Questions and Answers for Strength Coaches

How do you handle teaching your athletes the policies and procedures of the weight room?

At the beginning of each year we meet with each team and discuss the policies and procedures for the weight room.  At this meeting we explain why we put our plates up facing out (for asthetics and tradition), why we load each end of each bar from the weight rack right next to it (for ease, comfort and safety), why we put our dumbbells up after each set (for safety) and finally, why we rack all of our plates after we finish training (so the weight room is ready for the next team).

At some point during the year we will have groups, teams and/or individuals that will “forget” to clean up after they have finished training.  We usually remind them by having them do extra sit –ups (one for every pound the coaches put up) or extra running (1 yard for every pound or one sprint for every bar/dumbbell).

This will quickly remind the seniors that it is important that we clean up and be responsible for ourselves and they will convey that message to the rest of the team.

It is usually very easy to get our athletes to clean up after themselves as they take great pride in our facility and enjoy the opportunity to train in a first class environment.  They also understand that in terms of time management it is important to have a place for every thing and everything in its place.  We are very up tempo in our training methods and the only way to be efficient in our set per minute giant sets is to have the room set up for easy traffic flow, optimal group size (no more than 30 – 35) and things where they belong.

How do I handle situations where the head coach or one of the position coaches takes time away from strength and conditioning for meetings, team building, etc.

Well, there are many factors to consider.  The chain of command is one.  If the head coach is responsible, as Bill Parcells told me, “Well, remember, it’s his team.” He/she can do what ever they choose to do, as in their opinion it is the most important thing for the team.  If it is one of the position coaches, then maybe it is being done without the head coach’s knowledge.  Consider the situation where the team arrives late and the schedule is such that the weight room and the strength coach are only available for the alloted time slot as another team is arriving shortly to begin their work out.  Coach the late team for the remaining time, then move on to the next team and begin to coach them when they arrive. Be aware of the late team finishing their training due to safety reasons, but do not slight the team that is on time.  Occasionally this will occur, but if it is chronic, make sure and communicate with the coach the impact the continued tardiness of the team will have on the ability of the staff to instruct their team. If the late team has a “higher priority” than the early team, then you have another problem altogether.

Some sport coaches have little or no regard for others times or needs.  What ever they are doing is so much more important and will take precedence over anything in your world.  I believe this is due to the mind set that the sport coach’s time and needs are much more important than anyone or anything else.  Or, the mindset that the strength coach’s needs or time is much less important than anything concerning the sport coach.  In this instance, you can rest assured the sport coach will have their team on time to a meeting with the Athletic Director or President, someone above them in the chain of command. Either way, the end result is that your needs, wants and concerns are of low priority.  Many times it is just poor time management on the part of the sport coach.  Whatever the reason, it is important that the strength coach remain professional and objective and not relay the frustration or blame to the athletes.  Coach the athletes when they show up, as long as the schedule permits and handle it later in a professional manner.

The real problem occurs when the sport coach does not have any regard or respect for your time and needs, yet still holds you accountable for their athletes.  I have been in situations where sport coaches have told the athlete they are not required to attend strength training sessions.  I have also experienced sport coaches not supporting the strength coach when an athlete is refusing to comply with the training program (shaving sets and reps) is coached hard (not cussed hard) and the athlete runs to the sport coach.  The sport coach then backs the athlete over the strength coach.  The sport coach’s twisted logic is that I can get a person to be the strength coach tomorrow, but I can’t go out and recruit another ________ (point guard, tailback, ace pitcher, hurdler, etc.) that can ___________  (play, run, jump, shoot, throw) like _________ (insert name).  I even had an athletic director put a track athlete back in the weight room with no punishment after the athlete was kicked out for missing over 6 workouts.  The message is clear, the athlete is more important than the strength coach.  The problem is compounded when the sport coach later grills you as to why ________ (name a player) is _________ (out of shape”, can’t bench 400 pounds, doesn’t look like or play) like ____________ (insert players name) or the guys/girls at ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________ (insert another team). When this happens, it is usually due to one of two factors.  Either the coach has suffered a bad loss, losses or season and it is going to be everyone’s fault but theirs, or they have just arrived and they want “my guy” to be the strength coach.  Either way, the situation is such that strength coaches are always going to be held responsible for the strength and fitness progress of the athletes and in many instances, be unable to hold the athlete’s accountable for their actions.  A classic conundrum that requires a very talented person with a special skill set to fulfill the role of strength and conditioning professional.  In order to surmount the problems inherent to the system, as well as get the results demanded by the competition requires diligence, creativity, personality, intelligence and passion.  The problem is, very few decision makers understand that strength coaching is a profession filled with quality individuals that do make a difference.

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