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FINDING THE RIGHT CONDITIONING COACHby: Graig White
CEO of Team Conditioning Systems
© May 2014
I had an opportunity to attend a football clinic by an organization that is really well known for putting on quality clinics. This clinic was well attended with most of the attendees from high schools in the area. Since I no longer coach a position, I was there to listen and learn from the strength and conditioning coach. The presenting coach was the head strength from an NFL team that is very competitive and loses few man-games to injury every season.
The presentation was very informative but as I looked around it occurred to me that most of this information may be of little use to most of the coaches in the room. The presenting coach was telling us techniques he uses on men who are at or near the peak of their physical development, while the coaches in the room didn’t have that luxury. Having dealt with high school football athletes, I’ve come to know that the level of skill in the weight room is going to vary from a kid who maybe has never lifted to a kid who is experienced and may be ready to take on a modified NFL training protocol.
A lot of programs today are facing all types of budget constraints, and with a little out of the box thinking, having a successful conditioning program may be closer than you think. If you are the head football coach and you are pulling double duty as the strength coach, allow me to propose a way to free up some time for you.
My first suggestion is to change the way you prioritize your staff. Football coaches are hired generally during the off season, a time when not a lot of football things are being done, so the main activity is conditioning.Which, if you’re honest, makes the conditioning coach a major player in your program’s success. That is why I suggest you identify and talk with the person you feel is the best conditioning coach in your area. Talk with him and find out what it would take to get him involved with your program. You’d be surprised that sometimes it may not require money at all.
I had a chance to spend four years at my daughter’s high school just so we could spend more time together (she was on the cheerleading squad). I had a great time and helped some guys get ready to compete for different NCAA national championship contending programs.
Once you’ve identified the coach, and you find that the fit isn’t good, the next step is to look at assistants at your local college programs. Assistants at that level may just be looking for an opportunity to run their own program. This coach could be interested in expanding his network. Just know that when working on ways to compensate this coach don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. It may take some time but look at it in the long term. Once you identify this person, the player development person who understands how to create the types of athletes you need, you have a friend for life!
I have coaches to this day who let me know that whenever they get a job, I too have a job. Once you’ve found the coach and are comfortable with him, and have worked out all of the particulars, your next step is to get out of the way. Don’t be the coach who has gone through all of the work to find the right coach for the job and then become a micro-manager. Be the guy who trusts the people he hires. Don’t be the guy who comes into the weight training facility “offering” tips on weight training techniques. Be the coach who comes into the facility offering encouragement, letting your team know that you are near.
With that being said, I’ve been really fortunate. Most of the coaches I’ve worked with decided to focus on other areas of building their ideal football program because they recognized that having a person with NFL experience taking care of their weight room frees up a lot of time for them.
I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some very good coaches, coaches who were aware as to how to assemble and manage a top notch program. Then there is the other type of coach. I had the opportunity to work with a coach who ran a “unique” program. He brought me on to his staff and never once introduced me to the rest of his coaches, never once allowed me to formally introduce myself to his athletes, and had his assistants in the weight training facility training athletes as well.
Needless to say, it was an “interesting” situation. I have learned from some of the greatest conditioning coaches around and having a psychology degree prepared me for situations of this type. The first thing I did was to check my ego. I had to recognize that he is the head coach, and that it’s his program, and I’m there to assist him in any capacity I can. My goal is to NEVER undermine the authority of any coach, so if that was the way he wanted it, who was I to argue?
My dad has always stressed to me to “tell your truth once”. I explained the concept I was looking to install but he thought differently so I thanked him for the opportunity and left. I’ve learned to recognize situations that will not allow my desired result. Any situation I go into it is my desire to create a situation where we can have everyone involved come away with a sense of accomplishment as well as belonging. Looking back, I can honestly say that I’m happy with the way things have turned out.
Coaching can be very rewarding. There are few things better than watching one of your former athletes compete in the Super Bowl, or having a kid who, while in high school, spent four years in your system and is now being considered for his conference’s defensive player of the year. So, when it comes to putting your program in a position to succeed, keep your options open and trust your hires to do what they were hired to do.
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