Jul 2, 2019
Put smiles into your in-season training program
By Mike Gentry

In-season training is necessary if your team wants to finish the season strong. The focus of the season obviously has to be on actual game competitions and sports practice. While your younger players who are not contributing as much on the game field will be more apt to approach their strength training opportunities with enthusiasm, the older players already playing may not always be as excited. Here are some simple and fun methods to include occasionally to keep morale up.

Player led abdominal exercises, foot speed drills

Occasionally, let players that you choose, decide the exercises you use in certain drills. Do this on the spot in front of the other players. I encourage you not always to pick captains or seniors. Spread it out.

Another way to include the players is to pick a leader and have the rest of the group try to shadow what he does. The modeling process works well with rope jumping. You don’t want to embarrass anyone so choose players that have some skill with the rope. Don’t surprised if when given the opportunity to lead you discover that many players have more skill than you thought!

The nature of strength and conditioning training requires discipline and effort, occasionally giving the players a chance to compete without penalty and to laugh with their teammates will pay dividends.

Impromptu strength ‘competitions’

This tip can help later during the season when things can be a little “slow.” All athletes like to compete. Using your regular designed workout plan, pick a low-risk exercise such as body weight pull-ups, bodyweight dips, dumbbell bench presses, etc. Create three to four clubs that the athletes can strive to make, with max reps on bodyweight exercises or amount of the weight used on their last set for prescribed reps on dumbbell presses, etc.

We designed the clubs to be two or three positive levels with the top level club legitimately elite. We want this to be fun. We would have a theme for each competition; these themes ranged from pro wrestlers, super heroes, wild animals, snakes, famous mustaches, muscle cars, etc.

   » ALSO SEE: In-season strength training for Clemson football

The bottom level club was always a funny or puny club which no competitor wanted membership. We would go to the internet and print photos that represented each club, and we used our best imaginations to write descriptions. When the guys were performing the contest exercises, the staff got involved; as spotters, vocal promoters, judges, etc. As each player made a club, announce it loudly and clearly, and write his name on the board in the appropriate club level.

We rarely had any prizes except recognition among their peers and fun. The names remain on the board for later lifting groups to see.

We used this technique across sports with success, from women’s lacrosse to football.

In-season conditioning relays

If you condition your team after practice during the season, working this drill into the system a few times can perk things up! I originally got this drill from Legendary strength coach Chip Sigmon, when he was at Appalachian State University.

The relay races are organized as follows:

  1. Form eight man teams, group players together as similar position types.
  2. Place four players behind the side line between the five-yard marks, across the field behind the opposite sideline are the relay team’s other four players also between the sidelines.
  3. You will be using most of the practice field to set this up. Have your assistants and managers help get this organized.
  4. On one sideline of the field give the lead runner a football.
  5. On your command, he sprints across the field and hands off or tosses the ball to his counterpart on the opposite sideline. The ball transfer should happen between the sideline and the numbers.
  6. The new man sprints across the field to hand off and keep the relay going. After handing off, the sprinter goes to the back of the four man.

The relay continues until the prescribed number of reps are met by each member of the every relay team.

I have seen some the absolute best efforts from players when using this drill. Being able to run with the football brings back backyard and youth football days to many. The morale and positive fun these guys have while truly sprinting is a team builder!

Try to keep a good eye on which groups are “winning.” Whenever a group achieves the prescribed number of reps, perhaps five to six reps, and then either call the race or keep the others running until all achieve the total number of reps. I think you’ll be surprised by the enthusiasm.

Mike Gentry is a former Associate Athletics Director for Athletic Performance who brings his expertise, innovation and leadership to build out and grow collegiate athletic programs. From his early days at the University of North Carolina, East Carolina University, and, then, Virginia Tech, Gentry developed the strategies and tools that helped individual athletes realize and improve upon their performance. As Director of Strength and Conditioning for Athletics then Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance, he helped Virginia Tech build out their program by introducing the first Sports Psychologist and Sports Nutritionist programs. Gentry is a National Hall of Fame Inductee, Coach of the Year and Master Coach. He was inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010.

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