We have a great group of football guys training right now. Putting that hard off-season work in, knowing that come summer and fall, it will all pay off. I wanted to give you a taste of how we are structuring this year’s program, some of the obstacles we seem to face every year, and somethings I am decided to do differently this year.
We have about 30 athletes training in 2 groups of 15. Each group of fifteen comes twice per week. We do a mon/wed group in the afternoon and a tues/thurs group in the evening. On friday we do an open time where any of them can come in an lift and do some hard conditioning work.
The first obstacle you will always face with young athletes is consistency. Particularly in the private sector, it can be difficult to get all of your athletes on the same page in terms of scheduling and attendance. Let’s face it, sometimes life gets in the way. These kids have homework and exams, jobs and responsibilities, family and friend obligations, and everything in between. It can be so very frustrating, week in and week out, to be teaching the same basic things over and over again, and feel like you are not making any progress, because without consistency, you likely aren’t making any progress.
When we get new athletes to our program, I try to really highlight the need for consistency with the athletes and their parents and I really try to get them on the same page with us, while they all agree when we start, most of the time we are lucky if they average 75% attendance during the program. We are always sure to track attendance, so that after 3 months, when the parents inevitably come to me and ask why their kid isn’t any better, I have quantifiable reasons.
With our football groups, we run 90 minute sessions. A typical breakdown will look something like this:
- Warm Up – 10-15 minutes
- Movement Training – 30-40 minutes – This is a mix of speed and acceleration work, planting/cutting, shuffling, and explosive work
- Strength Training – 30-40 minutes
- Conditioning – 15-20 minutes
(Quick side note: you pretty much need to be incorporating at least 30 minutes/week dedicated towards learning and practicing combine drills like 40 starts and the pro agility shuttle. If you are not specifically preparing your kids for these tests, they will go train someplace else. If you do not know the proper techniques for these tests, you will find very specific resources on this site.)
Nothing fancy, but we really try to make sure we are sticking to our schedule so that we are getting done what needs to be done. If you are not careful, it is easy to let your kids hit the weight room and lose track of time while they sit by the mirror doing sets of curls. All of a sudden time is up, you have another group to run and you didn’t get their fitness work in. I am going to say this in bold caps for effect, DO NOT NEGLECT THE CONDITIONING WORK. I will cut the strength work short every day, if it’s necessary to get our fitness work in. Hard conditioning work is an absolutely vital part of the program and probably the number one way we can help these athletes in the off season.
I also want to talk for a second about a change of heart I had this year.
Every year, we are tweaking how we organize things, trying to achieve better flow and better results. But for the most part, the program is similar. We are going to teach these kids to squat, press, pull up, row, lunge, hinge, brace, ect. We are going to demand perfect technique, and once we have it, we are going to load up.
Every year, when we plan we toss around the same question, are we going to teach them to hang clean? And every year, we don’t. We don’t for a lot of reasons, but mostly the time commitment and the poor quality of most lifts.
However, this year is different. I got so tired of these kids cleaning at school and doing a crummy job, then coming to our facility and telling me their wrists or elbows or back hurt. This year, I bit the bullet and made the commitment.
We started from square one, we learned to hinge, we learned to extend at the hips, we practiced our front squats. Every day when we get to the strength training, I’ve got these guys grabbing an empty bar and doing something along the lines of:
- 5 RDL
- 5 Hang Pull
- 5 Hang Clean
- 5 Front squat
Before we ever load it up. I’ve also got the guys doing multiple sets of KB swings in-between to really drill the hinging and hip extension pattern. From there, have been bumping up just a little bit every day, and I have to say, I have been pretty pleased.
I am not going to lie to you, they are not always great lifts. But I am taking solace in the fact that, A. these kids are going to clean anyways, so they might as well learn from me. B, we are laying a foundation for the future. Some of these kids will go on the college programs, and damn it, I want them to be proficient lifters. I want their college strength coach to come up to them on day one and ask “where did you learn to do that?”
Check in with us and let us know how your off-season program is going. What are you doing differently this year and what is working well?