Observations of High School Strength Coach: Year 1

Observation is a powerful tool for a strength and conditioning coach to gain experience at any level or years in the game.  Personally, simple observations have yielded countless lessons: seeing the extremes of the talent bell curve manning the clipboard under the high noon, 110 degree turf of DKR stadium, recognizing emotional investment of athletes of different years in school, ranks on the team, scholarship vs non-scholarship, and men vs women on the Hilltop.  And more recently, getting reverse observed when the Ruiz would be hiding somewhere in the AXIS jungle noting how I would lead (or not-lead!) when training was scheduled to begin and he was ‘not there’.

High-School-Football-Strength-Training-Power-AthleteMy latest coaching travels led me to a high school that had never employed an S&C coach.  This presented a unique challenge.  Taking the position many of the Power Athlete clientele face each day, this was a perfect opportunity to solve common issues of implementation, coaching/time barriers, and building a strength program from scratch.

The opportunity to introduce high schoolers to the weight room for the first time has been irreplaceable in my strength and conditioning journey.  This article will present observations I made in this first year, and how to use these to empower your athletes towards their training goals.

Attitude - Be the Thermostat of Weight Room

Kids these days.  Maybe too many hugs when they were young from mommy.  Not enough red meat.  Almond milk(?).  Guys only date one girl at a time now instead of two or three.  Too much money has these kids drinking top shelf beers instead of cowboy cold Lonestar.  Too many buttons on the video game controllers. Whatever it is, something has a lot of high school athletes thinking they are owed something, and they’ve lost the rambunctious, reckless, ‘die for a win’ attitude that was rampant in Katy, Texas (enter your hometown here, coach) in the early 2000’s (or whenever you played ball).

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Tex McQuilkin
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Tex McQuilkin

Director of Training at Power Athlete
MS, CSCS, SCCC, CHES
Book a consult with me regarding coaching, training, life, education... anything your heart desires. Click below:
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Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.
Tex McQuilkin
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10 Responses to Observations of High School Strength Coach: Year 1

  1. Thanks for sharing this Tex. I’ve also experienced the unexcited nature of the kids these days. Many a time out on the gridiron this past season there would be a kid make a good play during practice and I’d be the only one to go over get hype with the kid. My head coach hated it to and would call them out on it frequently.

    • @BarbarianBlake
      That’s crazy the coach doesn’t want the kids to get excited during practice or games. Does he in turn get mad for them for not putting in effort or playing with heart when down a score or two. Maybe there is a sense of lack of control when the team gets rowdy. Have you brought this up in team meetings?

  2. Yep, I dig this. I look back and I will never forget my football coach, Coach Herman. The man got us into the weight room and developed my interest in training, most importantly though he took the time to connect with us and if we were interested in the weight room he would help us with form and learning new things.

    As for the unexcited nature, that is a tough cookie. I believe that every young kid has “primal instincts” and wants to yell/scream/shout, unfortunately they may not know how to channel the energy or feel uncomfortable doing it because they’ve been sat down in front of a computer screen and told to sit down and shut up. I remember my days in the Boy Scouts, you get some pretty soft/sheltered kids out there. But at summer camp kids would start off quite and soft but we couldn’t break until everyone was all hyped up and excited. Ex: Which troop had the loudest chant got to get first inline for meal. I thought of the underlying concepts, what got people excited? What chants could I use to get the blood flowing? While doing burpees they couldn’t count loud enough or together, so I would yell louder than them, when they got it right we went up a number “2,2,2,2,3,3,4,5,6”. Sure enough, they were all screaming to the top of their lungs. I was smiling from ear to ear and so were some of the kids. Lastly, I threw in some more friendly competition. What is more primal than wrestling between rotations of conditioning? Not only is it a great workout, but I’m slapping the mat, hollering, and the other kids fall in line with it. I call one person out in the beginning, then they choose their opponent. Winner gets to call out the next fighter, who will then choose his opponent. The kids, from what I can tell, don’t want the easy target, and they have a sense of pride. Even the softest kid in my group put up a fight, I could put a raw egg strapped to chest and it wouldn’t have cracked, but he was not about to loose. Patty cake and bear hugs may not be wrestling to some, but he got excited about it.

    Back to working on Uncle Sam’s pay check…

  3. Well written Tex. Sum of the Parts has been huge for our young athletes. The thing we often struggle with is the balance between positivity and ass kicking. This generation walks a thin line, as you said, of entitlement.
    That being said, I’ll keep this article in my back pocket for July when our sport specific program is in full swing. Thanks man.

    • Ha, I have crossed that fine line a few times this year. One kid went to get chalk for a med ball plyos and I let him know real quick how I felt about that. Coach in control of their emotions is always in control.

  4. Good points Tex. I’m in my 8th year as a HS weight room teacher. Once had a transfer kid get all jacked up & loud while spotting for another & the whole place went quiet…sad. I do my best to be loud & encouraging, but it is a new era I guess. Sad thing is kids still get the idea that long sessions of slow lifts is the way to go–our summer FB strength program pushes that. I try to speed things up, but there’s always pushback. A work in progress for sure.

    • @Eric
      Share this article with those coaches and have a constructive conversation about it. Applying a program is one thing, getting investment from the kids is another. Keep coming back here or the forums with how this goes down.

  5. Awesome stuff. I help out the towns football team in the weight room a couple days a week in hopes to spread the excited AND life lessons learned. Unfortunately, many schools do not have the money to hire a S&C coaching so they hire a clueless coach to run the weight room.. it infuriates me. It is something that definitely drives me when Im available to help these athletes. What I have found though, if you give them the tools to become strong, fast, and jacked they love it! On another note… I first started with Zach Even Esh in his Edison gym 7 years ago and saw the benefits then and now in athletics… also in life. Training high school athletes is not always about the numbers which is hard to see for some coaches.

    • @anthonyt
      Iron Sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another. Endless life lessons to be learned in the weight room. Zach is an awesome person to talk with about developing toughness in kids. Be sure to check out episode 101 of the podcast and we have some great topics on this. Keep up with the good work in the weight room and hopefully they’ll see the value in the investment you’re giving the team.

  6. Good read and I agree with it all. Have been a strength coach for a few years and just started my first gig as a HFC. After meeting the kids, I figured I had point A as a starting point. After a couple sessions in the weight to observe and see where we were at as a whole, I realized we are way behind point A. The program hasn’t been successful except for a year or two sprinkled in here or there. So all of this plane of motion work and movement is a building phase. It will help the varsity kids to an extent, but I am looking at as building for the future with the younger kids. All of our clean work is mostly from that power position or hang. Haven’t developed the movements down well enough to work from the floor. We also split the kids up into two group: fr/so & varsity kids. We do have some kids that know what they’re doing to an extent. One of the other factors is training my staff on technique and getting them to be actively present and not just watching and talking. If kids see you care and are committed, they will buy in as well.

    Now if I can only get the PE dept and other teams to clean up after themselves or learn how to stack a weight tree. All of my drawings on the white board haven’t worked out as well as I had hoped!

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