Nov 8, 2016
How to Create and Grow Your High School Athletic Performance Program

For many high school athletic performance coaches developing a high functioning “school day” course presents obstacles; such as student-athlete class schedule requirements, meeting state standards, developing a comprehensive curriculum, and juggling coaching philosophies amongst various school head coaches. Consideration must be given to all factors and educating yourself on the “how’s and why’s” of these factors is non negotiable.

When I arrived at Noblesville High School (Noblesville, IN) I was fortunate that there was a strength training class in place. This class had previously been instructed and shared by high school teachers and sport coaches. The class had a total enrollment of less than 100 student-athletes and operated out of a facility of approximately 1,000 sqft. Through collaborative efforts by many stakeholders over 8 years we were able to develop the program to 6 classes of 115 student-athletes per class (690 overall). In addition, we were fortunate to move into a near 10,000 sqft state of the art strength training facility furnished with the best equipment and flooring in the industry by Life Fitness Hammer Strength, and Plae Performance.

The PROCESS and blue print for this student driven program explosion is not that intricate. The key is to stay the course, know adversity will come your way, keep moving forward, and create OWNERSHIP with your administration, colleagues, athletes, and parents. By doing so you will have an established CULTURE that through relentless and intentional accountability of expectations and tolerance, will drive itself.

Big Ticket Items:

Big Five

1. Superintendent and/or Central Office Personnel

2. Building Principal

3. Athletic Director(s)

4. Guidance Department Chair

5. Wellness Department Chair

When the Big Five are in professional alignment and work together with you to provide and create a highly effective performance curriculum for student needs there is no limit! At Noblesville High School our Big 5 is tremendous, hence, how we have grown TOGETHER to provide our students the best programming and curriculum available.

Ownership vs Buy In

Ownership is “when you own or share the ownership of an idea, a decision, or an action plan; it means that you have participated in its development, that you chose on your own accord to endorse it. It means that you understand it and believe in it. It means that you are both willing and ready to implement it.” – Henri Lipmanowitz

Buy-in “is the opposite: someone else or some group of people has done the development, the thinking, the cooking and now they have to convince you to come along and implement their ideas/plans.” – Henri Lipmanowitz

Knowing the difference between these two ticket items is imperative when collaborating with your Big Five. They have insights and experiences often time the performance coach does not have. For example, in the movie “Patch Adams” there is a scene when a male patient holds up four fingers and asks Patch how many fingers does he see. He answers, “four”. The patient tells him to not look at the fingers but past them. As a result, the fingers blur in Patch’s vision and he now sees eight.

It is imperative to respect and appreciate all stakeholders backgrounds and experiences. Create ownership, share your vision and education, establish positive working relationships, and empowering culture together.


Culture can be broken down into two ingredients; expectations and tolerance. One must have clearly defined expectations and identify what is and is not tolerable. Successful cultures encompass positive relationships, accountability for all stakeholders, and a sense of ownership. The underlining objective is to create a culture where everyone is engaged, inspired, and empowered.

The Oreo Cookie

Are you offering the Oreo Cookie? Everyone loves an Oreo, but there are imitation Oreos sold. These imitations appear to be the Oreo but once someone takes a bite out of it they know it’s not authentic. Therefore, you must reflect, be honest, and ensure you are offering the following:

  • Does your program offer data driven and scientifically rooted curriculum and best practices
  • Does your program offer authentic and positive relationships among students, coaches, and staff?
  • Does your program offer authentic assessments for diagnostic and summative information that is relatable and makes connections with your stakeholders?
  • Can your students and coaches easily explain the purpose of your program is? I.E. We strive to become balanced, efficient, movers who are building body armor everyday.
  • Are you constantly evolving, learning, and leading? I.E. attending clinics, reading, professional development, etc.
  • Be PRESENT! This is a catalyst for engagement and ownership. Overall engagement and trust develops if you are actively present in the lives of your students and athletic teams.

Through daily passion, contagious energy, intentional, and purposeful programming, and commitment to your athletes and teams you will find success and maximize your school’s potential. Stay the course!


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Author Name:
Brian Clarke
Author Bio:
Brian Clarke is Strength & Conditioning Coordinator and Wellness Department Chair at Noblesville (Ind.) High School.

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