Mar 2, 2018
Push Forward, Part 4
Ron McKeefery

Incorporating curiosity and joy into a strength and conditioning program can motivate athletes and help change their behaviors. Here are five specific tactics I use for this:

Create life experiences: Be it climbing mountains, whitewater rafting, running sand dunes, or jumping into a frozen lake, I look for local activities that are life experiences. When you do things outside of the weightroom, you provide something in the athletes’ lives that no one else has, and they become indebted to you for it.

Create competitive opportunities: Play a pickup game of Wiffle ball, broomball, paintball, or dodgeball. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or cost any money — just get your athletes competing in something other than their sport. This helps them get back to the root of why they love athletics.

Have one-on-ones: Coaching has become very transactional — you play for me, so come lift weights. But you have to find a way to be involved in the other parts of athletes’ lives. Look for ways to interact with and support them outside the weightroom. Attend a class presentation or an all-star game, or connect them with something they are passionate about. Once, I had a player who was interested in NASCAR, so we drove to North Carolina to visit a friend of mine who was in that industry.

Hold special workouts: When training teams, I deload them every fourth week. But rather than deload in the weightroom, we do a special workout that is a butt-kicker or a team builder. For example, we train at odd times, dress up on holidays, or travel to a different setting to spice things up and keep sessions new and fresh.

Include family: Family is why I do what I do, but in this profession, we often spend more time with our athletes than we do with our own families. To combat this, bring your family to work. My kids know the athletes I work with and vice versa. When you bring these two worlds together, the athletes become curious about how your family is doing. They want to know how my son did in his wrestling match or how many mountains my wife has climbed. And when my family has small victories, it brings the athletes joy because they feel part of it — just like I feel joy when I hear about their successes. After all, if you can’t make your athletes a part of your family, why spend so much time with them?

Part 1 of this article can be found here.

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

Part 3 of this article can be found here.

Image by USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency

Ron McKeefery, MA, CSCS*D, MSCC, is Vice President of Performance and Education for PLAE. Previously, he served as a strength and conditioning coach at the professional and collegiate levels, most recently as the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Eastern Michigan University. Named the 2008 Under Armour Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and 2016 NSCA Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, he is the founder of the popular Iron Game Chalk Talk podcast and the author of CEO Strength Coach.

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