full of unicorns and rainbows.”
“That’s one of the things Coach B says to get us motivated,” says Nassim Saidane, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 218-pound defenseman on the lacrosse team who works out three days a week after school in the weight room. “He’s got some great speeches, and he’s tough on you, but it’s for a good reason. You can tell he cares about you, about seeing you improve, not just as a lifter, as an athlete, but as a person.”
Bedinger’s caring is exhibited in more than just words and speeches. He’s a community assistant during the day at Skyline, patrolling hallways, building relationships, keeping situations calm. And then, after school, five days a week, he’s supervising weight-training, every evening until 7 p.m.
Sometimes it’s more than five days a week. Last year, when linebacker Rollie Caswell was really hitting the weights hard, Bedinger came in on Saturdays to do some personal work with the sophomore.
“Lots of times, it was just the two of us,” said Caswell, who has gone from 150 pounds to 190 in two years of training under Bedinger’s watch. “Coach B is definitely a role model. He’s been lifting so long himself that he’s like a window into the future of what you could be if you keep lifting.”
Bedinger enhances the training program for the sports teams at Skyline by giving the student-athletes an in-season weight regimen to go along with their regular practices. And some of the athletes elect to go year-round, even in their sport’s off-season, just to stay fit and toned and to get stronger.
There’s a reason the athletes gravitate to the weight room, despite it being a place where hard work is the norm.
“Coach B makes it fun, even though it’s tough,” said Saidane, who also plays defensive line on the Skyline football team. “There’s music blaring, and he’s always talking to you, pushing you to do better.
“He tells us that it’s not easy, but it’s like life. Life isn’t easy, either. You have to work in the weight room to get better, and you have to work in life to get better.”
The team-sport student-athletes aren’t the only ones who benefit from the weightlifting program. There is the Skyline Barbell Club, which also meets after school, and it is open to anyone who wants to lift weights, no matter how big, how small, or how inexperienced.
“It’s not just about jocks,” Bedinger said. “We welcome everyone, as long as you’re willing to put the work in. You can be in the choir, the drumline, be an artist, a singer, a dancer, it doesn’t matter. The weight room is the all-knowing equalizer. Two-hundred pounds is 200 pounds, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Progress and improvement are what it’s about in the weight room, according to both Bedinger and Saidane.
“It’s not where you start, but where you finish,” Bedinger said. “All of these kids are just beginners really, even if they’ve been lifting for a couple of years, in the grand scheme of things, they’re just beginners.
“Some of them look like they’re in middle school, and some of them are really physically developed, but we treat them all the same. There is a lot of disappointment in the weight room and a lot of success. It gives you a chance to step in and mentor, to build a coach-player relationship.”
Saidane is a prime example of progress and improvement. He has gained weight, muscle, strength and confidence since he began in the weight-lifting program as a sophomore two years ago.
But it didn’t come easy. And his progress wasn’t immediate.
“I weighed 170 pounds and I was weak when I started, and at first, no matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t getting any bigger or much stronger,” Saidane said. “But Coach B told me not to quit, not to give up, and I didn’t.
“And, now, I weigh almost 220 pounds and I’m a lot stronger. Some of that is because I’m two years older, but I guarantee a lot of it is because of the work I’ve put in.”
Saidane says his progress has shown up beyond the weight room.
“I transferred from (Ypsilanti) New Tech after my freshman year, I didn’t know anyone at Skyline and I was real shy,” he said. “Meeting all these people when I was working out really helped me make friends, and lifting and working builds confidence.
“The weight room is a real social place, a great place to be.”
Those kinds of words are music to Bedinger’s ears. He loves to hear his student-athletes take life-lessons from the weight room.
“You can learn a lot about who you are in the weight room,” he said. “You can build yourself into a better person, not only physically, but emotionally.
“And you can take those lessons into the real world.”
Photo by Jo Mathis, AAPS District News