When Spencer Hodges was a freshman at Manatee High, he was 6 feet tall and weighed 180 pounds.
When he left after his senior year, he grew to 6-5 and 320 pounds.
He amassed strength as a football player with his time in the weight room.
Now he’s a first-year boys weightlifting coach at Braden River High.
And a team full of young lifters is interspersed with multi-sports stars and some power lifting-centric athletes.
“It’s literally one of the most honest sports you can do, because it’s time on task,” Hodges said. “The more time you put in, the more you’re going to see results.”
The Pirates sent one lifter to the state meet last year, but the product on Friday nights in the fall was built lifting weights.
It's literally one of those most honest sports you can do, because it's time on task. The more time you put in, the more you're going to see results.
Braden River High first-year boys weightlifting coach Spencer Hodges
Braden River’s football team went from county laughingstocks to one of the top programs in the area.
And Hodges boasts three strong players at his disposal this spring: nose tackle Deqwunn McCobb, offensive lineman Brendan Bengtsson and linebacker Gavyn Purdy.
Hodges said he’s excited about getting Bengtsson once he finishes wrestling season.
“Bengtsson is just a tough, hard-nosed, big, athletic kid,” Hodges said. “And there’s not a lot of those that like to get after it. ... He’ll be a nice addition for us.”
There’s also senior Noah Cronin, who is expected to improve during the two-month season to potentially challenge for a spot at the state meet.
“I think his ability to generate force quickly is his big thing that we’ve been working on,” Hodges said. “He’s got a good power clean, he’s got a low catch. He can get under it pretty much anything he throws up. But it’s just that whole starting point where there’s no inertia for him to generate force from a standstill in his power clean. I think if he gets that going and gets a hitch going out of his push jerk ... he can add 25-30 pounds per lift just by repetition and getting some wasted movements out of his two lifts.”
Prior to coming to Braden River, Hodges was an assistant football coach at IMG Academy under former head coach and director Chris Weinke.
During his time there, Hodges was focused on reaching the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000-hour rule, which states practicing something for 10,000 hours will result in mastery of what was practiced.
Soaking up everything at IMG like a sponge, Hodges developed the steps he can incorporate into this year’s youthful Pirates weightlifting team.
Steps that can pay off down the road.
“In power lifting, you get three lifts,” Hodges said. “And every moment you lift is a crucial lift. So the parallels between hitting your lift, (personal record), and making a big play on Friday night or making a huge catch for a game-winning out in baseball or making a game-winning shot in basketball, that opportunity to rise to pressure regardless what sport is a trait that can be learned.”
Manatee High qualified the most to the state weightlifting meet. Head coach Rich Lansky saw three seniors among those qualifiers with Jernard Porter and Seth Walter representing non-seniors at the 2016 state meet.
Bayshore, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto and Southeast also field boys weightlifting teams this spring.
The county meet is in March, a week before district meets test the resolve of athletes in a pressure-packed environment.
Area competing teams
- Braden River
- Cardinal Mooney
- Lakewood Ranch
- Manatee County Championships at Manatee High, March 8
- District meets at various venues, March 10 and 15
- Regional meets at various venues, March 22-25
- State meet at TBD, April 7-8