Sep 21, 2018Top Five
Joe Lopez, CSCS,*D, RSCC, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta, N.J., and a strength and conditioning coach at Precision Sports Performance. He works with high school athletes on a regular basis and feels that every young person can benefit from a strength training program.
He also feels that having a qualified strength and conditioning specialist on staff ensures there is someone at the high school focused on reducing injuries and improving long-term athletic development as well as improving performance and confidence.
“A lot of parents are concerned about having their 14-year-old in the weight room,” Lopez acknowledges. “But the reality is that when you have a good qualified coach, such as a CSCS, he or she will take the steps, over a four-year program, to get each child where they need to go. The earlier kids start learning, the more potential there is for improvement.”
Lopez points to the safety advantages of teaching teens basic movement patterns and fundamentals before they move on to more advanced training.
“For example, with female athletes I’ll spend more time on deceleration and landings because that’s where most of their injuries happen,” Lopez says. “A well-designed training program can help avoid injuries as well as improve performance.”
A CSCS also knows how to keep student athletes’ interest.
“The high school age group has a short attention span. If we do the same thing repeatedly, I can see the boredom in their faces,” Lopez says. “It’s not appropriate to skip form and movement, and go directly into strength training. Likewise, if a coach is doing a little of this … a little of that … just to keep kids interested, there’s no progress. So, occasionally, I may throw in a little competition to keep them motivated.”
Lopez, who is also the New Jersey State Director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, shares his best advice for keeping high school athletes safe on and off the field.
1. Sleep eight hours every night. “High school kids are overworked and overscheduled, making it almost impossible for their bodies to recover. The majority get very little sleep because they stay up studying or playing video games. But sleep will reduce injuries better than anything else.”
2. Understand the difference between sport training and training like a body-builder. “Some of the boys especially want to do bicep curls all day in the mirror. But functional movements will get you better at your sport. It’s not just about looking good in the mirror.”
3. Eat real food. “Avoid fast food. Sports nutrition supplements are not designed or intended to replace a healthy diet.”
4 .Make sure there’s a CSCS supervising the weight room. “You don’t want a coach who is stuck in his ways. A CSCS must recertify every three years. I’ve completed 280 hours of continuing education in the last three years. Why would you want someone who isn’t current on the constantly changing science?”
5. Understand the plan and stick with it. “If you are going to do something, you need a plan. That includes sport and fitness goals. Too many people go to the gym and wing it. If you’re not planning intensity, what times of the year you pick up intensity and when to back off, it’s a recipe for injury. Some kids don’t understand why spending time in the weight room is important, if they don’t intend to pursue athletics. I’m teaching them good habits they’ll have for the rest of their lives.”
To learn more about the benefits of having a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in your local high school, and to access free tools, visit https://www.nsca.com/whatsmissing.