By Jeff Odom
Academy at the Lakes coach John Castelamare has a secret weapon when it comes to preparing his team for the rigors of the high school football season.
Every season since 1985 the first week of spring practice includes a special workout session — the Iron Man challenge.
In the test, Castelamare groups his players in different categories to see who is the best of the best before the pads go on.
“It takes a lot of time to do it, but I just feel it’s good to do,” Castelamare said. “You can have a big kid, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be a good football player or a fast guy, but that doesn’t mean he likes to hit. (The Iron Man) gives us the idea.”
The competition begins with four separate groups, two in the weight room and two outside.
Inside, players compete on the bench press to see how much they can lift. Outside they are timed in the 10- and 40-yard dashes, shuttle runs, an over-under jump and an 880 run.
Castelamare, who coached at Ridgewood before starting Wesley Chapel’s program in 1999, said the competitive nature of his players at the academy has risen with each Iron Man. The competition, which also runs before spring workouts, has come a long way at the academy since Castelamare’s first season in 2010.
“I can remember when I first got here there was only eight players here and they didn’t know what weights were like or anything like that,” Castelamare said. “The weight room had never been used. Now with this, they’re starting to get nicely involved with the weights and they’re always in there.”
While the Iron Man is best known for its various workout levels, Castelamare said many players have learned different routines to help them better prepare for game day. Results are also posted on a board in the weight room for all to see.
“(At first,) they didn’t know how to jump, so we put jump rope records up on the board and they learned how to,” Castelamare said. “Once they break a record we put a new one up there. So, now when we do this Iron Man, a lot of guys will do better to break what they have up there because other kids will go in there … they say ‘That’s all you can do?’”
Castelamare has used the same techniques in the Iron Man each season. While the names atop the board have shuffled around, one thing has remained true to this day — no one wants to lose.
“They know they’ll be up on that wall for a long time,” Castelamare said. “They don’t want to be last.”
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