Holden powerlifting coach David White could call it beginner’s luck, but he’s more about giving credit where it’s due in regard to the program’s success this season.
“I can’t take a whole lot of credit for this thing,” said White, who will have 15 of the Rockets’ 17 team members competing in the state meet March 14-16 at Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria after starting the program this season. “I was very fortunate that we decided to start this, and this was the group we kind of had to do it with. They were pretty talented, and they were pretty strong to start out with. They work real hard.”
Getting the program off the ground is something White said he’s mulled over since organizing a junior varsity team 12 years ago. Those plans got sidetracked a bit when he took over as Holden’s baseball coach the following season.
After competing in a powerlifting competition himself last year, White said the spark came back to try and start a team at the school. He said he knew the commitment would take away some of his family time, so he had to get the approval of his wife, Doyle girls basketball coach Sam White, before rolling with the idea.
He also said the fact that he is able to turn his baseball coaching duties over to assistant Ory Loupe when there is a conflict between the sports helped solidify the plan.
“It was something that was kind of pulling on my heartstrings a little bit to do, and I kind of kept making excuses – ‘I don’t have time for that’, that kind of stuff,” he said. “This year, I just kind of said to heck with it. We’re just going to do it. We’ll figure it out.”
The Rockets also have the benefit of having their own weight room, which was created by removing lockers out of a locker room at the school’s old gym. White also worked at Spoga in Hammond, which donated equipment to the school when it changed locations a couple of years ago.
“It’s been nice,” White said. “I would say for any school that doesn’t have football, we might have the nicest weight room in the state. We’ve been lucky with that.”
What really solidified the team are the lifters themselves, which White said includes two cheerleaders, softball player Olivia Barnes, girls basketball player Halee Bordelon, and some team members who hadn’t participated in sports before going out for the team.
“It’s kind of a weird mash-up of kids,” White said. “We’ve been able to kind of piece it together. I did my best Nick Saban, and I tried to recruit the ones that, in the halls, you’re kind of looking for kids you think can do it. I was fortunate. Most of the ones that I thought could do it, they came out, and then we had some come out that have been really surprising.”
Among those athletes is Kayla Davis, whom White said didn’t attend the team’s original meet and joined the team in December. She’ll head to the state meet having lifted a total weight of 635 pounds in the 220-pound class after finishing fourth at last week’s East Regional meet.
“To my knowledge, she hadn’t done any sports before, and she comes in there and within a week or two, she’s strong as heck,” White said. “You can only bring 11, and so we had spots open we were trying to fill. We took her, and that was kind of like a revelation.”
On the boys side, White said Joel Penalber’s totals have increased 200 pounds since December. He’ll head into the state meet after lifting a total of 825 pounds at the regional meet.
“They’ve taken to it really well as far as the competition part of it, and not getting outside themselves,” White said. “I try to tell them you are competing with the kids that are lifting with you, but you kind of have to really focus on being the best that you can be. Sometimes it is a sport, and you can’t lie to them. If you get up there and some kid is deadlifting 200 more pounds than you, you’re not going to beat that kid right now. It’s not going to happen, but you can be better than you were yesterday, and I think a lot of them have really gotten that, and to me, that’s the important thing, because they can continually see themselves getting better.
“The weights don’t lie …”
White said it’s that type of progress that makes coaching powerlifting worthwhile.
“You get to go out there individually, and yeah you’re competing with other people, but the fact that you really get to see growth – it was good for me, and I think it’s really good for kids to do it too,” White said. “In individual sports, you’ve really got to put it on the line. You learn a lot about yourself being out there. I think it can make you stronger as a person. I think it’s a great sport.”
He said the team’s success this season has already started to carry over into next year.
"It’s been good,” White said. “We’ve had a lot of interest for next year with some younger kids and stuff, so it’s exciting.”