Frank Lerchen prepared to guide WO athletics to “the next level”


Alex Spilotro

West Ottawa recently promoted Frank Lerchen to become the school’s first athlete performance coordinator.

Alex Spilotro

“This is going to take WO to the next level,” West Ottawa Athletic Director Bill Kennedy said. On February 4, West Ottawa promoted athletic trainer Frank Lerchen to “Athlete Performance Coordinator,” the first in school history. 

High school sports are intensifying. The processes and actions of professional sports have seeped into collegiate athletics, which have now trickled into the realm of high school sports. High schools across the country are constructing new positions for their athletic programs to create an edge against their competitors, and West Ottawa is no exception. Being the fifth high school in the OK Red Conference to create a position of this nature, West Ottawa has goals of taking its sports performances to the next level. “Right now, we’re second in the conference for conference titles this year,” Kennedy said. “With hiring this position, we’re coming for that orange banner,” Kennedy said as he pointed to Rockford High School’s flag in our gym, the high school that is currently in first place for conference titles this year. 

“We’ve got 29 teams that are all doing a little bit here and a little bit there as far as strength and conditioning,” Kennedy said.  “We need that one person to really bring all of those people together and unite them under common [training] guidelines.” 

Kennedy said that Lerchen has proven himself to be “diligent and loyal to West Ottawa,” and that Lerchen has a very strong knowledge base and skill set for the job. Lerchen received his degree from Grand Valley State University in Athletic Training and has worked at West Ottawa for the last six years as the head athletic trainer. Students know him as being very friendly and passionate, and anybody who has been in the trainer’s room with him knows that Lerchen is incredibly educated on the subject of athlete performance. 

“The overarching theme is to create a unified culture of West Ottawa strength and conditioning. Building continuity across our programs in terms of biomechanics, fundamental lifts, and also getting into sport-specific training depending on each sport and their demands is a big goal of mine,” Lerchen said. “A lot of it starts with you guys as students. Another goal is to continue to foster positive relationships and begin to identify individuals who are interested in athletic mentorship.”

Lerchen is planning to form a new identity for West Ottawa athletics, where coaches, trainers, and experienced upperclassmen lead their teams with a solid knowledge base provided by this new position. 

“I’m taking a global approach in terms of performance enhancement,” Lerchen said. “There’s so much more that goes into strength and conditioning beyond just the weight room.”  Lerchen will guide athletes beyond lifting, including sleep, nutrition, recovery, and efficiency in the weight room.

Previously an athletic trainer, Lerchen is able to converse with athletes on precisely what they can and should do to optimize their performance on and off the field. “The other thing is consistency, getting athletes to understand that it’s about putting in work. Don’t get fixated on hitting a new max/PR weekly. Trust the process and know that sometimes the best rep is the one that you didn’t do in terms of not hurting yourself,” Lerchen said. “The longer you stay healthy, the more consistent your training becomes. Consistency over a long period of time equals the compound effect.” Lerchen plans on educating high school athletes on proper technique and form in the weight room, ultimately optimizing strength output and minimizing the risk of injury. 

Specific details such as ligament and tendon strengthening exercises will be incorporated into certain workout plans in hopes to decrease the risk of injuries for athletes. “Those [exercises that strengthen ligaments such as the ACL] are finer details that will be tied into the strength and conditioning programs,” Lerchen said.

Physical wellness classes offered at West Ottawa such as Advanced Strength & Conditioning and PEAK Performance will begin to incorporate these new lifts into their training schedules. “I plan to continue to emphasize proper biomechanics and basic neurodevelopmental firing patterns with our younger athletes,” Lerchen said. “If you’re doing the lifts prescribed correctly, a lot of that is going to improve tendon resiliency and promote stronger joints.”   

Lerchen also plans on creating sport-specific training programs. Lerchen will plan to address things such as “shoulder problems for swim, ankle injuries for basketball, [and] knee health for football” into these programs. 

For the athletes, Lerchen hopes that “this training will translate to both increased athleticism and a decrease in injuries.” 

With this position being created at West Ottawa, it is hoped that athletes of all levels take advantage of the resources provided by Lerchen and the West Ottawa athletic training community. “I would’ve loved for this position to have been available for me since freshman year, but I’m still excited to see what Frank has to offer for [the baseball team] this season,” Sr. Noah Bonnema said. 

Frank Lerchen is undoubtedly qualified for the job, and West Ottawa athletics is excited about upcoming success.