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1/7/2013 9:05:30 AM -
The Offseason begins

Offseason programming starts today. Obviously, one of the biggest problems with high school football is that we don’t get all of our kids for this period, because most of our best kids wrestle, play basketball, or run indoor track—and, as usual, we don’t even get those kids for lifting because we’re not supposed to “step on the toes” of other coaches, and unfortunately, some of the kids have to take part in some pretty half-assed lifting programs.

I think this is the problem in just about every high school in America, and it happens to us all the time. We get a kid who’s going to be a scholarship player in football, but he wants to play basketball, or wrestle or run track—or play baseball, lacrosse or track in the spring, too. The policy at every school at which I’ve ever coached is that the actual sport coach decides on the physical preparation programming of his team. That’s fine for the 99%, but it’s the scholarship kids I’m concerned with, because with some sport coaches, this could entail 3-4 months of completely wasted time. And again, I’m talking about coaches who are still convinced that f-ed up high school hang cleans (I call them the violent jump to a reverse curl) have the cure for cancer.

In other words, you have a kid who, from June to December, has been on a steady diet of jumps, throws, and “intelligent” lifting where his stresses are all being accounted for, and now he’s being turned over to a coach who doesn’t lift, doesn’t study lifting, doesn’t care, prescribes nothing but hang cleans for sets of ten, and doesn’t take what’s best for the kid into account because his ego dictates that he needs to be in charge.

That’s fine. Obviously, I’m trying to do the same thing, but it’s hard when you have the knowledge and you have the experience and you actually know what’s best for the kid—and what’s best for some of the kids, in this case, is to make an exception and not throw them into the hands of some teacher who’s only coaching, at this point, for the extra $8K on his salary and who doesn’t know the first thing about lifting.

I always advocate that my kids play multiple sports, so it’s a total catch-22. If a kid loves playing basketball, I’d never in a million years tell him not to play. I played three sports every year, some of which were completely counterproductive to my football goals (like being a baseball pitcher and dropping 20-30 pounds during basketball season and not lifting at all).

Anyway, I’m off on a tangent. I’ve been dealing with this issue for years, and it’s all part of James “The Thinker” Smith’s idea of program management. I’ll go out on an egotistical limb here and say that I know better what a scholarship football player needs in his offseason that the basketball, wrestling, and track coaches at our school, based on my experience and knowledge level. I can’t do anything about it, though. I sure as hell wouldn’t want the basketball coach telling my players how to lift during football season, so I guess what’s fair is fair.

These are the things we consider important for the first few weeks of the program. We have a lot of new kids coming in, so the first month or two is the time to teach the kids the basics—and by basics, I’m not even talking so much about actually lifting technique and stuff like that.

1. TEACHING THE WARM-UP: I say this every year, but we’ll spend an hour teaching the kids a 20 minute warm-up. What we’ve found over the years is that this initial period is where discipline starts, and believe it or not, it directly translates to what they do during games. Every single move needs to be done to absolutely perfection. Lines have to be toed, etc, etc. We’ll go over this again, and again, and again, because since these are the moves we’ll be doing before games, this is essentially the first rehearsal we’re getting for the actual season.

2. TEACHING GYM PROTOCOLS: Before we teach them how to bench, squat, or deadlift, we teach them how to spot, we teach the spotting rotation in their groups, and we teach them how to police the gym, set everything up before they lift, and clean up after themselves and put everything away when they’re done. If you’ve ever coached a high school football team, you know there’s always that moment where 30-40 kids come together in the middle of the weight room—in our case, the hallway outside the weight room—and wait for you to tell them what to do. The idea, here, is to get this process to move by itself after a week or two. This is definitely where you have to be a hardass, and I probably do my most screaming of the entire season during these couple of weeks.

3. CLINIC THE LIFTS: Teaching the lifts is kind of a three part process. First, you have to teach them yourself. You need to get all the kids together and show them what they’re going to do, giving them a few “swing thoughts”—i.e., head up, chest up—they can remember. From there, you need to coach them, if you can, through every rep. Finally, what’s always worked for us is teaching the kids to coach themselves. I figured this one out 7-8 years ago by standing alongside a D-1 kid we had and literally teaching him to coach his teammates. The more kids you have who understand what needs to be done, the easier it’ll be for you as a coach.

I’m not even worried about programming at this point. This kind of sucks, and this is my least favorite part of the year (the summer pre-camp program is actually my favorite), but this is where you put the stuff in place that will translate directly to their on-field performance.

Angry Coach

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