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The Novice Coach: Week 1

Buy Diazepam Tablets We had a really good question sent to us from Derek K. in Iowa.  I want to take some time to answer and expand on some discussion points.

The question was “I am a young and growing coach.  I recently took a position  at a high school in my hometown.  I interned at a private training facility for four months and got my feet wet coaching youth athletes, but now that I am on my own, I feel like I am in over my head a little bit.  The school I am working at has never had an organized strength program before and everyone is starting from square one.  What should be my biggest focus as I get started, and what should problems should I try to avoid?”

Wow, great question. That is exactly why we are here, to help young coaches find their way in the profession, expand their knowledge, and (hopefully) help young athletes succeed.

First and foremost, I would look at fact that the strength program is new as a big bonus.  You aren’t trying to fill anyone else’s shoes, you can set your own expectations, teach the way you want to teach and develop your own system there.  Everyone else is learning too.  The key will be to stay organized and put some time and effort into planning each week, don’t try to fly by the seat of your pants unless it becomes necessary.

Also, because the program is new, you will likely have low participation rates.  That is just the way it is, don’t expect every coach, athlete, parent, and administrator to buy-in lock, stock and barrel from day one.  You will have to win people over with knowledge, work ethic, and enthusiasm.  I believe anyone can succeed in coaching if you actively demonstrate those three elements.  While your program is in it’s infancy, you need to be reaching out to sport coaches and trying to schedule training times.  Don’t try to be an “everything man” right off the bat.  Organize groups, teach exercises, and build from there.

I truly believe one of the best strategies for getting novice athletes started in the weight room is with a mandatory orientation session, during which they learn what each piece of equipment is, how to rack weights and clean up, and any rules of the weight room (safety measures, spotting, collars, clothing, footwear, rules, ect.).  In my college program this was mandatory, no one could train until they completed this.  Seriously, I can not overstate this enough.  Take the time to teach and enforce proper safety measures in the weight room.  This means proper technique as well as spotting, safety catches, collars, ect.   You will safe yourself some massive headaches in the future.


How to Before How Much

From day one, keep things simple.  You are going to save yourself a lot of headaches in the future by taking it slow here and laying a foundation for quality work.  Take the first 20 minutes of a workout and do an organized team warm up.  Do calisthenics (Do body weight squats/ Learn a hip hinging pattern/ Learn different lunging patterns/ Learn to plank/ Master perfect pushups/ Teach pull ups).  Be constantly cueing up these exercises so that when they are loaded up the proper patterns have been practiced.  Always remember “how to before how much”.

Remember that you set the tone.  This doesn’t need to feel remedial to the athletes.  Make it fun.  Time exercises.  Compete to get more lunges or pushups.  Be ENTHUSIASTIC and TEACH.  You will win those kids and coaches over if you can demonstrate that you know what you are talking about and that you are excited to be there.  Every teenaged, testosterone driven male athlete thinks they know how to train because they can rep 135 out on the bench.  You aren’t going to let that fly.  You are going to teach them about their bodies and teach them how to train themselves to be powerful, fit, athletes, not meatheads.

When your athletes demonstrate competency on their body weight exercise, by all means start using weights.  But never stop doing the organized warm ups.  I have worked in a lot of high school weight rooms, they are a haven for chaos.  If you let kids come in be self starters, zero productive work will occur.  Avoid chaos, get them organized as a unit and warm up together.  When the warm up is over and you still have their attention, now you go through the work out card step by step

A quick note on workout cards.  I think it is really important to have your workout in writing, whether displayed on a white board or on individuals sheets.  Your athletes will learn faster and be more organized if they can read exactly what they are supposed to do including the flow of exercises, number or reps/sets, and rest periods.   Seeing the workout in writing helps them understand the flow and the organization much better than only receiving vocal instructions.  Do yourself a favor, write it down.

Squat 1

A couple of potential pitfalls to avoid

#1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  In college I was an everything coach.  My sport coaches and athletes asked for me to do something and I got it done.  Pre-game warm ups, weekend lifts, early morning conditioning sessions, and anything in between.   That was my job and I got it done.  I also had competent assistants and interns to help out.  That can turn into a really messy situation in the high school realm.

While it is important to be involved and make yourself an integral part of the athletics program.  Don’t spread yourself too thin.  Start by mastering the weight room first.  You don’t need to do everything right at the start and you will find it gets old really fast when 19 different sport coaches are pulling you in different directions.  I know you want to satisfy everyone, but you need to get comfortable saying “no” to some requests, or at least suggest alternatives that won’t run you into the ground.

#2. Beware of max testing.  I am going to give an unpopular opinion here so bear with me.  There is no place in a high school weight room for 1 rep max testing.  I am not saying don’t test your athletes, because you most definitely should.  Test a vertical, a broad jump, a 20 yard sprint, max pull ups, push ups, or flexibility.  But no good can come from having 15 year kids put max loads on their back and try to squat.   Train your squat hard, just don’t test it.   I’ll give some leeway here on the bench press, only because you will lose your mind before you win that battle.  Kids will always over load the bench press.   I don’t care what the sport coach says, your job is to keep this kids safe and healthy, act accordingly.

There you go Derek.  I hope that gives you a good start.  You are always going to run into roadblocks.  It takes time to really smooth things out, but try to stay organized and you will be alright.  Hit us up again soon and give us a progress report.

2 Responses to The Novice Coach: Week 1

  1. Robb Wilson March 22, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Great ideas for new program. Remember to coach every set and every rep. Not just what to do and how to do it, but most importantly, why it is important to do it that way. Once they understand the whys, then their conviction and confidence will soar.

    • Adam Gentry March 26, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

      Great Points Robb. The “why” is one of the most important parts of coaching athletes of any age or ability.

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