Worthington athletes gaining an edge with Anderson's grueling offseason training program

WORTHINGTON -- Matt King never knew a ladder could cause so much pain. King, one of a handful of Worthington High School basketball players participating in an offseason strength and conditioning program directed by Josh Anderson, the health and ...

WORTHINGTON -- Matt King never knew a ladder could cause so much pain.

King, one of a handful of Worthington High School basketball players participating in an offseason strength and conditioning program directed by Josh Anderson, the health and fitness director at Worthington's YMCA, learned the hard way this summer.

In preparation for a session focusing on speed and agility last week, Anderson didn't take long to set up.

Although he was working with basketball players, Anderson didn't bring any basketballs. And, although he was about to begin a session focused on speed and agility, he didn't bring any exercise equipment.

Anderson simply laid a flimsy ladder on the basketball court. Then, over the next hour, he proceeded to direct King and his teammates through a series of unique and exhausting drills. His feet a blur, King jumped, ran, hopped and quick-stepped from different angles and directions through the ladder's spaces.


"The ladder came about when I was an undergrad at Moorhead State," said Anderson, who also positions small cones on the court for the players to run around before they even address the ladder. "It's just a twist. I haven't seen a lot of people do it that way, but, just from some of the experience I've had with it, it's a great workout."

The ladder featured two blue ropes connecting 15 wooden rungs -- each literally representing the next step in finishing a grueling drill, and each figuratively representing the next step in becoming a better all-around athlete.

"They don't realize it now, but they'll realize it when the season hits and they get on the football field and make that extra cut and totally blow by somebody, or they make a block and they hold that block," Anderson said. "I don't think they notice now, but, from a coaching standpoint, I can see the changes in these kids from when they first came in here."

King and his teammates didn't have to attend Anderson's summer workouts, which also feature weight training on Mondays and Wednesdays. They wanted to.

"I did it to get faster and stronger, to have a better team next year," King said. "I think we'll be stronger than a lot of the teams out there. We're working a few days every week, and other teams aren't doing that."

While strength and conditioning is a big part of his training program, Anderson also is determined to make the players stronger mentally.

"The first thing that happens when you get tired is your mind goes," Anderson said. "You have to train these kids to overcome that. That's when the ladder comes into effect. If you mess up a little bit, you can tell: The ladder is going all over the place. You want to make sure that ladder stays exactly where it's supposed to be."

Anderson received a degree in exercise science with a minor in coaching from MSU-Moorhead. As an undergrad, he worked with MSUM's football, basketball and women's soccer teams before doing the same as an intern with the University of Minnesota's football team.


While the ladder doesn't appear to exemplify cutting-edge exercise technology, Anderson said the workouts are more advanced in comparison to typical drills high school players are put through.

"These kids are really getting a good edge," said Anderson, who is assisted in the workouts by Minnesota West baseball coach Jeremy Irlbeck. "There aren't a lot of kids who will be doing these kinds of activities because that kind of waits until the college level. So these kids are getting a jump start."

While Anderson brings a plethora of experience, he also brings intensity. He rarely stands still during workouts; instead, he runs around, clapping his hands and screaming words of encouragement and motivation.

"He works us extremely hard," said Derek Busswitz, who wore the proof on his t-shirt, which was soaked with sweat after just 20 minutes. "It helps us out so much -- or it will later in the season. He says champions are made in the offseason, so it will help us a lot."

The drills are executed in rapid succession. The only time players are able to rest is when Anderson demonstrates a drill or allows the boys to get a drink. Even then, however, they are expected to run to and from the drinking fountain -- or face Anderson's wrath.

"He's tough on us," King said. "If people don't listen to him or do what he wants, usually you have to run after practice, and that's really not fun.

"One time, somebody knocked down one of his cones, so we had to run."

Anderson said it all will be worth it in the near future.


"It's like I was telling the guys: 'Fourth quarter, two minutes left, one-point game,'" he said. "'The guy who's going to work hard and has the mental strength is going to win.'"

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