FNF Coaches Talk — Train Your Players to Play Faster, Tragedy Brings Community Together, USA Football National Conference

Good afternoon, Coaches. We hope you enjoyed the weekend. We’ve got three stories for you.

1. How a Unique Speed Training Program Flipped the Fortunes of Indiana Football (Stack)

Most people think of Indiana football as the doormat of the Big Ten, but the Hoosiers are making some noise on the gridiron this fall rather than the hardwood. The team recently earned their first Top 25 ranking since 1994.

Player development has been a vital piece of the turnaround, as the Hoosiers have gone from having mediocre speed to boasting one of the fastest rosters in college football.

Matt Rhea, along with IU Director of Football Performance Dave Ballou, arrived in Bloomington in January of 2018. Over the course of the next year, Indiana players saw their top running speed increase by an average of over 3 miles per hour.

The gains have continued into 2019, as Rhea reports Indiana’s “team speed”—a single figure based off each starter’s average in-game speed—is more than a mile per hour faster this season than it was last year.

Rhea has found an athlete’s max strength has less of an impact on speed than you might think.

Many folks believe the best way to get faster is to get stronger—that if you can lift more weight, you’ll be able to put more force into the ground and propel yourself from A to B in less time. And since many regard the Barbell Back Squat as the “king” of lower-body exercises, pushing up your max there must be a surefire way to get faster.

Rhea’s found it isn’t quite that simple.

“The number I’m actually working off of now is 1.7 times your body weight. Once an athlete can squat 1.7 times their body weight, increases in squat strength beyond that are not contributing to speed,” says Rhea.
For a 200-pound athlete, 1.7 times their body weight would be 340 pounds.

While increasing their max beyond that could certainly have a positive impact on other factors of athletic performance, it doesn’t appear to independently contribute to further increases in speed. And even for athletes who cannot squat 1.7 times their body weight, their lack of strength is not the biggest deadweight on their speed.

Rhea’s research has also found a pure sprinting program with little-to-no resistance training isn’t the best way to get faster, either. Rather, it’s a combination of resistance training, sprint work, plyometrics and other modalities he’s found to be most effective. But the true secret ingredient in that formula is individualization.

What specific training have you implemented for your athletes to improve team speed?

2. In wake of Saugus shooting, Santa Clarita Valley fans come together (Los Angeles Times)

We’re working on a heart-warming stories of communities rallying around football programs for our next edition of FNF Coaches, and this is an example of one of those stories.

In the wake of Thursday’s shooting at Saugus High (Calif.), students from around the Santa Clarita Valley came together at West Ranch to support each other. They hugged, they shook hands, they cheered for West Ranch. Members of the Saugus football team were there too. Everyone was trying to fulfill the #SaugusStrong spirt.

West Ranch pulled from that community support Friday night to record a 57-56 win over Long Beach Wilson to advance to the Southern Section Division 7 semifinals.

Two students were killed and three wounded in Thursday’s shooting. No classes were held Friday at any of the high schools in the Hart Unified School District. The football game gave an opportunity for the community to come together and offer emotional support to those who needed a positive experience.

“Going to a football game can’t help what happened, but we’re trying to lighten up the mood and say prayers to the community,” Eget said. “Our idea was Saugus Strong. Saugus needed this.”

In what ways has your local community rallied around your team in the wake of a tragedy?

3. The 2020 USA Football National Conference: More Than Just a Clinic (USA Football)

If you are looking to double down on improving your team’s technique this offseason, you need to consider attending USA Football’s 2020 National Conference.

Most coaches are satisfied when a clinic experience delivers one or two nuggets of worthwhile information. For experienced coaches, this often comes in the form of a new way to teach a technique or a drill.

That’s why this year, USA Football is ensuring that classroom and live field sessions don’t just deliver on X’s and O’s, but also the importance of building better techniques.

The show will be in Louisville, Ky. from February 21-23.

Here’s a look at some of the keynote speakers from previous years:

  • Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders
  • P.J. Fleck, University of Minnesota
  • Jeremy Pruitt, University of Tennessee
  • Mike Singletary, Pro Football Hall of Fame Linebacker and Former Head Coach

You can see Mike Tomlin’s 2019 keynote session at nationalconference.usafootball.com/tomlin . Make sure to check out the website to see the 2020 additions.

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk