At IR, Dee's got the key to conditioning
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, Dee Dinota, Ironwood Ridge High School's strength and conditioning coach, has been teaching within the district for the past 28 years. Dinota has been working closely with the girls volleyball, basketball and soccer teams.

At Ironwood Ridge, it's understood that the pursuit of sports excellence is a year-round endeavor.

That's where strength and conditioning coach Dee Dinota comes in.

"We're trying to stay ahead of the game," Dinota said.

It's worked at Ironwood Ridge; a recent point system analysis of success at the high school sports level put Ironwood Ridge and Catalina Foothills at the top.

Dinota has led strength and conditioning at Ironwood Ridge since the school opened.

"The No. 1 goal is to be physically fit, in shape, and prevent injuries."

When Dinota was in high school, strength training and conditioning were supposed to be for football players, boxers and wrestlers. Working out was something that guys did.

These days, Dinota has a full weight room of girls from different sports, particularly volleyball, basketball and soccer.

"We have less injuries in female sports now," Dinota noted. "In soccer, knee injuries can be brutal. We've had less injuries since we started the program."

The training is also sports-specific. This summer's emphasis was on volleyball, with that season about to begin.

Coach Bill Lang, Ironwood Ridge's volleyball coach since the school opened, has led the Nighthawks to 100 wins in the last three years. Last year, Ironwood Ridge lost in the state semi-finals.

"In the last three years, we've put a huge emphasis on strength training and conditioning," Dinota said. "Coach Lang got me started."

"It's a huge part in our success," Lang said. "We haven't had any down time with injuries."

What does Dinota bring to the table?

"We want Dee for strength, power, injury prevention, and mental toughness," Lang said. "Also to develop synergy and chemistry. For us it's been really successful."

In some sports, injuries may tend to occur in the first week or so, as athletes are still rounding into shape.

"We've always done things in the off-season," Lang said. "Our players can be in great shape at the beginning of the season, from working out year-around. We started this April 1."

Dinota also sees the need for training year-round.

"I have some kids that don't play a sport," Dinota said. "They just work out year around. Guys want to gain weight. Girls want to lose weight."

There's a lot of structure to Dinota's program. It's not just about picking up and lifting weights. The programs are sports-specific.

"It's perfect for kids trying out for a specific sport. When they're in their junior year, they usually pick their sport."

She has a different program of things to do, based on the sport the athlete is playing.

Dinota points out that athletes like Nighthawks senior quarterback Tyler D'Amore, who also plays shooting guard in basketball, are exceptions to the rule.

"I want them to have the ability to hold their positions without getting knocked over. They do a lot of the Olympic lifts and squats."

"All the strength training, foot speed, lateral movement. They look more toned."

As part of sports conditioning, the kids spent the first week of July conditioning at the track at 7 a.m. The strength and conditioning sessions were from 2 to 3:30 p.m. over the last three weeks of July.

When school starts, Dinota will have the Ridge volleyball players working out from 3:30 to 4:30 after school. Then, she'll shift her energies into the girls soccer team from 4:45 to 5:30.

Then, there's the class for sports conditioning, which she teaches during the school day. It's rather popular.

"We have the longest waiting list to get into sports conditioning class," Dinota said.

Dinota went to high school in New York. "I came (to Arizona) and got a teaching job in the Amphi school district. It's been 28 years."

She also taught at CDO, and was the softball coach at CDO for 10 years.

"They were not having injuries at CDO. Then, I came over here and started the class here. A healthy body is a healthy mind."

Would she consider returning to coaching a team in a sport?

"My kids are done now. I'm done with coaching teams."

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