By Drew Champion, FNF Coaches Contributor
Great summer workouts shape championship teams.
But it’s not always easy to get the kids in the weight room during those summer months.
Benji Mahan is the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Fayetteville High School, a Class 7A school in Fayetteville, Ark. He’s heading into his 19th season as a coach, fourth at Fayetteville, and certainly recognizes how players’ attitudes have changed in terms of offseason workouts.
“The old days of doing it just the way we were taught or how we grew up and not thinking about the kids and their interest is long gone,” Mahan said. “You’ve got to make it to where it’s kid-friendly and something that they want to wake up and come to in the summer.”
Mahan is part of a staff that manages 100 varsity players over the summer. Here are methods they use to make the weight room player-friendly over the summer.
Fayetteville has 20 workouts on set dates throughout the summer. If you make all 20, you earn a steak dinner at the head coach’s house.
“Just praising them for their accountability and being there,” Mahan said. “What’s really nice is you can add value to some guys who may not be able to play athletically, but they’re there and they are on the team.”
If you can’t make one of those set dates, makeup days are allowed on Wednesday and Friday. Coaches would rather not hold those, but also want their players to get all 20 workouts in. Going on a family vacation where dates can’t be moved? You can make up those workouts even before the vacation, but won’t get the steak dinner.
Fayetteville coaches set the dates on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. That gives players to spend the weekend how they choose.
Coaches make sure the players can get motivated by listening to music throughout the workouts.
“It could be rap,” Mahan said. “It could be rock. Just nothing with foul language. We’ve got to censor it before we play it, for sure.”
Workouts start at 7:30 a.m., Mahan said. It’s not too early, and kids are home on the couch by 9:30 a.m. and can do whatever they want for the rest of the day.
“The weather’s still pretty cool and we’re going to have you out of here by 9,” Mahan said. “It’s not so stinking hot where you can’t get anything done outside.”
Mahan and the Fayetteville staff work the weight room at game speed. Usually, the team is in the weight room for 45 minutes and doing conditioning outside for 45 minutes.
“We’re not into two-hour grind sessions,” Mahan said. “We try to get them in there and go fast, work out fast, trade the weights on and off as fast as we can and pick the tempo up. That’s how we play on Friday nights, so we try to incorporate it all. We’re going to try an be as fast and efficient as we can.”
Mahan and the staff do what they can to make sure the players feel welcomed in the weight room through positivity and teaching.
“It needs to be one that the kids find refuge in and not one that they resist,” he said.
Athletes also come into the weight room knowing exactly what part of the body they’ll be focusing on that day.
“They know as far as what day is leg day, what day is upper body day, what day is clean day,” Mahan said. “They know on Tuesday, it’s going to be squat day, so get your mind right. We try to coach them up the day before saying what tomorrow is and let’s come in ready to attack it.”
Mahan said that they focus and teach like they would if it was a game situation.
“We’re going to tell you the reps, we’re going to tell you the percentage,” Mahan said. “We’re going to tell you once. They’ve got to be tuned and listening to that, just like they’ve got to be on a Friday night.”
Mahan and the staff try to keep the equipment room set up with fresh weights. When an athlete walks into the room, there are 24 stations and the weights are all racked right. It doesn’t look like a tornado has come through there.
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