Building Culture

The Importance of Strength and Conditioning to the High School CoachBy Zach Wilson, CrossFit Barboursville

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”- Sun Tzu. As a HS football coach, this quote stood out to me. Its message is something I tried to instill in my players each week, leading up to Friday night. It’s very hard to overcome a bad week of practice. Oh, you may still win a game that you shouldn’t once in awhile, but you will not perform anywhere near your potential. The same is true, on a greater scale, about the S&C program. It’s how we can win our battles before they are ever fought.

Don’t take my word for it. Follow the dollars. Look at nearly every major college football coaching staff and see where they spend their money. The highest-paid strength coach in FBS makes more than 37 FBS head coaches. It’s that important.

“It’s not about the X’s and O’s. It’s about the Jimmys and Joes.” There’s one more quote for you that I have heard, and said, more times that I would care to admit. It’s so easy, as a coach, to lose yourself in the intricacies and nuances of schemes. The truth, however, is that every scheme has its weaknesses and the more time and energy you invest in creating your schemes, the less you have to invest in your players. The S&C program is how you upgrade your Jimmys and Joes, since, in my experience, you cannot recruit better players from outside of your district- at least not ethically.

So you get it. It’s important, but why? There’s the obvious reason- a S&C program is going to make your players stronger and better conditioned. A good S&C program is also going to emphasize injury prevention- non-contact ACL tears for example, and improving mobility and range of motion. This is my biggest regret. How much better would my players have been, if I really worked on their squat mechanics? If I trained them to squat deep, with proper midline stability, feet flat, and toes forward, how much better would they have been at blocking and tackling? Learn from my mistakes. My weight room did not have a single medicine ball or kettlebell in it, and I foolishly spent our budget on a Jammer and fancy urethane plates that couldn’t be dropped. Back to the subject. Good S&C programming is also going to increase athleticism. The exercises and drills that you utilize in the S&C program will carry-over to your athlete’s sport-specific movement patterns- like blocking and tackling, but also like running, jumping, and changing direction. A good S&C program is going to create adaptations in an athlete’s kinesthetic awareness that will translate to nearly every part of his/her game.

But that’s not even the best part. The S&C program is how you create the culture of your team. It’s where you establish your work ethic- where everyone is taught that training, and sport, and life, is a meritocracy- you get what you put in. It’s where your players learn to push themselves and how to handle adversity. It’s where toughness and leadership are forged instead of discussed. It’s where relationships are built between people, working together, to accomplish an incredible task. Those relationships lead to players that put the team ahead of themselves. Those players win more- at sport and in life.

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