Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer

Well, it's as close to summer as we are going to get, and most of you should have your teams in the weight room and on the field running routes and pushing sleds etc.  One of the age-old problems with the summer off-season programs is attendance.  I constantly hear coaches asking "How can I up my attendance at the weight room?".  Well, that's what this post is for!  I'm going to share some things with you, that I have done in the past to "spice" up the summer off-season. 

Spice it up!!!

Let's not forget, summertime, to the high-schooler, is a time for getting away from the usual grind, hanging out with friends, and for some, a chance to make a little extra money.  For your football player, there are going to be a TON of distractions tugging at his schedule, and he is going to have to make choices.  You are in competition with girls, family vacations, hanging out with friends, and making money.  Tough competition to say the least!  If you know this going in, then you will be able to design an off-season program that will let YOUR weight room be THE place to be in the summer.  For those coaches that have the old stagnant ideas of "they should be here", or "if it meant as much to them as it does to me", please, don't read any further.  If you can't expand and adapt your off-season program to the football player of the 2000's, then it's time to hang it up my friend.  I'm going to list some things I've done to increase the participation in the weight room and in my off-season program.  This is NOT a cookbook on how to get kids to come to the weight room, yet a guide that may open up your mind to some of the items your off-season program may need.

I'm going to spread this one out a bit, talking about the following over the next several posts:
  • Facilities
  • Staff
  • Workouts-Mini Camps
  • Competition
  • Team Building
In this post I'm going to talk about facilities and staff.  These are two very important elements in any off-season program.  So, here we go!

The first item of importance are your facilities.  Not all of us are blessed with a state-of-the art weight room and practice facilities, so please don't roll your eyes when I mention this.  If you want to compete with your football player's girlfriend, then the weight room needs to at least be appealing to the senses.  Now I'm not advocating everyone head to the A.D. right away to rebuild the weight room, believe me, I've been some places where not only would mentioning revamping the weight room get you laughed at, it would even get you fired!  Make due with what you have.  It doesn't cost that much money to touch up paint on the walls and equipment, or even hang some nice posters on the wall.  Make sure the bathrooms work, and there's a secure place for the players to secure their belongings. 

Make your own posters with slogans for the upcoming season, or have photos from previous seasons.  One thing I did, was I had team photos all around the room in our weight room, with the year and record located on the bottom of each picture.  I also had photos of previous players in their college uniforms hung in an area we called the "Wall of Fame".  These little items will go a long way to giving your weight room that "championship builder" look that kids are searching for.  Also, make sure all the equipment is working and in it's proper place.  Nothing is a bigger turn-off than going to do leg curls, but you can't find the pin to adjust the weights.  Your players should NOT have to improvise when lifting or training.  I cannot stress this enough, all this does is put doubt in their minds as to why they are there instead of at the movies or at the beach.

Nice beach!

Another important item is cleanliness.  The weight room should NEVER be dirty!  All weights and workout components should be put up at the end of each session.  This allows players to get in and get their workout done.  This is very important with older players who may also be trying to manage a summer job.  Time is of the essence, so make sure your weight room is not only clean, but ergonomic as well.  Divide up the weight room into common stations if possible.  Don't make your players travel from one side of the weight room to the other, just to go from squats, to power cleans.  This leads to distractions such as socialization, which deter from the players getting their workouts completed. 

This doesn't look productive

The atmosphere in the weight room is of utter importance when attracting your football players.  Young people nowadays love listening to music.  A stereo system in the weight room is a must.  If you don't have the means for a stereo system, see if one of the players will volunteer one.  If not, at the very least let them listen to their IPOD's, as this keeps them in their comfort zone.  A word of caution though, only allow the players to use one earpiece at a time, that way if you have to give instructions quickly, or to warn of danger etc., your comments will be heard.  Allow the players to pick the music, but only if it's clean.  I usually had them tune in to a local radio station if possible, that way I knew the music would be appropriate for the age group.  This is just another simple "comfort" you can add to your weight room to make your players feel more at home when they are there.

If you have outside facilities such as a track or field, and you have workout components for these areas (sleds, parachutes, cones etc.), then make sure these are stored/located in an area that is easily accessible.  Make sure if you have something planned for the track or field that day, you set it up before hand, again, time is of the essence.  The quicker you can get the players on their merry way, the less of a "task" working out becomes. 

If you use indoor facilities, such as a gymnasium, make sure it is picked up and ready to use.  I've rarely used the gym mostly because I've been at places where the basketball coach was a "touch-me-not" with his gym, but if you have this and can use it, by all means do so!  Again, have everything ready, nothing loses momentum more in a workout (or practice for that matter) than players waiting for you to set up drills.

I could use one of these!

Again, I'm not saying go out and tear down the old weight room for a new one, we all know that is out of the budget of 99% of the coaches who may read this.  Never look at what you CAN'T do, always focus on what you CAN do, this will make things a lot easier.  A simple coat of paint on a sled made some former players of mine think we had gotten something new.  I didn't have the heart to tell them, it was just their old sled with new paint on it!  Whatever it takes right!

You can't do an off-season program by yourself.  That being said, if you think it's difficult getting your players to the weight room in the summer, try getting your staff there!  I usually inform my staff that their stipend covers off-season workouts.  What I do is try and use simple math for the summer time.  I require the players to make 80% of their lifts in the summer, so the coaches should also have a requirement.  What I usually did was take the total number of lifting days and divide it by the amount of people I had on staff.  The most I ever had on staff was 8 (including myself), so we usually had around 33 lifting days, just take 33 and divide by 7 and that was the required amount of days each staff member was to be present.  This usually worked out to be four to five days, so I simply put it as coaches needed to each make a week.  I let them pick their weeks and we went from there.  Some would be there more than that.  I had an offensive line coach that was there almost every day.  What a lifesaver!  My last season as a head coach I was fortunate enough to have raised enough money fundraising that I could pay a 1/2 stipend to one of my assistant coaches and he was our strength and conditioning coach!  This was a 7 week period with 1 week of vacation.  Fancy title for the small amount of resources we had, but it worked.  It also helped that my coach looked like Arnold McMillan (well, not quite that big, but he was huge)!!! 

I also gave perks to the staff members who made the most days.  The one with the most days had the easiest pre-game assignment throughout the season.  The coaches who chose not to show up, or only show up the minimum amount got the tougher jobs.  You'd be surprised how a season of cleaning the visitor's locker room will motivate staff members to do their summer duty!  I've even given out everything from gift certificates to money for staff members who went above and beyond the call of duty in the summertime.  Coaches need to be rewarded too, remember they have families of their own, and use the summertime to vacation and spend time with loved ones.  I also had coaches that worked other jobs, work with your coaches, not against them.  Facilitate their participation, and they will be more motivated when they are working with the players.  Which leads me to my next point.

Even the "big dawgs" make time for family

Staff motivation in the off-season is key.  Most assistant coaches I've had have not been all that "geared up" for off-season lifting and conditioning.  This, to me, is no different than showing up to practice with a poor attitude.  Stress to your staff, that they need to bring their "A" game when it comes to enthusiasm.  Players feed off their coaches, and they can tell when you don't want to be there.  What does it say to a player, who is already wondering why he ditched the movies with his girlfriend, when he sees you looking unmotivated and lackluster?  It tells him you don't care to be there, then why should he?  I guarantee the next day this player is with his chick rather than in the weight room.  Again, make the weight room the place to be, this includes for the coaches.  I've asked coaches to leave that were withdrawn or unenthusiastic.  I figure your getting paid to be here, make that shit up if you have to! 

Coach Boom knows ENTHUSIASM!

Some of this sound harsh, especially to the assistant coach with the young wife and kids, and all this new free time with summer's off, however put the shoe on the other foot.  Especially those aspiring to be a head coach someday, it is your head on the chopping block on Friday nights.  You would want your staff to be at the weight room, so why do any different for the guy you are working for, remember the door swings both ways!

So now that we have facilities and staff taken care of, in the next post I will look in to the work-outs and doing your own mini-camps (if so allowed), and doing things to create competition.  Again, I'm sure there are many more methods than I have, I'm just sharing.  Heck, post some of your ideas in the comments section, let's see what's out there! 

Special shout out to Coach Hoover for helping me "spice" up the ol' blog logo!  Check out his site here to read more on a great passing concept known as levels


Til' we meet again!