Feb 3, 2017
Gaining An Edge
George Greene

One of my favorite books is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. He writes about how daily habits and actions lead to success in the long term.

As a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, I’ve seen hundreds of incoming freshman athletes walk in over the past 10 years. In each class, there are a few who separate themselves from others during pre-season testing and impress staff and coaches alike.

How do they do this? What gives them that “slight edge?” It’s often the strength and conditioning work they did as a high school athlete.

Below are some tips that can help your high school athletes stand out from the pack and be prepared for what is to come as a freshman student-athlete.

Be Coachable: I listed this first because it is the most important. If you are coachable, strength coaches and sport coaches are going to love working with you. Conversely, if you think you have all the answers and are not open to learning and being pushed you will be in for a rude awakening. Have an open mind and expect that things will be very different than when you were in high school.

Come in with an understanding of the basics: Every year when athletes come in for visits, we hear about 500 pound squats and 300+ pound bench presses. While I completely understand these athletes are simply trying to impress the staff on their visits it is important to know that most strength coaches could care less how strong you are in high school. The athletes who impress me the most are the ones who can execute basic lifts efficiently with great form. Squats, presses, pull-ups, deadlifts, and lunges are all going to be a part of most strength and conditioning programs. Why not learn how to do them properly leading up to college? Athletes who come in with poor movement and mechanics take longer to coach than an athlete with a blank slate who learns to train the right way the first time. These athletes stand out from day one and have a much easier time making progress.

Competitiveness: When you get into a college weightroom you will be pushed and you will be asked to compete in almost everything you do. My favorite athletes are the ones who hate losing and want to win everything we do in the program. If you simply have the desire to try your best in the weightroom, then you will begin to develop a positive reputation for yourself.

Skip the program your favorite pro athletes are using: It’s fine to turn to professional athletes as motivation but do not try to replicate their training programs. A lot of times I’ll hear an incoming freshman come say something like, “I did the Lebron James Vertical Jump program this summer” or “I follow James Harrison on Instagram and do his workouts.” While it’s fantastic to strive to be like these athletes, they are professionals for a reason and their program is not fit for you. What you need to do most is learn the basics.

Contact the strength and conditioning coach once they send you the summer packet: Most strength and conditioning coaches send out programs for incoming freshmen to do over the summer. I can probably count on one hand how many of them followed up and reached out to better understand the program and ask questions. As soon as you receive the packet, my suggestion is to read through it and write down any questions you have for the strength coach before giving them a call. Not only will you better understand the program from speaking with the coach, but you will get on their radar as an athlete who pays attention to detail and is serious about preparation.

George Greene, CSCS, is Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance at Stony Brook University. Previously, he has served as Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Mary Washington, as a Tactical Strength and Conditioning Specialist for the U.S. Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, and as Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Massachusetts. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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