Whether a school is creating a new strength and conditioning program or continuing to build one, there are six critical components that should be considered:
1. Do No Harm
Safety is the No. 1 priority of any program. School-based strength and conditioning specialists should strive to prevent injuries to student-athletes from occurring. Expectations, technique instruction and programming must evolve from safety standards set by the school. Following is a suggested “Safety Package” for schools:
2. Build Relationships
There are many successful school-based programs that have proven to be effective, but none of them will work if relationships are not built first. Trust and buy-in from the administration, community, parents, coaches and athletes are essential and must be ongoing.
Consider the following quotes: “They must know that you care before they care what you know,” and “Long after people forget what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
Everyone is motivated differently; it is the job of strength and conditioning specialists to figure that out. Trust is built slowly but lost quickly. Constant communication is critical. Educate all those involved, use date-driven programs and get all parties involved to help create the program. Social media is a huge asset today in providing information to all necessary parties.
3. Be the Thermostat Not the Thermometer
Strength and conditioning specialists should be able to turn up performance (thermostat) not just monitor it (thermometer.) As the teacher or coach, you must demonstrate relentless effort and enthusiasm. Everything that is expected in your program like attendance, punctuality, effort and resilience must be first demonstrated by the lead instructor. Circulate, instruct, evaluate, entertain and motivate. Are you trying to interact with each and every athlete each day? Are you trying to make them at least one percent better each day? Are you trying to get better every day?
4. Provide a Competitive Environment
Athletes today need to be motivated. They need a reason why . . . so give them one. Demonstrate the results they can expect from involvement in a strength and conditioning program. Build daily “leaderboards” or competitive competitions within the program. Almost anything can be made into a competition by adding a stopwatch and/or keeping track of everyone’s results. School-based programs are perfect to treat the weight room like a “team” environment and have athletes to make their teammates better each day.
5. Move Well
Be functional and mobile before being strong and/or fast. As in a “standard” classroom, it is important to have differentiated instruction and built-in levels for different grade levels, body types and ability levels. Produce quality “movers” not “lifters.” Evaluate and assess on technique, goals and improvement. Use body-weight standards instead of set weights and/or times.
Teach kids ways to be mentally and physically strong beyond their academic career. Character education must be a foundation of all successful programs, helping to produce “servant leaders” into the community. At North Valley, we use Above the Line and Focus 3 expectations and guidelines. What can your students take away from your class that will help them deal with life’s issues better?
Travis W. Osborne, MAT, CSCS, USAW-Level 1, FMS Level 1, is the strength and conditioning coach at North Valley High School in Grants Pass, Oregon. He is state director of the National High School Strength and Conditioning Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.