Worth the Weight

How the BV community came together to make a late coach’s dream come true

Worth the Weight


Kyle Elmendorf, Staff Writer

In early 2016, Blue Valley’s former head football coach Eric Driskell had a vision of renovating BV’s decade-old weight room. He aspired to change it from the sports teams’ weight room into the entire school’s weight room, for anyone to use regardless of whether or not they play a sport.

In order to bring this ambition to fruition, he needed to raise a large sum of money, so he contacted BV parent Susie Gurley to help with the initial goal of raising $80,000.

“He first started talking to me about it close to two years ago,” Gurley said. “It was after football season. We’d worked closely together for Touchdown Club, and we raised a lot of money there. He was like, ‘Do you want to help raise some money for the weight room?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’”

The first official meeting for the renovations happened in March 2016. Gurley said Driskell’s original plan was for most of the money to be used toward the first phase — the complete remodel of the room and equipment — and the extra $20,000 for the second phase, which was for any additional changes that needed to be made.

A majority of the money raised came through Fall Sports Night, where athletes sold tickets for a catered meal from Two Guys and a Grill. There was also an anonymous private donor who pledged to match all of the money raised in the night.

“I went to a local donor and pitched the donation idea to him,” Gurley said. “He challenged us, [saying], ‘Yes, I would love to help, but here’s what I want to see — coaches and athletes [from] all sports, involved in this project.’ So that was when Coach D and I came up with the Two Guys and a Grill plan for Fall Sports Night. We raised $10,000 from that event, and he ended up giving us more than [that]. It’s hard to raise $25,000 in one night unless you do something like that.”

Gurley said Fall Sports Night was so successful they decided to do it again and make it an annual tradition.

The project received a sudden setback in February 2017 when Driskell unexpectedly passed away from a ruptured brain aneurysm.

“The original plan was to be done over Spring Break,” Gurley said. “Then [in February], we had to step back and slow down. Very shortly after we lost him, [athletic director Matt] Ortman, [new football coach Allen] Terrell and I got together and said, ‘We have to finish this.’ It was of utmost importance to finish this to honor him.”

The project finished fundraising with a grand total of $90,000, surpassing their original goal. Gurley said getting all sports to become invested in renovating the weight room was a challenge. However, one of Driskell’s goals was to get everyone in the weight room and to change the narrative of who uses it.

“Raising money in general is always a challenge,” Gurley said. “Coach D and I were scrambling, try

ing to figure out what we can do that’s going to get everyone involved. A really big goal of [Driskell’s] was to say,  ‘Hey, student body, this is your weight room. It’s not just the football team’s. It’s not just the athletes’.’ It was his idea to keep it open during Tiger Paws so anybody could go in there and use it. Faculty and staff can go in there and use it as well. That’s been really cool to see — a lot of buy-in to, ‘OK, this is our weight room, not just the football team’s. It’s Blue Valley High School’s weight room.”

After the money was raised, BV Athletic Director Matt Ortman and newly appointed head football coach Allen Terrell were tasked with overseeing the operation of the renovations.

Ortman said the size of the project created some challenges.

“[My job was] mainly overseeing the operation, making sure we budgeted correctly and followed all of the steps through the district,” Ortman said. “Because of the amount of money that we were spending, it had to go through district, and we weren’t just able to do whatever we wanted to. We had a lot of checks and balances along the way.”

The renovations started the week of July 4, and a majority was completed the same week. Ortman said as the project was in progress, some of the plans for the weight room changed.

“We weren’t sure we were going to be able to put turf in the way it went down,” Ortman said. “We had turf built into it going a different direction, but as we kept working through the process, we realized we could put turf down the way it is now and we could afford it.”

Ortman said the new weight room turned out exactly how Driskell imagined it; Ortman said he hopes these changes can last a decade. Additionally, Ortman said Driskell is honored by hanging a “Live Like Champions” sign by the main door, which is Driskell’s popular saying.

“This was his big project,” Ortman said. “This was his baby from the beginning. This was just a way that we could recognize him in the weight room. I know he would be really happy with it.”

Senior Zach Terrell said he and the football team use the weight room almost every day with weights programs both in the fall and in the off-season. Terrell said he benefits from the renovations.

“That’s the coolest weight room I’ve ever seen, honestly,” Terrell said. “It just gives you new motivation to come in and work hard — it gives you something to be proud of.”

Terrell said he enjoyed the subtraction of useless equipment, while adding more workout racks for small workout groups and more reps.

“The benches are way better,” Terrell said. “We got new upholstery, and they can stand up so we have more room to lift. We got turf, so we can do speed work as well. We can do more band work on the turf side, which will strengthen the ligaments in your knees and your muscles [and] will prevent injury.”

Terrell said the players also got to contribute in the renovation.

“We all helped out,” Terrell said. “We built it ourselves pretty much. We got it off the truck, put all of the racks together and put them where they’re supposed to be. We took out the old ones as well.”

Terrell said he thinksevery sport can benefit from the upgrade, because it is so big now, multiple teams can use it at the same time, one of the goals the designers of the project had in mind.

Terrell said the inclusion of the “Live Like Champions” sign by the entrance has a special meaning to him.

“To me, ‘Live Like Champions’ is a representation of Coach Driskell and his philosophy toward coaching and playing football,” Terrell said. “It’s pretty symbolic how we enter and exit through it whenever we enter the weight room with that sign up on top. It’s a good symbol of what we should be as a program.”