From an athlete development perspective, when working with high school athletes we want to prepare them not just for their sport, of course, but also for a college strength program. We want to make the college strength coach’s job much easier from a technique and knowledge standpoint. One of the best compliments for us is when high school athletes transition to the college ranks and they know their way around the weight room. And I don’t mean knowing where the mirrors are to do curls. We want athletes to be ready from a technique standpoint all of the way down to weight room etiquette.
As a strength coach to high school athletes, I always want the collegiate coaches to be impressed with athletes’ sound technique and their knowledge of performance training. Most of the time we never know if this is the case, we just strive for it.
Many high school athletes realize rather quickly the weight room is a big part of collegiate sports. If you are someone who doesn’t like to train, but are going to college to play sports (at any level), you will be expected to spend a lot of time training and preparing for your sport, so you better get used to it.
This is why we don’t follow the trends of the speed and agility coach phenomenon. We see it every day on social media and in advertisements for performance coaches/facilities. Sorry to break it to you, but all those fancy cone dancing drills or doing every exercise with a football in your hand do not have much transfer to the sport. People are spending massive amounts of money for their kids to run through ladders and execute unrealistic drills that have zero carry over.
I know athletes who participate in this type of hype training in high school find out extremely quickly this is not how you prepare when you get to college. College athletes prepare through sound training techniques using strength exercises. They are no longer running around the gym or juggling balls standing on one leg. They are actually training and preparing their body.
I am not saying that you need to ditch all drills and become a meathead, but somewhere down the middle is where you want to reside with training high school athletes. The goal should be to create good form and work on foundational movements. You will often hear me say, “We are training movements not muscles!” We do not one rep max our athletes or have them perform reps until failure. We do give them the base to perform correct biomechanical movements which help create efficiency.
We use strength training with our athletes, in particular high school level athletes, to accomplish several goals: to reduce injury, get stronger, correct imbalances, and increase mass (how much mass depends on the sport/position they play). If we achieve those things, we absolutely increase an individual’s sport performance.
Yes, we train speed and agility, but we do it through drills and exercises that coincide with our strength training. We get faster by sprinting and we increase agility by learning how to absorb forces. We do it by using physics and science, not by making a video of some cool drill and posting it on Instagram.
Athletes just entering the college ranks are finding out what is expected of them from a strength and conditioning standpoint. I hear new college athletes say they didn’t realize what was expected from them when it comes to training. Our job is to prepare them for the realistic scenario
I know for a fact, college strength coaches are not having their 5-star recruits dancing around cones, blindfolded, while juggling tennis balls in one hand and carrying a football in the other. Ok, I know that was a bit ridiculous, but I am trying to get my point across: high school sport performance training should look more like college sport performance training. Our goal is to prepare for what is to come, not what our ego is telling us to do. It is up to the sport coach/skill coach to hone in the sport technique. It is the strength coach’s job to put the tools in the toolbox.
At the end of the day, the sport performance industry has become saturated and people are trying to find ways to stick out and make a name for themselves. I give respect to the coaches who are taking risks, but let’s do it for the right reasons. Know that when you are working with high school athletes, the goal is strictly developmental. There isn’t a need for crazy equipment, or even crazier exercises and drills. The more basic now the better off they will be for when they get to college because when they do get there they will be working on hip extension, knee flexion/extension, push and pulling movements. Therefore, if you work with high school athletes you should be introducing them to these movements.
We know the athletes we have the opportunities to work with are prepared and familiar with most exercises they will be performing at the next level. They won’t be surprised like some.