Jan 29, 2015Strong Days of Summer
By Ryan Johnson
Ryan Johnson, CSCS, Coach Practitioner and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minn., shares his thoughts on running an eight-week summer strength training program for his student-athletes.
My favorite time of the year is summer. This isn’t because I punch out for a couple of months to go fishing in the mountains, but because of our school’s eight-week summer conditioning camp that is attended by roughly 600 student-athletes. This summer we are expanding to the three middle schools in our district and are hoping to pick up another 100 athletes or so from those feeder schools.
We have six different sessions that run each day from 8 a.m. until 6 at night, with a staff of around 15. The large staff is necessary because of the large number of enthusiastic participants.
Such a high number athletes participating translates into a tremendous amount of administrative work. As a result, my duties tend to more in line with a school principal’s as opposed to a teacher’s. It’s also why I hire good people and schedule them to work with the right groups. We develop a solid curriculum at the beginning of the summer, and then attempt to get all of our athletes on the same page by the end of the summer. Some kids develop quicker then others but our goal is to get the athletes to master the basics during the summer.
Our camp has evolved into a smooth operation, but it certainly wasn’t always this way. The first summer we ran the program, we had 75 athletes and only three coaches, all of whom worked very long days. It took some time to work out the kinks, but now, in our 8th year of the camp, we have developed a program that is relatively self-sufficient.
Technically speaking, our facility does not have a budget. We receive some table scraps from our physical education and athletic department budgets from time to time, but nothing we can rely on. Instead, our summer program survives by charging athletes a $130 participation fee. After compensating the staff the remaining dollars go toward purchasing equipment for our training facilities. Using this system, we have been able to upgrade the strength training facilities at each of our three middle schools as well as our high school. I estimate that we have generated roughly $200,000 in the last six years from these participation fees. We are able to justify the student-athletes’ expense by providing a top-notch training experience in an exceptional setting.
When working with large groups of student-athletes, we feel that team-specific training is the best way to divide up our athletes. Training and competing along side teammates all summer builds chemistry and promotes bonding.
We typically train our largest and older groups early in the day and work with our younger athletes in the afternoon. Our sessions are designed for teams to come in at different times. For example, football and boys ice hockey share the facility as part of our first morning session. Session two is dedicated to the boys’ and girls’ basketball and soccer teams as well as lower-level boys’ ice hockey players.
This process is followed throughout the day, mixing and matching teams so that everyone has an opportunity to train. I have been able to arrange this by bringing in sport coaches to work with their team. This works great as the coaches get to work with their athletes all summer and have an up-close look at their improvements.
Each group does sport-specific speed, agility, and quickness training in addition to weight training and plyometric work. Having the sport coaches work with their kids in the SAQs phase of training has been tremendous.
In addition to coaches, we also have former players–many of which are playing in college–come back to work with our current athletes. The response to their participation has been amazing. The college athletes bring dedication, drive, and discipline to our program. They also provide a higher level of instruction as they share techniques and drills that they are doing at the collegiate level–helping to keep our program current on the latest and greatest drills and exercises.
At the end of each summer we have a speed and strength competition that we call the Trojan Olympics. The event is a series of lifting, running, and jumping tests that are presented as Olympic-style events. The top three finishers from each grade for both the boys and girls get their names displayed on a white board that I hang high up on the wall. The winners’ names stay on that board for an entire year, until the next summer’s competition. It is a major event for the kids and everyone really gets into it. Past winners on the Men’s side include the Dallas Cowboys’ Marion Barber III, his younger brother Dominic, who was drafted this year by the Houston Texans, and James Lauranitis, a current All American at Ohio State University. All three of these players have stopped in from time to time during our summer camps, which is always a major event. It is great for our younger athletes to see that truly amazing things can happen. The message that these guys share is that great things happened for them, and that great things can happen for anyone if they work hard enough. Obviously not every student-athlete can be an NFL player, but they can experience greatness in many other ways. FEEDBACK:
This is a good information article for high school weight rooms. For ATC’s who help with strenght and conditioing responsibilities it is so important to get all coaches and teams on the same page w/ practices and principles in the weight room. So many times- coaches have their own philosophies as to conditioning for their sport. Some are up to date on principles and some are not. Linking to this article will help high school coaches improve their strength and conditioing knowledge w/ the help of a CSCS and or ATC. Thank you for sharing good information. P.J. Gardner, MS,ATC Athletic Trainer Colorado Sports & Spine Centers Liberty High School Our summer program has been a great addition to our high school athletic program. It has provided an exceptional level of training, and gifted us a fantastic facility. But above all, it provides our athletes with base that allows us to work with them more efficiently year round. It also shows each and every one of them what hard work is all about.