As our high school athletes grind through the last days of their high school career, they begin to start the mental and physical preparation for their continued athletic endeavors. After finals, commencement ceremonies and the infamous “graduation party”, most will turn the page, close the book, and move onwards towards bigger and better things. Some will start early to get a head of the game. Others will take that one last vacation with their high school BAE’s and BFF’s. And yet some will still try and hold on to their high school sweetheart until they move into the co-ed dorm (save yourself the heartache and just move on now…)
But most of them will train. With a purpose. To be ready for YOU.
I’m writing this post as a CALL TO ACTION to all of you in college athletics. Anyone in charge of developing the young minds and bodies for the rigors of a faster, more reactive, dangerous level of sport that our high school kids have not participated in yet. Sure, they’ve done the high level invitationals, the camps, the classics. But, are they REALLY ready for not only the speed of your game, but also the rigorous time commitment and style of training?
More importantly, are YOU doing everything YOU can to prepare them for their arrival?
This isn’t a post to ridicule, accuse or expose you and your training programs. I was a college strength and conditioning coach for five years before moving onto the professional and now private sector level. I remember why we programmed the way we did:
- “They’re not going to do it anyways…”
- “Why spend time teaching them now? Just going to have to teach them all over again when they get here.”
- “I just need them to do SOMETHING.”
- “Summer packet? Just be in shape for Christ’s sake!”
This post is for awareness. It’s to remind you that as you write your summer programs, there WILL be kids out there that take your exact words as the ONLY words they need to live by for the next 8-12 weeks. And despite some of my very best athletes still committed to training with our staff at RYPT in preparation for their arrival to fall camp, they are still sending you scores, times and results so you don’t punish them with breakfast clubs and burpees.
Wait, I thought those workouts were technically voluntary?
So, do I want you to stop writing summer programs? No. But from our vantage point, we’d love to see less of the following so they can maximize their development and come ready to compete, not just come.
Sin #1: Writing the Program As If They Were Already With You
Awesome. You have 16,000 square feet of performance space. Over 20 racks, bumper plates, inlaid platforms, Keiser spin bikes and more chains than Mr. T.
But why are you writing that into your program?
Did you forget that most high school athletes only have access to a commercial gym like a Workout World or Planet Fitness? In a fitness universe full of lunk alarms, tanning beds and “Body Attack” classes, can they execute your program to your fullest standards? As much as we want to think these types of facilities will have Prowlers, board presses and more than one free standing squat rack, many of them won’t even come close. I’m sorry, but simply telling an athlete to find a way to get it done or join a new gym is not feasible for most athletes (or their parents for that matter).
In my opinion, great programs are designed by movement categories, not which pieces of equipment they HAVE to use. Don’t have a bench press? How else can they get a horizontal push? No battle ropes? How else can they do a non-impact conditioning day to keep their shins from cracking on the asphalt track?
Giving them options not only gives them some variety, but it improves athlete buy in and compliance. Don’t you want that?
Sin #2: Just Sending Over Your Football Program
All I can say is WOW. This happens way more than I thought. As a former football only strength coach for four years, I can attest that football players ARE different than everyone else. Their coaches’ expectations are often whacked out and unreasonable, causing your programming to be off the wall and quite frankly, different.
But does that mean your incoming freshmen female midfielder needs to “RUN THE RACK” on DB curls and shrugs? (Seriously, I just read it in a program).
I understand everyone needs to be strong and explosive. Everyone needs mobility, stability and proper activation sequencing. Most of our training at our level is similar. But each sport does have their unique threads of athletic development. Extra shoulder mobility. Prioritized ACL injury prevention. Maybe head/neck strength or specific fitness adaptations.
Point of the matter is this: If you’re in charge of multiple sports competing on opposite sides of the collision/speed/strength/style of play continuum, are you introducing specific methods and means to your incoming athletes. Or are you just having max out on squat, bench and deadlift and calling it a day?
Sin #3: Poor Formatting & Presentation
Your summer program is usually one of the first opportunities to “present yourself” to your incoming class, especially if you’re coaching a lower tiered level where official visits, junior days and recruiting visits don’t really happen.
It’s also where you lay the groundwork for the intangibles of success, something that we all pride ourselves on within our own department.
Accountability. Attention to Detail. Self-Discipline. Sense of Urgency.
So before you send out your summer packet, make sure your PDF doesn’t print in 93 pages. Or your margins are cut off, font sizes too big cutting into other column’s text or you’re using pictograms from the 1980’s.
You’ve only got one chance to make a first impression. What do you want yours to be?
Sin #4: Not Accommodating Their Summer Demands
Do you forget they are still kids? That they’re probably playing in a gazillion summer leagues or working a full-time job to help pay for college?
And don’t give them that crap about “You have your priorities mixed up”. Some kids flat out can’t train 5-7 times per week. I personally had to work 3rd shift at Home Depot to pay my bills, as well as take summer classes and babysit my two younger sisters during my summers. We tend to forget that just because school is out, they still have lives to live or pre-existing commitments to keep them alive and on path.
Everything is flexible. Meeting times, deadlines and even dieting. I’d love to see more programs focus on the QUALITY of their summer training, rather than just giving them busy work so they don’t go the beach or sit around all day. There’s nothing wrong with structure, but remembering what it was like for you during those years could help your incoming testing results and preseason injury rates.
Sin #5: Lack of Proper Exercise Descriptions or Tutorials
So you want them to do YOUR program, but you’re not willing to properly teach them?
People have a wide variety of learning styles. Most people simply can’t read an exercise description and leave feeling “I got this!” Videos, pictures and even some “common mistakes” can properly prepare the athlete to avoid injury and get them on the right path, towards the right place.
If you’re not willing to shoot an entire exercise video library, no worries. Find someone who already has and who teaches it similarly to you. No sense finding some random Youtube video and telling them to do it “kind of like this”. Note: Don’t ever send an exercise description video through this guy’s collection.
Sin #6: Maxing Out, On Anything and Everything
Whether or not you actually taught them how to perform your exercises to your standards, do you really want to max them out? Often and without proper supervision?
I often tell the parents of our athletes that training with us should be two fold a) a slow-cook process and b) a long term deal. We should be mastering the basics before moving onto the bodacious. And we should look a little further down the developmental process and ask ourselves “How can I keep this athlete functional for sport and resilient for the long run”. More importantly, what is the point of maximum testing during pre-season camp when most sport action does not even come close to the force/velocity curve you’re asking them to test at? Unless time is not an issue (which it hardly isn’t), true testing should come down to one thing: athletic performance on the field. Which brings me to my final point….
Sin #7: Faulty Fitness Test Programming
As my role has shifted from football sports performance to primarily female olympic sport athletes, I have taken a new appreciation for fitness test programming. However, what I absolutely hate is the following:
- Expecting them to run a high level conditioning test, for a high level conditioning team
- Not taking into consideration proper goal times for the level of athlete you have
- Throwing together random energy system work, in no logical sequence and saying it will help them pass
If most of your team fails their returning fitness test, whether it be shuttles, repeat 110yd variations or “timed runs”, shouldn’t you evaluate your programming and preparation? The easiest way to pass the test is to prepare for the test. Breaking it up into different blocks of emphasis via intensity and effort is a no-nonsense approach that keeps them not only accountable, but safe and productive.
If they keep failing at a certain point during the test (e.g. beep test), then help them break through that threshold. Time up the duration of that specific shuttle and be relentless with your assistance. If there’s one thing we know about sport coaches, it’s that they want them FIT. Whether they care about the weight room or not, our athletes move FIRST and lift SECOND.
In closing, if we want people to respect us for what we are and what we’ve done to do what we do (sports performance specialists, master’s degrees, national certifications and continuing education), we can’t make ourselves look like typical meatheads or gym rats. Across the board, we have to take a better approach to personal accountability and understand that what we really say or do, matters.
So before you check in on your athletes or prepare for their arrival back onto campus, just remember that somewhere, someone, is taking your words for exactly how you wrote them, word by word, instruction by instruction.
And when they do arrive back on campus, will they be ready for you?
Or the trainer?