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7/9/2014 11:38:26 PM - Jeff
Coach Watts,
I am a D3 strength and conditioning coach. Based on your unique experience as a D3 football coach and D3 Strength coach I would like to know your opinion on strength testing your athletes upon arrival to camp in August.

A two prong issue is: #1 As a strength coach you want to know where your athletes are regarding The core lifts (did they workout over summer & for your in-season programming): Squat, Bench, Deadlift.

But #2 is the risk/reward of testing:You are about to start your season & the last thing you want to do is risk an injury.

As the strength coach at Denison what did you do for testing, and what would you do "If I Could Do it All Again?"

Thank you for your time.
I appreciate your response


That is a very good question and a dilemma that a lot of strength coaches face at every level. What a lot of people don't understand is at the D3 level, the issue is magnified. At the Division 1, Some Division 2, and High school levels,; athletes are training on campus under supervision of the strength coach all summer. Most DI coaches test toward the end of July/ Beginning of August and give a week to recover before camp starts.

There are some D3 Schools that will have students on campus and training on campus during the summer, but a lot of smaller schools may not have summer classes or extensive employment opportunities. This is where urban schools can have an advantage.

Another obstacle unique to D3 is the fact that it is impermissible to conduct structured, supervised workouts in the summer. I am not saying all school abide by this rule (most don't). In fact, you could probably find at least a dozen schools in violation just by search YouTube. Either the ADs are scarred to say anything, no one really cares, or coaches are truly unaware of the NCAA rules. It's hard for me to criticize athletes and coaches doing something that protects them from injury.

So back to the question. Knowing where you are coaching at Jeff, you are in a unique situation for sure.

Testing when the Athletes Report
I honestly feel the longer you coach at your institution, the more trust you build and the more you can change the culture. It would be nice to think that the athletes that work the hardest will play the most come the season. It doesn't work that way. But, as your athletes continue to believe in the program and understand that missing a workout is literally saying "fuck you" to their teammates; your need to "find out" who worked hard over the summer will dissipate.

It's like the infamous bell curve coaches talke about.

10% will do everything in your summer manual
10% will do nothing in your summer manual
Spend your time moving the 80% toward the good time.

That being said, you still want to hold your guys accountable and more importantly, they need to see that they can trust each other to work had over the summer. Keep in mind Jeff, the second part, they already know. If they don't know through social interaction, they'll know in the first 10 second they're back. Problem is you need a tangible, quantifiable data.

So here are some standard test that I would do, modify, and avoid when they return. These would be based on probability of injury and transferability on the field.

1. 40 Yard Dash.
Or any speed work for that matter. Assuming all of your guys were sprinting full-speed all summer, this is still some hammy pulls waiting to happen. Another thing: Don't you already know who your fastest kids are anyway. Are you really testing them to see how fast the freshman are or how much faster they got without being trained by you?

Most of your freshman at the D3 level run track their senior year if they are actually fast. You have numbers right there.

Plus, the first time they do one-on-ones or kick-off team, your coaches will know.

Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, Any kind of throws for distance.
Not saying you need to do these but they will not effect subsequent practices and the injury potential is very low. Vertical may be the best test due to the fact it is a crude measurement of lower body power. I would try and calculate total force produced to compensate for differences in body weight. I would like to say that if a player increases his vertical jump, he has improved his lower body power. But, increased body weight (even if it is predominately lean body mass) can cloud thee results. Still an adequate test.

I think with the strength testing, it definitely needs to be implemented. True rep max or 1RM testing can provide a great environment for team camaraderie. But, the amount of time spent on getting an entire team through max testing for multiple lifts a day before practicing can be a logistical nightmare and probably unnecessary.

With NCAA rules not allowing a "2-a-day until day 6 and full-pads until day 5, there are a few days in the first week that lifting sessions can be implemented. Here is what we did at Denison (not saying this way better than anyone else's, but it worked from a logistical standpoint, we got the info we needed, and our injury rates were non-existent from the training.

1. Meetings, Film and Lift in the Morning. Practive in the afternoon.

I hated the full-team circuit bullshit that most coaches feel they are limited to. So we split our team up into 6 position groups. Basically, the first group started meetings at about 740 and were in the weight room by 9. Every other group was staggered by 20 minutes so the the last group started their lift at 1040am. I can send you the overall grid if you want, Jeff.

We would at least be able to have one position group go through the Olympic and max effort lifts in smaller groups.

As far as the actuall set and rep sechmes, we would use a modified auto-eg system fro freshman. Bascially they would train at the top end of a rep range (3-5 or 4-6) adding weight until their reps dropped.

For returners, we would still auto-reg their sets but would have their last spring testing numbers. An attainable and reasonable goal is to hit their 3RM for 5. By having them use a rep range that coincides with a percentage above that range, the precedent was set. Every work set was a performance test and it would be obvious who actually put the work in over the summer. As long as you sue the same parameters and formulas for every test , they should be reliable. We would use the Lander formula for ours. This would also hep adjust the maxes for in-season as well.

Jeff, I hope this helps a little. I knwo it's adaunting task. keep the communication high over the summer and make sure you 1.) fully understand your coach's expectations and 2.) your athletes understand your expectations when they report.

I wish you the best, my friend and pleas let me know if there is anything else you would need from me.

to test or not to test,
Mark Watts

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