You could have a state-of-the-art weight room or the best training program on the planet, but if you don't create an effective environment for your athletes, their results will ultimately fall behind. Your athletes need to be motivated to train, buy in to your programming and most importantly, work hard.
As a group, we strength coaches have to remember that our job requires more than knowing the ins and outs of strength and conditioning. We need to coach our athletes to help them maximize their results in a fashion similar to that of a sport coach working to get the most out of his or her team.
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On that note, here are four strategies I've found effective when working with my high school athletes.
Create a balanced discpline approach
In a high school weight room, it is easy for things to get out of hand. There must be discipline and order to ensure every athlete is working hard and staying safe. Some coaches like to take a no-nonsense strict attitude, but I find that when working with high schoolers, there should also be a dose of fun.
Lead by example
Coaches should lead by example. We have a strict "no leaning or sitting down" policy in our weight room, and as much as I expect the athletes to follow it, they expect the same from me. It is the idea of accountability we try to instill. Leading by example goes further than just following rules. I follow the rule that I will never give a program, exercise or workout that I haven't personally tried myself in one aspect or another. By doing this, you show your athletes understanding and compassion. Nothing gets my athletes more fired up than me trying to match them Pull-Up for Pull-Up or running alongside them during sprints and tempo runs.
Pump up the tunes
To achieve results, you need the right atmosphere. I think the biggest factor in keeping everyone motivated is music. Music has the power to create mood. Whether it's rap, metal, rock or pop, let your athletes decide what gets them going. Our weight room thrives on rap and rock—and music apps allow us to get censored, clean versions of songs. The kids really get into it and even have their selected PR (personal record) songs. This helps provide some fun during the intense workouts.
In addition to these factors, something else that contributes to a winning environment is an emphasis on competition. Competition sometimes gets a bad rap, because people think it means winning at all costs. However, we view competition as holding each other accountable, helping each other break through comfort zones and coming out as better athletes and individuals. We have a big board for our football team that lists the top 3 records for each of the three groups (skill, combo, line) for the 10 different lifts and drills we test. I remind my athletes every day that each one of them, regardless of their skill level, has the opportunity to find his name on the wall.
These simple elements can change a humdrum weight room into a winning environment that translates to greater success on the field.
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