Jan 29, 2015
All Aboard

richjacobs-head.jpgBy Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS

The summer is fast coming to an end, and as small packs of athletes who worked out on campus over the summer evolve into larger groups, expectations for the upcoming season are growing. Depending on one’s organizational style, this can be an exciting time of year or a stressful one. The transition from summer to fall can be productive and smooth if the strength and conditioning coach has a plan–one that includes getting on the same page with sport coaches and athletic trainers.

••• Over the years, it’s become obvious to me that communication is the single most important key to maintaining good working relationships with coaches and athletic trainers. A successful strength coach is one who goes above and beyond their job description by maintaining and improving communication with the other staff members who make up the athletic program.

Sport coaches, athletic trainers, and strength coaches are all cogs in the athletic wheel. One component cannot succeed alone. For the athletes to have the greatest potential for success, all three components must work together.

Sport coaches and athletic trainers are currently preparing for the upcoming season. In order to understand how we as strength coaches can help, we must take into account the other components.

Sport coaches are on their way to creating the team goals and expectations for the support staff. Scheduling the season and devising new offensive and defensive tactics consumes most of their days. Meanwhile, they are making arrangements for the new recruits, and planning practices and test days. Their job requires constantly examining their program and assessing how it can be improved.

Athletic trainers have a demanding year-round job that includes maintaining communication with injured athletes who have left for the summer, organizing paperwork for the upcoming season, and examining the incoming freshmen to determine possible risk factors and current injuries. Their responsibilities require them to be on the front lines, where they are the eyes and ears for doctors and therapists.

The obvious statement is that we are all busy, so it’s important to look outside your own duties and take into consideration the demands placed on these people. Doing so will show them you are invested in them and in the process. Gaining their trust and confidence will also make your job easier in the long run.

At Xavier University, the strength and conditioning department’s communication with coaches and athletic trainers is consistent, so when the grind of the season becomes overwhelming, we can continue to help each other without missing a beat. As a result, we are all on the same page and the athletes can move seamlessly through our system.

For us, an important first step in building this relationship is to schedule meetings with head coaches well in advance of any athlete reporting back to campus. During those meetings, we discuss things like lifting times, conditioning times, performance goals, environment expectations, and incoming freshmen. Sometimes there are individual athletes who would benefit from one-on-one training, and accommodations need to be made ahead of time. These are pieces that should be confronted early to adequately prepare for the season.

The second step is to meet with the athletic training team. These meetings are generally engaging and informational. Our athletic trainers are great researchers and note takers, so the information they share with us is very thorough. Important topics discussed include incoming freshmen and their weaknesses, past injury patterns, and any current injured athletes who need specialized attention. Our departments are so intertwined that information provided by the training staff can assist the strength staff in developing purposeful injury prevention programs.

I asked Mike Mulcahey, Xavier Assistant Athletic Trainer who oversees the men’s basketball team, how communicating with the strength staff in the summer benefits athletes and our program. “We [athletic trainers] pre-screen the incoming athletes to identify weaknesses and relay that information to the strength staff to help prevent injury,” he says. “We are here to enhance the student-athlete and I see the weightroom as a means of prevention.”

Part of what goes into being an invaluable strength coach is thinking ahead and being prepared. Taking steps to lay out a plan can significantly improve your success rate. The purposes of a strength and conditioning program are prevention and performance, so our actions should resemble the program. Being proactive may result in improved performance by all parties, and the outcome is a unified program that the athletes can believe in.

Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Xavier University. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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