A coach can turn their season around with a great off-season that will increase strength, power, flexibility, agility, speed and greatly reduce injuries. There is certainly more rush for a team to increase strength that is graduating the majority of their starters and will be relying upon the underclassmen.
Also if the team incurred a lot of injuries last season means the team was lacking flexibility, joint mobility or strength endurance within their program that needs to be incorporated in the upcoming year's program.
There are several guidelines for an off-season football program they need to be a part of to help bring the most potential out of each athlete:
- Short term goals
- Long term goals
- Realistic Periodization Scheme
- Commitment and Dedication
Short Term Goals
First and foremost, it is important to set short term and long term goals in the beginning of your off-season program. There needs to be a focus to your programs so there is a clear path to what you want from your program.
The short term goals can consist of a variety of tests that show the results of your improvements in athleticism and strength endurance. These tests can include testing your vertical, long jump, overhead medicine ball toss, pull ups and various bodyweight exercises.
Keep in mind the strength program is designed for sports performance and to develop the proper muscle groups to developing the complete athlete. The short-term goals can be tested anywhere from every 4 to 6 weeks. They should not take long and are appropriate to show the success of the strength program and the progress of the athlete.
By testing every 4 to 6 weeks, the athlete can keep focus and keep their enthusiasm to keep working hard in the weight room. The tests should be fun and simple. Confidence is the main objective from these tests. Once the athlete sees their gains and their accomplishments, they begin to develop the needed confidence to be successful and to keep working toward the ultimate goal, a championship.
Long Term Goals
Typically long-term goals would include one rep maximal lifts of the core lifts that have been implemented. The problem with maximal lifts is high school athletes typically have poor technique and are not physically mature enough to handle heavy loading.
It is important that when using one rep maximal lifts the athlete is experienced and is confident with their technique.
A good long-term goal would be taking a certain weight for each position and perform the lift 10 times while being timed. The type of lifts would of course depend upon the level of the athlete. You wouldn't have a freshman being tested in the hang clean as you would a senior.
The lifts tested should be performed with close to perfect technique and not have a great impact upon the body. They should test both power and strength endurance as they are so critical for football.
These tests are to build confidence and show weaknesses within the athletes. Each athlete will be different and will need to strengthen their weaknesses. Just like the short-term goals, the long term goals should be fun and exciting. They should spark enthusiasm and intensity for the season to come. These type of tests should occur every 10 to 12 weeks.
Before an athlete can ever get the most potential out of each lift, they need to master the lifting technique. Something that is often skipped or briefly went over with the athletes. It is tough with a team of 60 to 80 athletes to be able to spend a good amount of time working on technique of the simple to more complex lifts.
It all comes down to simplicity. You can't teach calculus to someone who never took algebra and you can't teach a snatch to an athlete who has poor squatting form. The more complex lifts are important and make a huge impact on an athletes' performance, but there is a time and place when they shall be incorporated.
When you look at a high school playbook that is 25 pages thick, what comes to mind? Confusion? Complication? Recipe for failure? If you can have a team run 6 plays to perfection and run them all the time with success, that is more potent than a team that has too many plays. It opens the door to mistakes and too much thinking.
The same goes for strength training and conditioning. By making the lifts simple and easy to learn, the athletes will get so much more out of them and allow them to advance to more complex lifts with a much easier transition. It also allows the coaches to be better teachers to athletes on the team by making it easier to demonstrate the exercises.
Many high school programs use college level programs because of the success the program has had with the college athletes. High school athletes are 1 to 5 years younger than a freshman college athlete who is at an age to be able to take the heavy weight demand and complex lifts on their bodies. The majority of high school athletes are unable to properly squat their own weight and in the younger ages complete 30 pushups properly.
Yet coaches seem to put these kids under the weighted bar with little success. Make sure the lifts chosen for the age group and experience level are appropriate for the athlete to be successful and they will be able to advance to complex lifts much more efficiently.
If this attitude and understanding of technique is always worked on in the weightroom with the athletes, it will overflow and work the same in practice. Execution of plays and positioning will be the mindset of the team. Making it a much better learning atmosphere for the coaches and the team. And as each time the team improves their execution of plays and positioning, they build their confidence even more increase their performance.
It is important to perform the proper lifts at the specific athletic level with the right amount of sets and reps. The program should be progressive with both intensity and the type of lifts used by the athletes.
There should be a change in the program every 4 to 6 weeks to keep variety and interest. The weight loading should also be progressive and be challenging at the same time not compromising technique.
In order to have successful performance transfer from the weightroom to the field, the periodization scheme needs to include the proper exercises that will increase the athletes' power and strength endurance as mentioned previously. For example, you could have a number of athletes bench pressing over 250 lbs, but if they are lacking leg power and explosive capabilities, they will not be much help on the field.
So the exercises should be teaching the athlete become a better athlete and as they become more efficient with the lift learning to produce more force. The progression should be simple and build confidence within the athlete.
Flexibility and joint mobility should be also be incorporated within the program so it will help the athlete to perform the exercise more efficient and help reduce muscle soreness and recovery time. Always remember if the exercise is hard to learn then don't use it.
When working with 60 to 80 football players, it is hard to teach proper lifting technique so keep the exercises simple, yet effective, in order to promote and teach proper lifting technique.
Commitment And Dedication
You can provide the athlete with all the tools and components to a great strength and conditioning program, but in the end, success is all dependant upon the athlete. Hard work is required which more often than not does not happen. The "fitness industry" has made all these machines and equipment to make working out easy. Working out and success is not easy and requires sweat, tears and pain.
Developing the complete athlete takes years and much commitment and dedication. Rome wasn't built overnight just as a championship program cannot. But if you get the majority of your athletes to participate in a complete strength and conditioning program, geared to bring out the most potential of each player, you will greatly increase the team's success.
"Hard training, easy combat; easy training, hard combat" - Marshal Suvorov - famous Russian General who understood training specificity.
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