Middle schoolers work out in new weight room

By Ben Goldstein

Michael Tromello has designed weight rooms before this one.

“But they didn’t look nearly as good as this. Not even close,” he says, gazing at the vast room around him. To his right, there are six lifting platforms, with red, green and blue weights lining the racks. To his left are two Gravitron machines – a weight-assisted pull-up apparatus that he describes as “kind of like an elevator.” The school’s new strength and conditioning coach observes his handiwork, the middle school weight room.

Tromello’s previous weight rooms did the job, but they certainly didn’t standout like his latest one. The equipment at one such weight room, which was part of a health club, was purchased second-hand on eBay.

“But [the middle school’s equipment] is state-of-the-art, brand new,” he said. The weight room, located on the first floor of the Marshall Center, was one of the campus’ many additions in the modernization project. When Tromello and Head of Strength and Conditioning Gregory Bishop were designing it, Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas told them to imagine they could design their dream weight room with an infinite budget, Tromello said. The final result matches very closely with this vision.

“It’s probably the best middle school weight room in the country,” Barzdukas says.

And Tromello agrees.

“I wish I had time in my day, where I could work out here, but I don’t,” he said. By the end of the day, Tromello is exhausted and heads home to train privately.

“[Barzdukas] wanted 100 kids in here a day – well, that’s happening, easy,” he said. “At least I feel like I see 100 kids a day.”

There are so many student-athletes wanting to train that Tromello, who also coaches fitness classes for P.E., now has the aid of an assistant. Matthew Herold, the assistant strength and conditioning coach at the upper school, now also works at the middle school weight room, Tromello said.

The scheduling system currently in place allows eighth and ninth graders to use the weight room during free periods.

Coaches inform Tromello when they want their athletes to use the weight room, and he works out a schedule with the athletes. Coaches then keep an attendance report of their athletes with Tromello to see who is using the weight room and how often. Since coaching staffs are always trying to spot athletes who could play for junior varsity or varsity the following year, commitment in the weight room suggests a commitment to the team, Tromello says.

Tromello, who is originally from Thousand Oaks, graduated from Occidental College and got his master’s degree in Social Science and Kinesiology. The strength coach played college football and continued his career in NFL Europe for two years.

He comes from a football-playing family, recently helping his younger brother, who just signed with an arena football team, move to Illinois. Weight training has long been Tromello’s passion, as he began training his brother – now a professional athlete – when he was a seventh grader.

Tromello was Occidental College’s strength and conditioning coach for three years. He still works during the football season as Occidental’s secondary coach.

This past summer, Bishop called him, explaining the new job opening at the middle school. Tromello applied and was offered the position.

Although parents’ responses have been largely enthusiastic, Tromello has received one or two concerned phone calls, he said.

“They were worried about their kids working out at such an early age,” he said. Tromello explained that precautionary measures are taken for all of his student-athletes.

“Due to the fact puberty is in full swing for the average middle schooler, it’s my job not to harm this process. In the weight room, everything must be done right and the weight has to be specific for each athlete,” he said.

Though the weight room is still new to the campus, student-athletes like Michael Wagmeister ’13 are already impressed with what it means for the athletic program.

“You walk in, and it’s unreal,” the baseball player said. “It’s huge and it has every machine imaginable. It provides a lot of advantages to athletes playing different sports with different schedules.”

As Tromello stands in the middle of the room, pointing out the different pieces of equipment, he says with a smile: “This is a nicer weight room than we had at Oxy… This might even give UCLA’s weight room a run for its money.”