A husband, a father, and a teacher. All of these words personify Red Mountain High School's head strength and conditioning coach Ben Brandau, who's changed the lives of hundreds of student athletes in Arizona.
Brandau, along with his fellow staff members April Steiner-Bennett, Josh Barge, Jake Kober, Mike Rung, and Bryan Rice, conduct daily weightlifting classes. They emphasize that students use proper lifting techniques in three different sized facilities.
“We push close to 1,200 kids through the weight room. Each weight room is going to house all of the athletes from badminton players all the way up to football players,” Brandau said.
Brandau is an Iowa native and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He’s been coaching strength training most of his life.
A veteran strength coach with a variety of certifications, Brandau knows what it takes to improve an athlete’s development.
Red Mountain’s athletic director Dr. James Gowdy said he considers Brandau an expert in his field.
Gowdy said that in the three years Brandau has been on Red Mountain's campus, he's brought a wealth of experience, passion and expertise.
With more than 15 years of experience, listening to the thunderous sounds of iron weights banging against each other, Brandau has proven his dedication to making sure athletes can reach the next level.
Gabe Williams, a senior defensive lineman at Red Mountain, thinks the weight training program at the school has helped him get ready to potentially play football in college.
“The weight room, it’s definitely helped me a lot with the way Brandau runs it,” Williams said. “Just the intensity gets you ready for the next level. It makes you push yourself to your absolute limits where you just want to give up, but you’ve got to keep going. I think it’s really helped me to figure out my mental capacity and how much my body really can do.”
Steiner-Bennett, a former Olympic pole vaulter and one of Red Mountain’s weight training coaches, doesn’t think any other high school in the state compares to Red Mountain.
“A lot of other schools don’t have a weight lifting program like Red Mountain, it’s unmatched as far as I know in my career,” she said.
Even if Brandau has to come in on his days off, he’s willing to do so in order to help his student athletes get better.
“If an athlete wants to stay after and do some other lifts, we are here for them knowing that they are in a safe environment,” he said. “We want to support their dreams of going to college and playing athletics.”
In the past three years, 88 students who've trained with Brandau have gone on to compete in various sports at the college level.
“We are always trying to compete, it never ends once you start getting comfortable. You’re going to get beat (if you do),” Brandau said. “If you’re going to go to college … you should start it in high school with the proper technique. It’s just a part of life, it’s a part of being an athlete.”