By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
One of the biggest challenges a coach will encounter in the offseason is inspiring consistent effort and attendance from players in the strength and conditioning program. The most successful programs stick to a certain formula.
Numbers on the Rise
North East High (Pa.) coach Mike Whitney took it upon himself last season to increase participation numbers in his offseason program.
In 2016, his three-day-a-week voluntary offseason program drew a light crowd. Only 16 players earned credit for being “regulars” or attendees of at least one workout per week.
Last year, Whitney designed a more organized, structured offseason program with incentives for players to engage on a consistent basis. The numbers nearly doubled, with 30 regular attendees at the high school level and 21 (100 percent attendance) at the junior high level.
“We never had a junior high lift before last offseason,” Whitney said. “With 30-plus kids in the weight room and 15 others playing winter sports, that brings us near 100 percent involvement in the offseason program with our projected varsity roster.”
Whitney implemented a strength program that eases athletes into strength gains by starting with instructional sessions focusing on technique. No athlete is rushed into competitive lifting, although inter-team competition is certainly the way Whitney and his staff track offseason success.
Whitney has devised a point system that measures the strides his players make, and the results serve as motivation for players hoping to increase their contribution to the team.
Whitney divides the regular attendees of his offseason program into five teams. Each coach is assigned a team, and the coach is responsible for contacting and motivating his team. Whitney maintains contact with his group by group chat.
Week 1 and 2: Teach lifts and work on form.
Week 3: Get baseline results for max lifts on bench, squat, clean and dead lift.
Week 4 through Next Max Week: Draw up a program based on the percentage of each player’s max lift. Players will max out three more times during the offseason before August.
Keeping Score: Updated scores for each player are posted every two weeks in the weight room and also another prominent place in the school. Whitney recommends the cafeteria because it keeps players honest about their max lifts and attendance.
Rewards: Any player who lifts at least 1,000 pounds in a combination of max bench, squat, clean and dead lift receives a 1,000-Pound Club t-shirt. The winning team also receives t-shirts, food, school recognition, a local newspaper article, and a team picture in the locker room.
How to Earn Points
Points are weighted based on the North East staff’s area of emphasis that month. Here are some of the scoring opportunities for players.
Maintaining Eligibility: Players are required to submit progress reports to the head coach each week. Each Friday, a player receives points for remaining academically eligible.
Attendance: Most coaches encourage athletes to play other sports during the winter and spring seasons. As such, multi-sport athletes receive credit for attending other sports teams’ practices and workouts instead of the weight room.
Increase in Max: Increases in the max result in that player earning points. Whitney and his staff awards a point for each pound increase on the bench, squad, dead lift and clean. When North East switches to max reps closer to the season, the staff will award points for each new rep a player achieves.
Bringing a Friend. If a player brings a friend for six sessions, that friend is assigned to the team of the player who brought him. There is an initial bonus and that team also adds a member and his extra points.
1,000-Pound Club: Any player that joins the 1,000-Pound Club (1 rep max of the four core lifts) will receive bonus points and a t-shirt.
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