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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

ROBERT SILVA SIGNED up for a fitness class at Liberty High School to stay in shape.

Students Take
To Fitness Gym

By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY — November 5, 2004 – Tim Bult hears it all the time – kids these days are getting fatter, they’re out of shape.
It’s on all the news channels, but the Liberty athletic director isn’t buying into the hype.
He knows there’s a way to make a difference in kids’ lives – and he hopes the brand new fitness facility at Liberty High School will be just the ticket.
The weight room adjoining the high school gymnasium has always been sort of a joke.
Kids would use it after school to practice throwing the shot put or for team meetings.
But it was mostly a storage room. The few weight training machines crammed into the space with mats and balls were in poor condition.
With a burgeoning enrollment, the school’s athletic program was moved from an “average Class C” to Class B – putting the Indians up against much bigger schools with much bigger athletic budgets on the football field and basketball court.
“We made a pretty big jump,” he said.
When Bult would visit his kids’ competition, he’d find entire teams in the weight room preparing for the next season.
His athletes back in Liberty didn’t have that option – many of the kids who play basketball are the same ones on the baseball team or golf squad. And every bit of space in Liberty was being used by the current season’s sports teams.
That, coupled with the national obesity challenge, meant something needed to be done.
Former Liberty Coach Mike Williams made the first pitch to administration for an in-school fitness facility.
By November 2003, Bult was brought in to work out the logistics of creating a facility at the high school.
To help alleviate their storage problems, the district purchased a storage shed that was placed outside near the gym – where teams could easily access their equipment.
While leg presses and Olympic benches were on order, Bult’s department began updating its curriculum to create class offerings for students to use the new facility.
An elective was added that students could take in place of a study hall – for 42 minutes a day, every other day, they’d head to the fitness center for an actual fitness class.
They receive high school credit for their time plus physical benefits, Bult explained.
When the 2004-2005 school year began, with some of the machinery still on back order, the students in the class spent their time outside undergoing fitness tests. Those will be repeated at the break between each marking period to mark students’ progress.
The facility itself opened just last month – when all of the machinery was put in place, from a Smith machine to a squat cage.
Robert Silva plays football, and he signed up for the fitness course immediately when he heard it was being offered.
“It’ll help a lot – you get quicker and stronger,” the junior said. “It’s better than sitting around doing nothing!”
Everyone is scrambling to get inside, Bult said, from coaches to physical education teachers to the students themselves.
The athletic department is looking for funding within the intramural program to help cover the cost of chaperoning the facility after-school for students who don’t have time in their schedule to use the center during the day.
Bult is also trying to open the center up during students’ study halls and for a portion of each lunch period.
“The ultimate goal is to get as much exposure to as many kids as possible,” he explained. “Right now, the coaches want to get their teams in there after school, our phys. ed. classes want to use it during school . . . there’s a lot of need, which is why it’s there.
“That’s a problem I’ll take – everyone wants to use it!”
A Liberty graduate himself, Bult said there’s never been this kind of opportunity for the district’s kids.
“A lot of kids couldn’t afford to go downtown to the gym,” he said. “And they didn’t have transportation.”
When athletes left Liberty for college, they’d walk into college gyms with giant, professional weight rooms and be intimidated.
“You walk into a weight room with all these trained athletes using equipment you don’t know how to use. . . it’s a lot to handle,” he said. “Now they’ll have some familiarity with it.”
And this should make a real difference for kids who just don’t get enough exercise.
“We’re doing our part,” Bult explained.
The project cost more than $40,000, but Bult said extra state aid was used to cover the costs.
“That’s the big thing,” he said. “It didn’t hit the taxpayers.”

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