SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Southwood powerlifting program is in just its third year of existence. You wouldn’t guess that based on the impressive participation the Cowboys and Cowgirls are enjoying.

The program was started by Jesse Esters when he took over the Cowboy football program in 2020. On Thursday, the program held its first-ever media day as those on The Ranch hope to lift Southwood into one of the best powerlifting programs in the state.

“In the city of Shreveport, powerlifting is not a major sport. It’s not highlighted here. I’ve been at other places and I’ve seen how the communities rallied around powerlifting teams,” Esters said when asked about the importance of holding a media day for his athletes.

Esters also reinforced the importance of academics in his student-athletes. “It’s not about you squatting 700 pounds. The 700 will be good on paper, but that 3.5 GPA that’s what I want. I want those kids because they’re going to take Southwood everywhere they go.”

Esters has helped develop Southwood into one of the top programs in Northwest Louisiana in two short years. The school’s powerlifting participation numbers are among the highest in the region. The boys’ team saw two athletes place in the top ten during last year’s state powerlifting meet.

On the girls’ side, Junior Cam Holmes has the potential to break national records by the time her high school career is done. The consensus among all Southwood powerlifters is the family dynamic the program has created in just three years.

“It’s great to see the program get to more people because nobody really knows about it,” Holmes said. “The number of girls we have this year, we’ve never had that many.”

Esters helped lead the Cowboy football program to its first on-field victories since 2019 a year ago. Many of the Cowboy powerlifters also play on the football team. His impact on them both on and off the field is appreciated by dual-sport athletes like Ja’than Skinner.

“Coach Esters is like my father figure up here at school,” Skinner said. “When I’m down he’s always there to pick me up.”

Participation has increased every year since the program’s inception in 2020. Michael Shepard has been with the program since year one. He says once someone comes out for powerlifting, they see what they’ve been missing.

“It’s something new around here, they haven’t seen before,” said Shepard. “Everybody wants to come out and do it and they like it.”

If there is one word to describe Southwood powerlifting, family is an easy choice.

“The environment is a family away from home,” said Gabbriel Simmons. “You’ve got your own family but then you get here, it’s a second family.”

“I’ve never been on a team like this,” said A’livia Anderson. “We’re all family we all encourage each other, build each other up when we’re down.”

The state powerlifting meet is set for March 22nd-25th at the Cajun Dome in Lafayette.