By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Magazine
A high school coach needs to know what to look for when he’s trying to assess safety risks in the weight room and on the practice field. Monitoring each player’s demeanor is important.
Jon Lynch is entering his third year at the University of Maine, where he serves as the Director of Sports Performance. Lynch is directly responsible for the performance training of football, and oversees all aspects of the university’s sports performance program.
He offers 10 things high school coaches should be monitoring to ensure a safe working environment for the players.
How a player feels.
“One of the things we do with our athletes is ask how they’re doing every day,” Lynch said. “How are they feeling? How are their injuries progressing? Are they experiencing tightness?” Lynch recommends asking players to rate how they feel each day on a scale of 1 to 5.
The University of Maine equips players with Polar Team Pro – a heart rate monitor that tracks metrics such as GPS, total distance traveled, calorie output, and running speeds.
Lynch uses direct feedback from players to determine how to organize the next day’s practice. “It’s predicated on giving our athletes enough time to recover in the amount of time they’re allotted between practices,” Lynch said.
“After a hard training session, athletes will get sore and tight. That has repercussions. The next training session should be taken into account. They either need a day off, or a switch in muscle groups. If you worked the upper body, then go to the lower body the next day.”
Any time you’re tasking players to give maximum effort in the form of hard running of max lifts, you should follow up with rest. “The longer the practice, the longer the rest,” Lynch said. “If you’re doing power one day, do conditioning the next.”
Gradually increase the workload.
“Find a way to progress within the program,” Lynch said. “If it starts at a high level and stays there, you’ll probably have injuries. If it starts low and progresses at a reasonable pace, it alleviates the risk of injury. Then you give the athlete’s body a chance to adapt to the stimulus.”
“There’s a lot of new research coming out on breathing techniques,” Lynch said. “Those can help with recovery. It’s a way of breathing with intent. Exhale all the way, full-belly breathing for relaxation. You can pull up a video and teach the technique.”
High school athletes should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. “It’s not just about feeling good when you wake up,” Lynch said. “Sleep also has a tremendous recovery factor from the physiological impact on the body from games.”
Eating right can help a player recover faster, perform better, and feel better. Keep an eye on what the players are eating, and manage it at team dinners and on bus rides.
“Stress resonates physically after high intensity bouts,” Lynch said. “Maybe a player broke up with a girlfriend, maybe he has problems with friends or family. Those could be high-level stressors.”