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Inside the life of Jim Jarvis

Jim Jarvis, Carleton’s strength and conditioning coach, bounces a white lacrosse ball on the rubber floor as he circles the weight room at Laird Stadium. “Stacy’s Mom” is playing on the speaker system. It’s Modern Rock Monday, Jarvis says.

Football players in matching gray polyester t-shirts and shorts gather around the squatting racks. As a Nirvana song comes on, metal plates clang against metal plates. A clamp zips down the end of a barbell. At the leg press station, a purple-faced football player trembles beneath a 700-pound load and hisses, “Oh shit.”

His teammates glance at sheets of paper, where Jarvis has planned their lifting routines. This afternoon, they’re set to lift 120 percent of their maximums. “Say you can squat 450 pounds. Now you’re squatting 500 pounds,” Jarvis explains.

It isn’t easy.

At a squatting rack, Jarvis crouches behind a football player, who positions his shoulder blades beneath the bar. “Alright, here we go.” Jarvis clasps the football player’s sides as he hovers in a squat. “One. Two. Three.” The bar clangs into the catch.

As snow falls outside, sweaty buzz cuts glisten in the weight room. Jarvis stands with his arms crossed and scans the room.

***
The women’s tennis team trickles in at 5:30 p.m.

“Evening ladies,” Jarvis says. A tennis player in a tie-dyed shirt and baby blue running shorts lifts a barbell above her head. In front of her, two women take turns hanging from a pull up bar.

Jarvis coaches 17 sports teams, including every varsity team at Carleton except men’s cross country and track. He says he sometimes oversees seven or eight teams in the weight room at the same time. On most days he gets to the weight room at 7 a.m. and stays past 6 p.m.

“If someone wants to come lift at 6:30 p.m., I’m not going to say no,” he says.

Jarvis works on Modern Rock Mondays, Rap Tuesdays, Western Wednesdays, Throwback Thursdays and Jock Jams Friday (Jock Jams are compilations of dance hits from the 90s. Think Naughty by Nature, Will Smith and 69 Boyz).

On a Saturday morning, a sign outside Laird Stadium says the building is closed. But the women’s track team is inside, doing side planks on rubber mats. Jarvis pops out of the trainer’s office.

Although Jarvis says he works six days a week, Football player Hunter Brown says Jarvis usually works seven.

***
Jarvis grew up in Hinkley, Minn. a central Minnesota town with a population of fewer than 2,000 people.

At age four, he was a hockey player. He played goalie in every level of the local hockey association, from Mini Mites to Peewees. By the time he reached high school, he also played football and baseball.

He went to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to play hockey and become a history teacher. He is part Ojibwe, and he grew up near the Mille Lacs Indian reservation. He was especially interested in American Indian history.

But when he was a sophomore, a new hotshot goalie joined the hockey team. Jarvis lost hope of becoming the starting goalie, so he transferred to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

On top of switching colleges, Jarvis switched majors several times, he says. But he always planned to minor in coaching.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, other than I wanted to coach,” he says. He thought he wanted to coach high school hockey. But while fulfilling credits for his coaching minor, he fell in love with exercise science, so he switched his major.

Jarvis’s first job after gradu- ation was at a private Idaho strength and conditioning clinic that served students from a nearby junior college, Northern Idaho College. It had one staff member: Jarvis.

“The guy who owned the place was a PT,” Jarvis said. “He was really busy, so he put me in charge of everything.”

That included coaching–and badgering clients who hadn’t paid their monthly fees.

Sick of dealing with money and clients’ parents, Jarvis decided to become the head strength and conditioning coach at the University of Minnesota-Morris.

During his first year at Morris, the athletics department held a fundraiser. Four boxes were labeled with names of coaches: the football coach, the volleyball coach, the softball coach and Jarvis. Students were invited to drop money into one of the boxes. Whoever’s box got the most money would be duct taped to the gym wall during a home basketball game. The other coaches, combined, got three dollars, Jarvis recalls. He got 96.

After leaving Morris, Jarvis got his master’s degree, then interned at UM-Twin Cities. One night while looking through job websites, he spotted a job opening at Carleton. It was close to his home and family.

“I knew that was the job I wanted,” he says.

***
A year after he arrived at Carleton, Jarvis says his work is paying off in the number of athletes who show up in the weight room. Even between writing papers and studying for midterm exams, more athletes have made time to lift.

Some have also become national champions.

A laminated sign hangs from the glass doors to the Carleton weight room. It reads: “Through these doors have walked: National Champions, All Americans, Conference Champions, All-Conference Performers. Do not dishonor their accomplishments by giving anything less than 100% effort.”

Amelia Campbell, a national champion heptathlete and pentathlete, walks through the doors, puts in ear buds and climbs onto a stationary bicycle. She’s recovering from a strained hamstring.

Campbell began lifting with Jarvis at the beginning of her sophomore year.

“As soon as I met Jarvis, I knew he was for real,” she says. He was fluent in the physiology of weight lifting, and he had a plan.

“He sat down with me and took me through exactly what I was going to be doing for the year,” she said.

Campbell’s training schedule is divided into three phases. In the first phase, she drops the weight slowly, then explodes up. In the second phase, she drops quickly, holds the weight at its lowest position, then lifts back up. In the last phase, she does everything quickly, without stopping.

“When I first got to Carleton and started lifting with Jarvis, I couldn’t do a pull up on my own,” Campbell says. “Now I can do 10.”

She also broke the national record in the pentathlon last winter.

Campbell says she loves the atmosphere in the weight room, where she spends about an hour and a half everyday.

Jarvis gives people nicknames, she says. Hunter Brown is Farmer Brown. Trish Hare is Rabbit. His name for Campbell is Wolverine because she never gets sore.

In the weight room, Campbell has found a supporting community that extends beyond her teammates. She deadlifted 325 pounds last year, a personal best. “There were people all around,” she said. “It was really encouraging.”

When she competed in the conference heptathlon last spring, the 200 meter dash was held at Carleton. As she took her mark, everyone who had been lifting in the weight room came outside to cheer her on.

Jarvis says he measures his success not only by the number of people who come to the weight room, but also the number of graduates who email him to ask for new lifting plans.

Among his success stories is Kao Sutton, a national champion discus thrower who graduated last year. Over the summer, she trained for a powerlifting competition, with Jarvis’s help.

Back in the weight room, Hunter Brown and Acer Pahuhoa have just finished their workouts. They stand beside a stack of white towels and a five-pound container of powdered muscle milk. They lift six days a week.

“We love it,” Pahuhoa says.

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