1. Become Better People
2. Become a Closer FAMILY
3. Win a National Championship
When I accepted the Strength and Conditioning position at my alma matar these were my three goals for the team. Not “Squat a ton more weight” or “Jump Super High” because these are results, which come if your process is on the right track. I’m writing this article to dive into the process and the results it led to. 1) Because I really can’t stand the “big things coming” or “this person had a heck of an off-season” post by strength coaches without anything to back it up if you’re not testing/retesting and doing this during every workout you have no idea what’s working and what isn’t. 2) To really look at my program, what do I think I can improve upon, what do I think went well. If you don’t review and really dive into something, I don’t think you can become a master of your craft. In ten years, I want to look back at everything I’m doing now and call myself a dumbass. Not because I was so wrong, but because of the amount of growth I’ve had. As soon as a coach tell you he knows all, you know he knows very little. So, lets dive in.
How to Build Buy In:
To me this is the most important part of any program, business, family or team. If your members don’t believe in you and don’t believe in the mission it doesn’t matter what you write down on a sheet of paper, its all garbage.
So how do you do this? Trust, Hard work and buy in yourself. I’m 23 years old, I coach some players who are the same age as me, is pretending to be someone I’m not, acting like an old knowledgeable guru, going to get me anywhere? No! People see through bullshit. Build trust with your athletes. The first thing I said to them in a meeting was “I don’t know everything but if you have a question or there is a problem I will do everything in my power to find a solution” I put my flaws out there, I don’t know everything, but I backed it up with a strength, no one and I mean no one would sacrifice more for this team and these players than me and I wanted them to know that. Set the tone and then follow it up with consistent action of belief in them and the system.
This initial trust is key, its what will get kids to squat at 6 am every Monday morning, hold 5-minute bear crawl holds or whatever other “torture” I have devised for them that day. They believe in you and that’s so powerful. Not only that but it really allows you to build up the human. If you can get them to squat at 6 AM why can’t you get them to push in their chairs, hold doors for people, love the brothers around them? Focus on the human, they are with you for 2 hours as athletes and by themselves for 22 hours as human beings. If you can get them to live these 22 hours the right way you will have a much greater impact on what their lives turn out to be, on what the community around them is like, on how the whole planet views them. There are no such things as “small” things. Every action adds up. Winning off the field for 22 hours will allow them to win on the field at a much quicker rate. It all snowballs together and its what leads to either winning a national championship or going 8-2. Winners don’t just win.
So now that we have discussed the buy in, the next important part is what’s on your program. The buy in is the hard part, this for the most part is the “easy part”. Here is an example ideal set up for how I would train an athlete
Monday: Conditioning or Reaction Based Games and Max Upper
Tuesday: Max Speed work, Vertical Plyometrics, Lower Accessories
Thursday: Conditioning or Reaction Based Games and Dynamic Upper
Friday: Acceleration Work, Horizontal Plyometrics, Main Lower Body Strength
However, with the college set up and access to our facilities we had to switch it around to:
Monday: Conditioning or Reaction Based Games and Main Lower, upper accessories
Tuesday: Max Velocity, vertical plyometrics, lower accessories (outside)
Wednesday: Conditioning or Reaction Based Games and Main Upper
Thursday: Acceleration Work, Horizontal Plyometrics and Lower accessories.
This is the biggest thing I’d change if I were able to with the facilities. Going 4 days straight with a main lower body and max velocity doesn’t give a ton of room for recovery for the athletes. Not to mention when spring ball practices come into play the workouts must be majorly adjusted. We will work on making these adjustments for next year and going forward.
Now looking at the population I have access to. We are a D3 program but a very elite level program that has athletes that played or could of at the D1 level but still the typical grinder D3 athlete. This wide spread of athletes was awesome to program for and my goal was to hit the middle ground. Another note on this population is that their basic movements patterns were horrendous. Many didn’t know how to squat (or didn’t have the mobility to) many weren’t strong enough to absorb their own body weight on any sort of jump and many looked like it was their first time running. To me these were red flags and injuries waiting to happen everywhere. These players have had phenomenal tactical coaching and were very good at their sport (which don’t get me wrong is the most important thing) however their basic movement patterns were so bad that if we increased these at all, I firmly believed we could decrease injuries, improve ability on the field and get closer to our goal. The first 6 weeks then focused mainly on this. Improving squat and deadlift form with higher reps, really attacking landing mechanics and sprinting form, increasing mobility and really attacking the posterior chain. I really tried to attack both sides of the coin, they are either moving poorly because they aren’t strong or mobile enough to get into the correct position or they didn’t know what the correct position was.
Once we got past basic movement patterns with them (and again this is a very general statement, we still have to readjust this everyday) we were able to attack things with more intensity. Our squats were deeper and moved faster, we were able to land and take off without buckling under the force and we looked semi athletic running.
The next biggest introduction was game based reactionary drills. To me this was the biggest indicator of the athletes moving and reacting better. Ill provide an example below:
These really showed how an athlete moved in a game-based scenario, what they needed to work on and what was holding them back. One thing I found super interesting about these drills was the fact that there was an athlete that was fast but could also avoid and succeed in these drills however looked to be a terrible football player. (which would eliminate two factors, the athlete has the speed and is able to process and react to stimulus coming at him) Which to me started to show me that maybe their weakness was understanding the game of Football. What was making them slow on the field had nothing to do with being slow. (Many coaches really struggle with this thought process and think if they just get them faster and stronger, they will be better football players) When in reality the player probably doesn’t understand the play call, where to line up or maybe lets the pressure get to him. Now we know that so we can really attack it. Our job as coaches is not to swear by our system or put an athlete on one path. Our job is to help them become the best version of themselves.
The final thing we did which Is probably a little different was mediate at the end of every session. This was and is one of the most powerful things tools a coach has. You can attack so many aspects of an athlete with this. You teach them how to breathe properly (they breathe 24 hours 7 days a week, if you want to create efficient athletes focus on things that will have the biggest bang for your buck) You can work on the mental side of the game and life with them. (I have my athlete visualize interviews and big plays, put them in these situations first mentally so stress can be reduced when they get there in person) And finally most student athletes are terrible at downregulating, if you can give them 10 minutes a day to really just focus on this it can make a world of difference on recovery.
Now to the results, all the above doesn’t matter if I don’t produce results (and really none of these results matter, if I don’t accomplish the top three goals I listed) But let’s dive in.
The thing I was most impressed with was the vertical increase (2.5 inches) This test was performed with an electric vertical monitor (G Flight) so its pretty hard to cheat from pretest to post test. Seeing this hopefully shows that these athletes can now produce more force at a faster rate with better mobility in the vertical plane than they were before.
The broad jump and bench press numbers were also cool to see. Bench press more so just to show them the handwork has payed off and to me the broad jump is a great show of horizontal power production.
The ten-yard dashes were all hand timed. They ran two 10-yard dashes and we averaged them out both times to try and eliminate some error and we saw improvement but again these are hand timed and to me really don’t mean a ton. (So much can go wrong with the human timing it) The goal is to have a laser timer next time.
The squat; ideally one would probably want to see a bigger increase than 10 lbs. on average in ten weeks but to me this was sweet. The old squat numbers were based off a lot of players quarter squatting and letting their knees touch, whereas the new numbers weren’t counted unless they hit depth. That might sound like I’m an old school coach, but I really believe in having athletes that can perform basic movement patterns so getting them to perform these basic movement patterns was great.
The biggest thing I wish I could go back and fix was more hamstring work in the weight room and ease into the distances of sprints. We had a couple hamstring tweaks this offseason (from guys that had bad sprinting mechanics and were just tweaks waiting to happen) I think I overshot our sprinting distances and probably targeted the more athletic population rather than the middle class on this one. For the summer offseason we really dove in and fixed this.
Personally, as a coach I was opening a business and getting all of what Jochum Strength is rolling during this. That meant very late nights at the office and very early mornings in the gym. I think some mornings this may have taken away from me being the best possible coach I could be and It’s something next year I hope to have addressed by having Jochum Strength set up and rolling (I’m sure late nights will be there but hopefully less)!
This wraps up my thoughts on my first offseason as a strength and condition coach. I’ve learned so much more in 6 months as their coach than I ever had before and I’m really looking forward to the growth of this program going forward and what this season leads to. If you have any questions on anything or want any topics covered in the future just ask! Would gladly cover them!