In the fall of the 2022-2023 school year, the Mount Carmel Academy Athletic Department added an eleventh LHSAA sport: Powerlifting. The strength sport involves performing three exercises: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. The benefits are numerous. Powerlifting increases muscle mass and mobility; improves bone density, range of motion, and cardiovascular health; and reduces the risk of injury in other sports and activities. Beyond the physical benefits, it also improves self-confidence and self-discipline, as it requires a high level of focus, determination, and consistency to achieve personal goals.

For MCA's head powerlifting coach Melissa Gayé, there is nothing better than inspiring women in the weight room – and her goals extend far beyond building brawn. "Strength training doesn't just create physical strength; it creates mental strength," she explained. "The ability to persevere under the bar transfers to real life – being able to push through and conquer adversity."

Coach Gayé is a seasoned veteran in the world of sports and coaching, with previous experience as the head manager and graduate assistant coach for the LSU soccer team and an assistant soccer coach at MCA. Working with the USA National Soccer Team and the Women's United Soccer Association has given her a deep understanding of the importance of building strength and discipline in athletes. She also has an extensive background in strength training and is a certified USAW coach and referee.

Several years ago, she began training MCA athletes after school, helping basketball, volleyball, track and field, and softball players increase their strength and agility. The benefits were apparent, and she could sense that the athletes wanted more. She also saw an opportunity for women who had never been an athlete.

Coach Gayé proposed the idea of starting a powerlifting team at MCA to the athletic department. The proposal was met with enthusiasm. Her first order of business was updating the current weight room. Working with MCA's Athletic Director April Hagadone, funds were raised to purchase new equipment, racks, barbells, and everything needed to train in their own facility. At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, a revamped weight room was finished and ready for a new team of powerlifters.

MCA's first powerlifting team has 16 members and a student manager. Although some students also play other sports, including basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball, track and field, and cheerleading, others have never been part of an athletic team at MCA.

Senior Meredith Guy wanted to join MCA Powerlifting to be "part of a team that motivated each other through self-confidence, faith, and strength." She describes her experience as "life-changing."

"It has helped me to correlate my faith and physical strength in being proud of the beautiful body that God has given me," Meredith said. "I have learned that I am wonderfully His and that through lifting up my team, we will not only perform our best but also give the ultimate glory to God."

The team, known as the "Power Cubs," has already seen success in their first three meets, earning numerous podium medals each time.

Senior softball player Linda Hollander initially joined the team to become stronger. She gained far more than she imagined. "Being on the team has brought me a new family in just three short months," she said. "Not only is this sport beneficial to my health, but it is honestly so much fun. I have made so many lifelong friends through this team that I know have my back and will always be there for me."

Of course, she is pleased to have improved physical strength as well. "Being on the team for such a short amount of time has also increased my strength so much," Linda said. 

Coach Gayé also plans to instruct a new course in the 2023-2024 school year, "Strength and Conditioning," a half-credit course for juniors and seniors through the P.E. Department. The class, which will focus on functional movements, will be open to any student interested in strength training, athlete or not. Serious athletes will have a program customized and tailored to the individual needs of their respective sports.

The powerlifting team has become a model of strength, perseverance, and excellence in its short time at MCA. The impact extends well beyond the weight room as team members push themselves to be the best versions of themselves. For team captain Kate Anderson, the benefits are numerous. "This sport has taught me the true meaning of success, but more importantly, the value of failure," she said. "I have not just grown in strength; I've grown immensely as a person in such a short amount of time."



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