Jul 31, 2017
Practice What You Preach

This article first appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Training & Conditioning.

As a new strength coach for a team, how do you get players on board with a grueling training program? At the University of Missouri, first-year Director of Athletic Performance for Men’s Basketball Nicodemus Christopher, MS, CSCS, USAW, gets buy-in by putting sport coaches through workouts that are just as intense.

“When our players come into the weightroom and see their coaches running and lifting to the point of exhaustion, they know that we’re not asking them to do anything we’re not doing ourselves,” says Christopher. “We’re going to push the players everyday, but they know we’re going to push ourselves, as well.”

The practice of putting the entire coaching staff through regular workouts is new to Missouri, where Christopher and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Cuonzo Martin were hired this spring from the University of California. But it dates back to when they began working together at the University of Tennessee in 2012. At the time, the strategy helped Christopher and Martin determine the type of strength and conditioning program they wanted to develop.

“When I came to Tennessee, we were changing the culture, what it meant to lift in the weightroom, and what athletic performance meant to the athletes,” Christopher says. “Coach Martin wanted that same experience for himself and for the coaches.”

At Missouri, Christopher and Martin are still strong believers in practicing what they preach. Martin’s newly assembled coaching staff quickly bought into the idea of working with Christopher, as they see it as an opportunity to bond and relieve stress. They train together four to five times a week on a four- to six-week cycle, and Christopher designs the workouts.

After only a few months, Christopher is already seeing the payoff of training the Tigers’ staff. Not only has it served as a way for players to develop respect for their new coaches, but it has also helped Christopher bond with the players.

“It definitely helps with buy-in from athletes, but the biggest benefit is that it creates a talking piece,” Christopher says. “The guys often stop by my office and say how they were impressed when they saw me putting the coaches through a workout.

“That leads to me asking them ‘How’s your day going? How’s your family? How are classes? What did you have to eat today? Are you taking care of your nutrition?'” he continues. “You would be surprised at how it segues into other conversations and helps you build relationships with the players.”

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