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Speed Report - Off-Season Speed Development: A Dilemma for Small Schools

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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As I write this column each month, I receive more and more replies from coaches at smaller schools. It’s become apparent that most of them have something in common – that the off-season presents a challenge for speed and lifting development. The problem is that athletes at these schools need to be multi-sport athletes. The bulk of the football team plays two to three sports in a small school, so it’s almost impossible to fill the rosters on other sports if they were only playing football. This crossover process is a must for every small school that I’ve encountered.

How do you train as a team in the off-season for speed when you only have a small core group remaining once football is complete? That‘s a question that requires creative thinking and collective cooperation. The truth of the matter is that it’s more of an issue compared to what larger schools face, in most cases. It can clearly be a disadvantage. However, on the other hand, you can take the situation and make it work positively for your program if you have a plan. The plan is realizing that the number of athletes remaining becomes your core nucleus for development. They can become the model for a later time frame when you get the group back together prior to the start of the next season.

It’s All Doable - A  School with a  Method

I have a high school that is a regular client each year using my systematic training packages for team speed development. The school is Caledonia High School (MN). The coach is Carl Fruechte, who’s been the head coach for 14 years. School enrollment averages 275 to 300 students per year. Coach Freuchte has brought me in each year for the past few years. 

Coach Freuchte has been very successful, having won three state championships. Carl carries about 70 players, 9th grade through 12th. About 55 athletes play other sports year-round. With only 15 core kids remaining, he is faced with a dilemma of developing the other athletes who are busy with other sports. How do you handle this situation and build your athletes?

Freuchte said that the coaching staffs must work together. He leaves the basketball team and wrestlers alone during the winter months. He takes the core that is just football, and then brings baseball, track, and soccer kids to a 6:00 am to 6:45 am training class for off-season lifting and speed development. The basketball and wrestlers will join in when spring arrives. When track and baseball season arrives in the spring, the athletes continue to train early except the sprinters are left alone. The non-sprint track athletes are a part of the morning training classes. Freuchte cuts back on the workload of the baseball, track, and soccer players during their season. This requires extra work for the coach but it’s what it takes to grow athletes during the off-season. To add salt to the wound, Freuchte lives in a cold climate and his school doesn’t have a field house. I asked him how does he do his speed work with three feet of snow and zero degree weather? “With our situation, we have to use the hallways before school to get it done,” said Freuchte. “Occasionally, we’ll go in the gym and do movement specificity work.”

How Does the Mental Aspect Play a Roll?

An issue many coaches face is the mental part of having less than desirable circumstances. You must work through and around the obstacles at hand. Not always having the best situation, the athletes must be prepared mentally to understand coaching expectations regardless of limitations. Their focus is critical because the time frame for off-season training opportunities will be shorter than one would like. I asked Coach Fruechte, “What do you personally do to create a good mind set and how is it structured for the athletes in terms of your daily and weekly activities?”

“We frame everything we’re going to do with the athletes each week,” said Fruechte. “Mentally, we teach them how they must visualize our tasks as a collective group. It requires a serious mental approach to each workout. The level of expectation is discussed all the time in a positive manner. Our job is to direct the kid’s mind-set and teach them how to control focus and energy, which is a valuable tool. This type of atmosphere and having the proper comprehension clears the pathway for better focus.  We believe that less is more and more can be less. Often, quantity is less because of the lack of quality focused execution. We don’t substitute more when quality may be compromised.”

The more often you take time each week discussing the mental side of training, the better the performances will be. Before long, the athletes will begin to take pride in the training atmosphere as a group. This will help your chances for developing speed to a higher level and your athletes will collectively buy in to your system. There’s nothing better than working with a group that feels mental togetherness. A directed mental atmosphere that’s consistently applied can result in both enormous production and group pride.  

Speed & Movement is  Pure Quality –  Don’t be Anxious

Less quantity and higher focus creates greater positive visualization. Techniques are always more important than just lengthy workouts that are quantity oriented. This carries over to the way your athletes learn to play and by how they are directed to use the shorter moments you have for off-season training in a more productive way. They will not squander reps as often, once they have learned to view the task they’re presented seriously.

Even though you are facing limited numbers in the off-season, you can get your athletes faster and moving better even though you’re pressed in various ways. The key is to be consistent with your quality focus towards production and mental guidance. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish by the end of the off-season. Last, but not least, remember that the core group you have will be instrumental as role models for the entire team. The athletes will see the value in the system and the way you have conducted the program which will expose it as a winner.

Coach Baskett began his career as a football speed coach in 1979. During the last 34 years he’s consulted and trained hundreds of coaches and thousands of athletes nationwide. In the last year he has worked directly with high schools in California, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Over the last few years he has also consulted with Texas Tech, Ohio State, USC, University of Washington, and the University of Mount Union. You can reach him directly for more information or if you have specific questions on your training program. Coach Baskett is at and 858-568-3751.


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