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Sweating the details: priorities for the strength training program.

The daily operation of the strength training program requires meticulous planning, a flexible format, a strong supporting cast, and solid troubleshooting skills. While it is not rocket science, it definitely has some weighty issues to be addressed.

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As we indicated in the January issue, the philosophies and approaches are as varied as coaching personalities and styles. However, all coaches share the same playbook in the building of a solid foundation and development of a safe, productive approach that will stand the test of time.

Each situation has its own unique limitations and obstacles, plus several universal standards of protocol.

Allow us to call upon our 30-plus years of coaching experience in expounding the details of program organization.

FACILITY: FEAST OR FAMINE

Whether you have a sparkling, state-of-the-art weight room with all the high-end technology, or are residing in the old, "renovated" boiler room, make the most of it.

I've been at both ends of the facility spectrum. In the mid-'80's at the U. of Toledo, we had a room with peeling paint, cracked ceiling, exposed plumbing, cheap equipment, and an occasional furry creature scurrying across the floor.

We later updated to a pristine, multi-million dollar facility with all the pertinent bells and whistles. And now, of course, we have one of the finest facilities in the country here at MSU, with future expansion plans on the drawing board.

In all of these cases, we worked hard and got results. If you're stuck in a dungeon, seek out the resources and elbow grease to make it the very best training dungeon in the conference.

Clean it, paint it in the school's colors, get your team logo emblazoned on the wall, and furnish it with the best, safest equipment your budget allows. Build on the theme you have inherited and make the toughness and grit associated with that type of environment a source of pride for your staff and athletes.

Make it safe, workable, and as attractive as possible with emphasis on the school's tradition and the team pride of everyone who will be working together to improve and succeed on the playing field.

SUPPORT GROUP

One of your first tasks as captain of the ship is to get all hands on deck. Since support always starts at the top, target the administration first. With the superintendent, principal, athletic director, and sports medicine personnel on board, you will have the needed clout to spread the good word to parents, other coaches, teachers, and the athletes.

If you take the time to inculcate this entire network into the year-round strength-training program (e.g., lowering the risk of severe injury, expediting rehabilitation for the less severe injuries, enhancing performance, improving overall health, etc.), you will gain both support and enthusiasm for the endeavor.

To keep this team updated on the progress and events taking place within the program, you might consider sending an occasional newsletter with highlights on the athletes, new equipment purchases, and fund raising information.

Better yet, since most schools have a web page, construct your own strength training segment on that page. I've seen many of these popping up in the "athletics" section of the school's home page. With all of the downloading options at your disposal, you can create a professional, informative, and highly motivating site that will generate a lot of excitement and pride for the program.

It also opens a window to the world, in that everyone who has Internet access (and who doesn't?) can log on and learn more about your efforts. When it comes time to raise a few dollars for equipment updates, there is no better way to appeal to the masses.

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It is vitally important to get all of the coaches in the building in your corner. Yes, even in the new millennium, some of them still have antiquated misconceptions about strength training (e.g., it causes a loss of flexibility, diminishes athleticism, takes the edge off the twenty-foot baseline jumper, and other absurd myths).

Teach them discreetly, call on qualified guest speakers for in-school seminars, provide appropriate literature, get them involved in the process, and bring them up to speed. Without their support, you will have a difficult time convincing the athletes (and their parents) that this is an important venture.

One way to generate community support and involvement is by running an adult fitness program a few nights a week. A qualified, certified instructor is an obvious must, and many high schools have such an individual on staff. A nominal fee can be charged. It will provide a stipend for the instructor and, in many cases, a balance that can go back into the facility budget. It's a win-win situation.

Note: A medical evaluation and clearance form should be filled out by the participants and their primary care physicians, kept on file, and periodically updated.

SAFETY REGULATIONS

The staff must troubleshoot any and all safety concerns that relate to the type of program to be run, the various styles and equipment modes that are available, and other specific facility considerations.

A safety orientation program should be mandatory for all newcomers to the program, with constant reinforcement and updates--both verbally and through large, clearly written postings throughout the facility. This applies to everyone who uses the facility, including athletes, teachers/coaches, support staff, and adult fitness class members.

Many programs require a signed waiver form from all participants, indicating that they have been informed of all safety regulations and procedures, understand them fully, and are cognizant of the dangers and injury consequences if they fail to comply with these maxims. We highly recommend such a waiver to offer a degree of protection to the participants and to you in a rare litigation circumstance. While waivers do not always provide complete protection in injury/negligence cases, they solidify your attention to detail in safety matters and make your defense much stronger.

DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS

Many programs look highly organized and functional until you get down and dirty with the every day pressure cooker of scheduling, efficient traffic flow, documentation, and player/coach ratio.

The staff must determine the hours of operation (early morning/evening hours may be options), the instructor/trainee ratio that best fits the facility, and the types of activities to be performed over the course of the week and specific training period.

Athletic teams should be scheduled with priority given to those who are currently in-season. All of the involved coaches should be well-versed on the key teaching elements of the program and approach it with the same organization, enthusiasm, and intensity they would bring to a practice situation.

Recommendation: Many high schools offer a strength training class for academic credit, which accomplishes an educational, lifetime fitness goal, in addition to time-efficient training for athletic purposes. This alone can alleviate many of your scheduling problems.

Documentation is a critical aspect of the training regimen, and whether you choose to do it manually or incorporate a computer program, comprehensive records should be kept on all trainees. Obviously, a computer program is a neater and more secure method for storing data and files over a long period of time.

In either case, a system for recording workout data should be instituted and tracked. A simple, yet effective template is provided in the illustration. Coaches can plug-in their own favorite exercises and the ones that best fit their equipment set-up.

Note: This particular recording card is for a total body strength workout, but it can be modified for a split (upper/lower) approach, as well.

FINAL REP

It takes a great deal of dedication, expertise, and attention to detail to run a safe, efficient, and productive strength training program. Like every other aspect of athletics, it requires mentors who are willing to give the extra time and effort necessary for success.

Over the long haul, the benefits reaped for all involved--especially the athletes--make it all worthwhile!

RELATED ARTICLE: TIP FROM THE TRENCHES

Promoting the strength training program--When you approach your school's administration on the importance and benefits of implementing a year-round, properly performed strength training program (and getting some financial support to do so), here are some helpful bullet points that will add muscle to your case:

* By improving body composition (i.e., muscle/fat ratio), you increase muscular endurance.

* The entire musculo-tendon complex is strengthened, thus aiding as an injury deterrent.

* Bone density is increased, thus making them stronger and more injury resistant.

* Flexibility is increased--not decreased, as the common myth suggests.

* The body's metabolism is kick-started, thus making it a more efficient calorie-burning machine.

* Blood lipid/cholesterol profiles are improved, thus reducing a cardiovascular disease risk factor.

* A stronger athlete can produce more power and, with concurrent sport-skill practice, should heighten his/her athletic performance.

--Ken Mannie

By Ken Mannie, Strength/Conditioning Coach, Michigan State University
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Title Annotation:POWERLINE
Author:Mannie, Ken
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Apr 1, 2005
Words:1467
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