Students at coaches at Tiger Tough strength and conditioning camp

Indian Hills and Stilwell students at ‘Tiger Tough’ grow athletic skills, nutrition smarts

West Des Moines Community Schools’ (WDMCS) “Tiger Tough” strength and conditioning summer camp has become essential in the development of seventh- and eighth-grade students.

It’s hard to believe it’s only in its first year.

The six-week camp began June 11 with Indian Hills and Stilwell Junior High students meeting three days a week at either 4 or 5 p.m.

The camp, led by Phil McCulloughan assistant coach for the Valley boys’ track and field programfocuses on age-appropriate exercises geared toward mobility, flexibility, strength, and agility, among other key metrics.

McCullough said the camp is suited to be more educational-based, with coaches emphasizing and explaining the “why” during instructions.

“We’re being very intentional about breaking down movement and athletic performance to its roots,” McCullough said.

This year’s camp cost $60 and offered financial assistance for those in need. Each session has a maximum of 70 registered students. Student-athletes also receive a camp T-shirt.

McCullough, who graduated from Valley in 2003, works as a physical therapist at Rock Valley Physical Therapy. He said Indian Hills Assistant Principal Zac Sinram drew inspiration from other area schools that offered a similar opportunity for their students.

But because of the planning process and the individuals involved, McCullough believes “Tiger Tough” really raises the bar.

“The way we’re structuring it, I would reckon it’s unlike any other school districts’ (camp),” McCullough said.

In addition to the exercise aspect of the camp led by McCullough, Valley sophomore football assistant coach Mark Schilb, student intern Helen Gould,  local personal trainer Flynn Heald, and other Valley coaches and students, campgoers gain further knowledge about proper nutrition.

Ellen Davis, who works as a dietitian with Hy-Vee and is the only certified sports dietitian in Iowa working with high schools, implements a performance nutrition program during the Monday sessions. She breaks things down into very short messages and focuses on four main aspects: hydration, breakfast, recovery nutrition, and transitioning back into the school year.

“These young athletes are active individuals, as I often call them,” Davis said. “Living an active lifestyle, it’s just overall going to lead to a healthier lifestyle. Their bodies are changing at this point in their lives and it’s a really critical time for them to start to adopt some healthy habits.”

Ty Barr, an incoming Indian Hills seventh-grader, wanted to join the camp so he could continue to enhance his athletic skills while also getting faster and stronger. He plays football and lacrosse.

While participating in “Tiger Tough,” Barr feels like he’s improved overall.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming in,” he said. “I learned a lot from the coaches. They all had something to give. You learn a lot here and you definitely get better as an athlete.”

This year’s camp finishes July 20. And while this is just the first year of “Tiger Tough,” McCullough feels its popularity can only rise from here.

“This camp should hopefully just continue to grow as we get the word out of its importance and how it sets kids up when coming into the next level of whatever sport or program they’re going into when coming to Valley,” he said.

Yet knowing this Valley alumnus is helping develop the next generation of Tigers who will continue the school’s rich athletics legacy, McCullough couldn’t be happier.

“(I’m) extremely prideful of what Valley High School is, what it means to be a Tiger, and what it takes to succeed,” he said. “I’m proud of what we accomplished and what we will continue to accomplish.”

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Media coverage:

WHO-TV: West Des Moines Athletes Learn Proper Training in District Conditioning Camp

WDMCS students get instructions at Tiger Tough strength and conditioning camp

WDMCS junior high students receive instructions before an exercise at the Tiger Tough strength and conditioning camp on Wednesday, July 11, 2018.