Creating Champions

As a collegiate Strength Coach, you not only have to work with the athletes, but many times you are also fighting battles with the coaches.  Over the years, I’ve come across many situations that required long discussions and lots of patience.  While this list is by no means complete, hopefully it will offer you some suggestions as to what can be done when a problematic situation arises.  Please note that this is how I handled or would handle the issue and is not the final answer. 

Problem #1:  The Coach wants you to change certain exercises in the program based on what he likes or what he did 20 years ago. 

Solution:  I’ve found that when dealing with coaches, you need to give them a little leeway at first.  If Coach Schmoe wants to do leg extensions and you don’t like them, compromise at first.  Give them what they want on your terms.  Tell him you’ll do leg extensions for a few weeks, then you’ll try something new.  In the meantime, show him the exercises that will get more bang for their buck (squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, etc.) and how they are now working the quads in conjunction with the hips and hamstrings.

Problem #2:  Sometimes when the new school year starts, Coach Schmoe wants to test him athletes’ 1RMs. 

Solution:  While I’m not a huge fan of testing, to begin with, it can be a confidence builder for athletes to see the progress they are making.  But when a coach wants to test new athletes that I’ve never worked with before, that’s where I draw the line.  How can you be sure that these new athletes have the perfect technique or have even lifted weights in high school?  You can’t be sure.  So, when I had this situation arise, I told the coach that I would not test the freshman athletes because they don’t have perfect form.  He said ok, then watched me put them through a series of exercises that not only gave them a workout, but allowed me to see their strengths, weaknesses, and technical problems.  By the end of the workout, the coach saw that his athletes were working hard, sweating and still had a really good workout even though they didn’t max test.  So, start with simpler exercises as the coach watches so he can see that the new athletes are not prepared for it.  Teach the technique of the exercises he wants to test in order to show him that the athletes have a long way to go before being able to test.

Problem #3:  Coach Jane wants to do every conditioning test under the sun to see if her athletes are in shape upon returning from summer break. 

Solution:  This one can get tricky.  Sometimes the coach wants to run a variety of tests because that’s what she did when she played in college.  Sometimes the coaches mean well, in that they want to see who’s in shape and who’s not…. But they just get a little carried away.  This may take a while to change, especially if this is something that the coach has done for many years.  Offer the run the tests she wants under your supervision and timing.  And the reason I mention timing is because of the situation I ran into.  Coach Jane had five different tests, five days in a row… on top of 3-a-day practices!  After the first year of letting her run the tests the way she wanted to, I finally had a little input.  I was able to spread the tests.  So instead of testing five days in a row, we tested Wednesday, Friday, Saturday (which was more of a punishment run… not everyone had to do this test) and Monday.  We even cut one test out.  So while it wasn’t the perfect testing conditions, it was way better than the year before.  Another option is to use some of the tests as conditioning after practice.  Sure, they might not be fresh, but at least the emphasis is on conditioning and being in shape and not just testing times.  Eventually, over time, you can talk about condensing tests that test the same metabolic system.  (Do we really need to run both the mile and the Cooper Test?)

Like I mentioned, this list is by no means complete, but hopefully it will give you some ideas when dealing with coaches who want things done their way.  After all, we don’t tell them how to run their offense or defense!

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