Jan 19, 2017
Beyond the Weightroom
Rich Zawack

A few days ago I had a meeting with two young strength coaches. They have been struggling to establish a strength and conditioning program in a local high school.

They had a series of problems ranging from inadequate equipment, to planning, to creating a practice environment. These are not new issues, but in this day, coaching is not simply about coaching.

We talked for over two hours. After almost 46 years of working with children, parents, teachers, and administrators, this what I told them.

You have to have a coherent philosophy. There has to be a structured set of ideas based on scientific principles that you form your program around. If you studied all the existing information, there are a series of truths around which you can base your program. They are universal. We have embodied them in a software package we use. We call it our ZIPS system.

We want our athletes, young and old, to learn something and grow physically. Our system does this. If you can make the results evident and quick, that is even better.

This is pretty straightforward, but in today’s world this is only half the job. If you are running a program in a school or public institution you have a lot more to do.

In a school your clientele consists of three groups: students, parents and school staff. You have to influence all three groups to make your program work. Producing results is not enough.

The students-athletes need motivation and leadership.

Some kids will work simply because they are training as a way to play better. But many are distracted by all the other options for amusement we have developed in our society.

There are a large group of kids who see no relationship between hard work and success. We are, to some degree, a participation trophy society.

You have to sell your program. You will get a group and it may not be large, but they must be willing to work. You need to use them to get dramatic results. It’s simple–results and motivation correlate. The vast number of people don’t act on faith. Seeing is believing. Running a successful program means demonstrating success.

Student-athletes are won over if they see success and can be involved in it.

Student-athletes also want attention, praise, and a caring atmosphere. You are asking them to do hard work. You’ve got to lift them up psychologically. I like to teach aggressive behavior, positive and tough.

Being critical with your athletes is important. They need to know what they are doing wrong so they can do it right. Even my NFL players appreciated critiques on technique when they were done in a positive fashion. It is about getting better.

Conceptual development, motivation, and leadership are essential but are far from the toughest task you have. Children are best won over if they see success and are involved in it

As a coach who wants to be successful, you have to deal effectively with parents and staff. You need these people to support your program.

Politics is about power. Power is acquired through diplomacy persuasion and performance. You have to be promoting your program all the time. The institution you work for will not develop your personal support system. You must do it yourself. It takes a lot of public appearances, speeches, and glad-handing to create a supportive tribe. Today it requires extensive use of social media. It has to be done beyond what you think is the saturation point.

Parents are people. If you take care of their child and are attentive to their needs, you are on the right path. If you provide positive physical and psychological results, they embrace you. You can’t be aloof–you have to be involved. If the children and the parents know you care and can create results, you will get more support than you will ever need.

One caution: this is momentary support. Children grow mature and move on. This is part of the natural process. This means your self-promotion has to be constant. You will always need to replace old supporters with new supporters.

This leaves us with one last group–staff, coaches, teachers and administrators. This is a different type of political situation. These people have their own areas of control. They may have interests and positions they want to protect. You must consider what these interests are. It is the same game as it is with your clientele. If you want their support you must find ways to benefit them.

Consider what their goals are and how you can contribute to the attainment of their goals. Beyond that, consider what is important to them. Knowing these things can go a long way toward helping build your program.

Successful long-term programs consider all these elements. Twenty years ago, the politics would have been there but social medial was non-existent. That is why you need to be persuasive on multiple levels. Just teaching and coaching is not enough.

Create a program that demonstrates quality results. Be prepared to explain them. Understand that you have to win over support on multiple levels if you want to be successful.

Rich Zawack, BS, MA, CSCS-D, has served as president of Athletic Development Corporation for the last 10 years. Prior to that he was a high school teacher and coach for 36 years at Strongsville (Ohio) High School. He has coached 17 state champions, one NCAA champion, 18 NFL football players, and one NBA basketball player.

Shop see all »

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
website development by deyo designs
Interested in receiving the print or digital edition of Training & Conditioning?

Subscribe Today »

Be sure to check out our sister sites: