MHS athletes take Smart approach to training

Mitchell McMillen | The Chronicle

Mason High School (MHS) athletes are embracing a new “Smart” training method.

Photo by Mitchell McMillen
Director of Strength and Conditioning Trent Smart coaches and motivates senior basketball player Ben Menker during a lift.

The motto has even been printed on t-shirts and worn by student-athletes throughout the school. Trent Smart, the Director of Strength and Conditioning at MHS, has brought a fresh style of training to Mason athletics since joining the staff in 2022.

Smart grew up in Clarksville, Ohio, playing football at Clinton-Massie High School and Ohio University. Although working with a new age group may have been daunting, Smart saw it as an opportunity to grow as a coach. The chance to work with a new age group was a key factor in Smart’s decision to come to MHS.

Before working at Mason, Smart was the Associate Director of Sports Performance at Valparaiso University and the strength and conditioning coach for the football and womens’ basketball programs. The transition from training college athletes to high school athletes brought about new challenges for Smart on top of the demands of directing all sports.

“It was a new challenge for me because it’s an age population I’ve never worked with,” Smart said. “Dropping down to the high school level was a challenge in that regard, as well as it was my first opportunity to be a director of everyone.”

Since working with high schoolers, Smart has recognized that he is working with students who are less experienced in the weight room compared to college athletes. Smart has adopted a more hands on teaching method when instructing athletes to ensure they are performing

movements and exercises correctly and safely. He believes that this helps athletes improve their coordination and maximize their athleticism. Smart’s approach to training has its roots in building a strong base for athletes. He believes in focusing more on simply increasing the athlete’s athleticism versus becoming hyper-focused on sports-specific movements.

“Especially with [high school athletes], building good movement patterns is just as important, if not more important, than sports-specific training,” Smart said.

In Smart’s program, the base for athletes is built during the offseason with a consistent plan across all teams. During a sport’s respective season, Smart transitions to more specific training.

“Early offseason for all sports looks relatively similar,” Smart said. “As we approach that sports competitive season, that’s where they all start to break off into tiny differences. For example, football is going to do different prehab work than volleyball because they have different demands.”

His emphasis on prehab and rehab movements makes his program unique from other strength and conditioning coaches. These movements are aimed at both preventing injuries and helping athletes recover from injuries. Mason has a low injury rate, even with the enormous size of the school, which partially could be attributed to these movements.

Smart mixes prehab and rehab movements into workout routines through supersets. These supersets not only keep athletes busy and focused, but they also play a role in injury prevention.

“Instead of having one weight room session for strength and one session for recovery, we do both,” Smart said. “For example, when one athlete is squatting, their partner could be doing band work for the hips. A lot of athletes may feel like it’s busy work but it’s the real bread and

butter of my program.”

Athletes are noticing decreased time spent away from performing due to injuries. The prehab and rehab movements Smart implements in between sets are purposeful in strengthening muscles prone to injury depending on the sport. Junior softball player Alisha Fox has noticed a decrease in injuries from these movements done in the weight room. Injuries are common in a sport like softball where one side of the body is overused, so the decrease in injuries is significant to Fox.

“There used to be a lot of shoulder injuries from throwing,” Fox said. “Now Smart will give us physical therapy to go through or exercises to strengthen the shoulder so injuries don’t happen anymore.”

Mason athletes have noticed the positive effects of Coach Smart’s program in both their explosiveness and overall athleticism. Senior boys basketball player Ben Menker has specifically seen an increase in his explosiveness from his time spent in Smart’s weight room.

Menker says he has not only seen his explosiveness improve, but he feels better prepared before games and practices by using Smart’s warm-up routine. He has also noticed the athleticism of teammates and other athletes improve from Smart’s workouts.

“Everyone [who steps] foot in Coach Smart’s weight room will see their athleticism increase,” Menker said. “Smart is just going to push you and make sure you do the whole workout. That really helps everyone including me because of the explosiveness part.”

Menker attributes his improvement in the weight room to Smart’s energy and encouragement. Menker says he’s noticed Smart’s commitment to building relationships to help mentor athletes.

“A lot of times he lifts with us and he gets really competitive about it,” Menker said. “That really pushes us to get better. Then outside of the weight room, he’s like a mentor to us. He builds relationships with us and enjoys what we enjoy.”

Athletes are seeing how their increase in athleticism is translating into benefits in their in-game performances. Fox, a pitcher, feels more confident from her time spent in Smart’s weight room and has noticed an increase in strength and stamina during games.

“I feel like it’s definitely increased my speed, pitching-wise,” Fox said. “And it makes me feel stronger on the mound and more confident because I know that I have the stamina to be able to go through the whole game.”