EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – When SIUE Athletics began sharing its newest facility with its student-athletes, the 'wow factor' was prevalent.
SIUE took a giant leap forward with the opening of a new strength and conditioning facility in the bottom floor of the Charles and Mary Lukas Athletics Annex. The Cougar Weight Room vaults SIUE above its peers with a facility that allows the SIUE Strength and Conditioning staff abundant resources.
"It was always the No. 1 concern of every senior exit interview since I came back to athletics," said SIUE Director of Athletics Dr. Brad Hewitt. "And it was always the No. 1 thing when I gave kids the opportunity to say if you could change one thing about our program, and they would say we need a weight room."
Hewitt said the commitment from SIUE's administration and its donors, including Alton Memorial Hospital/an affiliate of BJC HealthCare, have provided Intercollegiate Athletics with a unique facility that puts SIUE near the top in strength and conditioning facilities among Ohio Valley Conference members.
"Of every facility we've improved here, this is the most important improvement." - SIUE Director of Athletics Dr. Brad Hewitt
"It is the first of the final three pieces we need to be a complete first class Division I program," Hewitt said. "We needed a weight room. We need additional gym practice space, and we need an indoor field house. This is one of three."
Strength and Conditioning Coach Meade Smith was charged with designing the space, ordering the new equipment, and implementing the strategies to help SIUE student-athletes to become bigger, stronger, and faster.
"From a recruiting standpoint, there is going be a big wow factor," said Smith. "This puts us way above the curve as far as what we have to offer from a performance setting."
The "L-shaped" space has two separate, functional areas, one with traditional weight room equipment and another open, turfed area that can be utilized for warm-ups, sprint work, or general cardio workouts.
"The biggest thing this room is going to give us is space," Smith said. "Our philosophy is that we want to make sure everything is functional and applicable to every sport. The greatest thing about this design is that it gives us all the things we need."
The weight room includes seven lifting racks, including four with video playback technology that will show a student-athlete their form as well as measure the velocity of the bar being lifted. The technology from EliteForm enables the strength and conditioning staff to monitor progression, set up customized workouts, and help student-athletes visualize their form and proper technique.
"EliteForm has given us technology that will help us provide the student-athletes with instant feedback. It will measure their workouts," Smith said. "We tell our student-athletes to push the weights faster and be more explosive. This will give them instant feedback from their workout."
There are nine Olympic-style weightlifting platforms, four glute and hamstring developers, two VersaClimbers, two elliptical machines, and eight stationary bicycles. The student-athletes also can utilize vertical jump boxes, ropes, dumbbells, jump ropes, and numerous other strength tools.
"The biggest wow for me was the support from Dr. Hewitt and the administration," said Smith. "This is everything I asked for when I envisioned putting this room together. What we have here is something special. We should be able to take it to the next level."
Smith said efficiency was one of the main goals he wanted to accomplish as this new space was opened.
"It will allow us to do more things and be more specific and more precise with our student-athletes," said Smith.
"The biggest thing this facility enhances is our ability to recruit athletes and our ability to transform our current and future athletes into better competitors," said Hewitt. "I'm not only ecstatic because it's a first-class facility, but Meade has done such an incredible job of outfitting it with the latest, greatest technology."
SIUE has improved and updated all of its athletics facilities since making the jump to NCAA Division I status. Hewitt said this is a significant step for SIUE Athletics.
"Of every facility we've improved here, this is the most important improvement," he said.
In the Words of SIUE's Head Coaches
"I think having a brand new facility is a huge step forward for the department as a whole. The fact that it is housed in the same facility that our offices are makes it great for the convenience of the coaching staff and the student-athletes. The biggest new advantage is to have such a great workspace for Meade Smith and his staff. It puts us on par with many of the other top Division I institutions in the Midwest."
– Scott Donnelly, Men's Soccer
"We're going to see a rejuvenation in spirit in terms of fitness. Something new creates a positive energy and excitement. The tools that we have to implement our strength and conditioning program are so diverse that we will be able to be creative. From that creativity, we're going to see better gains from our efforts."
– Leah Johnson, Volleyball
"It's really going to help recruiting having a facility like that to help our young men grow as far as their speed and strength. SIUE has done a great job with upgrading things and getting to where we have all the resources to be successful."
– Lennox Forrester, Men's Basketball
"It will give us more options in terms of an indoor space. With that extended turf down there, it really helps out tremendously."
– Eileen McAllister, Men's and Women's Cross Country and Track and Field
"The new facility not only looks great, but it's extremely beneficial for our student-athletes because of its functionality. It's going to be incredible in the way that our student-athletes can continue to develop given all of the resources our Strength and Conditioning staff will have."
– Derek Burton, Women's Soccer
"The new weight room and facility will allow our players to train at a level higher than they have had the luxury of training at before."
– Jason Coomer, Men's and Women's Tennis
"This new weight room is going to help in recruiting but also will help the student-athletes in our program to train in-season, out of season, and in the summer. With Meade's expertise and this facility, it should raise the level of all of our athletic programs."
– Paula Buscher, Women's Basketball
"It's a huge benefit to the softball program and our entire department. It's going to allow us to train at a much higher level than we ever have. We have state-of-the-art equipment, and we're excited to get in there and get after it."
– Sandy Montgomery, Softball
"The new space we will have is a dramatic change from what we had previously. We can have multiple teams in there at once. For golf specifically, the extra space will be a huge advantage to us. Showing a new recruit this weight room will make a huge difference going forward."
– Derrick Brown, Men's and Women's Golf
"This is a state-of-the art facility that will meet all of our needs to provide what our kids need in the weight room to become bigger, stronger and faster. I think it will be a difference maker for some kids when they sit down and make a decision on where they want to attend."
– Tony Stoecklin, Baseball
"It's big for us because we can get everybody in there doing the same thing. The old weight room was functional but we had to go in different groups. With the turf side, we can do a lot of extra things like sled pushes. It's a great asset for us."
– Jeremy Spates, Wrestling