Jan 29, 2015
Practice What You Preach

By Gregory White

Gregory “Graig” White, Strength & Conditioning Specialist at Rutgers University-Camden, shares his philosophy for working with sport coaches. This final installment in our two-part series examines how he shares his vision with the coaches he works with.

So how does one go about getting the support and trust of coaches, student-athletes, parents and anyone else preparing athletes to compete? My answer is simply to care. I have found that the best way to show that you care is to make yourself visible and viable. Attend practices when you can, get to know the assistant coaches and address them by name when you talk to them. Let these people know that you value what they do as much as you want them to value what you do.
Probably the most effective thing you can do to get the ball rolling is to share your vision with the coaches of all sports by preparing a vision statement. Once everyone is on the same page you will be amazed at how easy life can be. Communicating and putting your ideas on paper will go a long way toward building the confidence coaches and student-athletes have in you and will give them a better understanding of your vision.

Your vision statement doesn’t have to be long, but it must provide details about your strength and conditioning objectives. It should give the people involved the opportunity to digest concepts that may be a little foreign to them–concepts that as skill coaches they may never have thought of. The vision statement also gives you an opportunity to clearly state your expectations and how you approach your job.

For example, it drives me crazy when a strength coach is put in charge of disciplining wayward athletes because often, the methods used to punish are the same that we use to make athletes better. This presents a dilemma–the athlete is automatically equating a strength and conditioning coach and his methods as punishment, which makes it harder for us to get through to them during training. To avoid this, I make it clear right off the bat to sport coaches that they are in charge of the disciplining of their own athletes. Disciplining is something I really work hard to stay away from.

When starting a job, it’s a good idea to meet with all of the coaches in the program to share your vision. A short introductory meeting is a time for coaches to ask questions and for the strength coach to share his or her ideas. Sport coaches are busy people, so keeping the meeting short and informative should be a priority. After the initial meeting, coaches who have any interest in you working with their programs will want to sit down and talk in greater detail.

During these individual meetings, I like to get to know the coaches and start by asking them to share their vision of their program with me, including their goals, desires and needs. I find that a majority of coaches want the same thing–a program that will compete. They want to make sure that their athletes are fit and ready to play. Having someone like me address those needs frees them up to tend to other matters.

When it comes to strength training, some coaches will simply tape a workout to the wall and have their players go into the weight training facility and fend for themselves. This coach is generally a first-time head coach who has yet to learn how to delegate effectively or may just have no interest in allowing anyone they have not hired to get involved. Getting this coach to buy in can sometimes be a bit of a battle, but once a level of trust has been obtained it can lead to amazing results. Sometimes, an optimal level of trust is never reached, but that’s okay, as long as you make it clear to the student-athletes that you are available to them.

One way increase the level of trust is to ask the head coach to assign an assistant coach to work with us. This assistant coach can act as a surrogate to the head coach and allow him or her to stay informed without being hands-on. As strength coaches, we want to be a part of a program that is successful and looked at as a model of efficiency. When sport coaches and strength coaches work together in a totally cohesive manner, the results can be great–the best season in school history, more All-Americans, and who knows, maybe even a national championship.

Graig White’s Suggested Reading:

The Path to Athletic Power: The Model Conditioning Program for Championship Performance, By Boyd Epley Published by Human Kinetics

Mistakes worth making, By Susan Haden-Brown Published by Human Kinetics

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