Athletics: Tired legs return to Brainerd

Brainerd Warrior student-athletes sprint in the parking lot of the Essentia Health Sports Center Monday, June 15, on the first day of the Free Warrior Summer Strength and Performance Camp. This cooperative between the Brainerd Activities Department, including many of its coaches, along with Takedown Gym worked with about 140-150 student-athletes at the sports center. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch .

Crouched bodies with hands on knees, heavy breathing and a few trips to the nearby woods to vomit were a welcome site Monday, June 15.

It was the first day of the Free Warrior Summer Strength and Performance Camp. This cooperative between the Brainerd Activities Department, including many of its coaches, along with Takedown Gym worked about 140-150 Brainerd student-athletes at the Essentia Health Sports Center.

Those 150 students were split into four group sessions. Each of those group sessions then had three different time periods they could meet to follow social distancing guidelines.

For some athletes, the day started at 7:45 a.m. while others concluded around 12:30 p.m. The mixture of conditioning and agility training along with strength training was an added bonus for many of the red-faced athletes Monday.

“It feels good,” said Warrior soccer, hockey and lacrosse player Macy Peterson. “I haven’t been doing very much. It feels good to see people again and talk with them. If this wasn’t offered I probably would have tried to do some stuff at home, but.”


The workout program can accommodate 240 student-athletes, Warriors activities director Charlie Campbell said. He hopes athletes from Monday can work through the sore and tired muscles and keep returning while more student-athletes use the free program.

“There are a lot of smiles out here,” Campbell said. “Talking to Bryan Henrichs, the arena manager, he’s thanked us so much for bringing these kids here and bringing some life back to the building. It feels good to coach. It feels good for the kids to see each other and work hard and so it’s been a good day. But you can also tell kids have been sitting around for a few months.”

Enter Mike Holtan, the fitness and recreation advisor and building champions instructor at Takedown Gym who worked on student-athletes agility, explosion and cardio in the parking lot.

“Today was awesome,” Holtan said. “With this COVID thing going on, I didn’t know what to expect with numbers so when we saw the outcome of the signups we were super happy.

“I’m super passionate about working out and to see these guys as passionate as I am, it makes me super happy. When I’m excited and they’re excited. That’s when good things start getting done.”

Once done with Holtan athletes entered the sports center and worked out in two separate weight training areas. Those groups then exited the back of the building to constantly maintain proper distancing.

“I think there is a little bit of hope and we have kids from darn near every sport that we offer at Brainerd High School,” Campbell said. “We have representatives from all of those teams here. They’re working out together. This is kind of a common vision for our coaching staff that this is that common thread for our programs. This training that we do to be the best possible selves we can be, we as coaches, share that common bond. It just feels great to be engaging in that again after so much forced time away.”

Grant Gmeinder was just happy to see his athletes in person again. The Brainerd Warriors head girls soccer coach and assistant boys basketball coach knows the importance of coach-athlete bonds.


“You could sense that there was life again,” Gmeinder said. “This is what it is all about. We’re obviously not back because we’re still limited in what we can do, but we know the relationship side is probably the most valuable side to this.

“This makes a huge difference. We had done some online meetings and check-in things, but to actually be able to look them in the face and see them smile and joke with them, I think it made a huge difference for me as a coach, too. I feel a lot better being here and hopefully, it did for them, too.”

Gmeinder couldn’t praise the partnership between the school, Takedown Gym and the sports center enough. He said he hopes it is something that can grow and become an annual thing.

Despite just starting, Peterson can already tell this program will be a boost come fall sports season.

“The first day was difficult because everyone is out of shape, but I think by the end of this it will be beneficial.”

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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