Oct 19, 2017
Making the Grade

Strength and conditioning programs should challenge athletes to be the best they can be. At West Virginia University, the football coaching staff has found a way to do just that. By using a grading system during training, the coaches have pushed the players to compete against each other and themselves, leading to unprecedented gains.

As explained in The Exponent Telegram, the grades are dished out during training depending on a player’s position and their strength and conditioning goals. For receivers and running backs, performance goals are more focused towards speed and agility, while linemen hone in more on power and strength. For example, linemen might score 80 for squatting 300 pounds while a wide receiver might get 95 for squatting the same amount.

This system allows players to see where they stand against their teammates, and produces healthy competition during training. It also allows each athlete to compete against himself. By tracking their improvement over the years, the scores give each athlete a gauge of how far they’ve come and where they need to go to keep getting better.

According to Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, this grading system implemented by Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Joseph and his staff has helped make the players bigger, faster, and stronger than they have ever been.

“Mike Joseph and his staff did an unbelievable job,” Holgerson told The Exponent Telegram. “We have better bodies in better numbers. The strength and conditioning numbers are better than they have ever been; it’s not even close. Our guys look good; they feel good.”

This isn’t the first season with the grading system, but it seems to be fully coming to fruition. Joseph started scoring athletes during training about six years ago as a way to help players see where they rank before going to the NFL Combine. Since then, the entire team has benefited from being scored, but Joseph is clear that the goal goes beyond the grade.

“We are preparing them for the game of football, not necessarily for tests,” Joseph told The Exponent Telegram. “We came to a point where we wanted to see how they were developing and if they were developing in the right way. We came up with eight tests for speed, conditioning, strength, and agility.”

These tests are graded 0 to 100 and based on each player’s position. The player is then given a total score from the average of all the tests. Overall scores are put into categories: poor, average, good, excellent, and elite. To be considered elite, an athlete has to score 94 percent or better overall.

While Joseph uses this grading system to motivate athletes in the weightroom, he is also sure to focus on good grades in the classroom and every aspect of an athlete’s life.

“The point I have to get across is that testing is just one piece of the pie,” he told The Exponent Telegram. “The biggest thing is can you play football, are you accountable, do you go to class, do you get sleep and eat right? It all goes into it.”

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