Strength Coach 101

Do Work?!

I was talking to a coach at local high school the other day.  We talk training a couple times a week.  As soon as he saw me I knew he had a story to tell me.  He has been running the offseason conditioning program for the football team.  He introduced the team to the Olympic squat.  The fact that half the team didn’t quit pretty much proves that he is a good coach, and a good salesman.  When you are working with young kids you have to get them to buy in.  Lets face it, kids these days are lazier than we were.  It’s amusing that the generation that coined the phrase “Do Work!”, really isn’t interested in anything that makes you sweat or breathe hard.  Well besides THAT…


Hope he loves you.

Teen pregnancy rates aside, it’s a fine line you have to walk to convince them to do what they don’t want to do long enough to see results.  And getting a kid to squat in the first place is a hard thing.  Getting a kid to do a full Olympic squat takes a herculean effort on a coach’s part, and I give him a ton of credit; especially after seeing the players he is working with.  Whenever I visit their weight room I can look at their form and tell which athletes he has worked with, versus the ones that have worked with other coaches.


He proceeded to tell me of the progress his kids had made.  When he first replaced the kid’s traditional quarter squat knee bends with deep Olympic squats their strength took a serious hit.  Supposed 400lb squatters were now being humbled by 225lbs.  No shock there, obviously these kids were never really 400lb squatters.  Well after the coach worked with them for a mere 8 weeks some of them increased 1RM by as much as 100lbs.  They also retested their 40 times, and what do you know…almost all of them showed at least a tenth of a second improvement.



How impressive are those results?!  I can hear the headlines now…”Increase Your Squat by 100lbs and Decrease Your 40 Time in 8 Weeks”.  Actually that’s kind of catchy.  I might have to convince him to write a book, and we can both retire “richer than astronauts”.  If only it were that easy.  Truth is, as good of a coach as he is, he really didn’t do anything that special.  He took 15-16 year old testosterone machines, introduced a new movement pattern, taught them proper technique, and let time do its thing.  In a relatively untrained athlete rapid strength gains such as this are a result of increased neurological and technical efficiency.  As I said before the impressive thing that this coach did was getting his kids to buy in.  Now that they have retested and he has convinced them that he isn’t just torturing them they will stick with Olympic squats.


So what is the measure of a good strength coach?  Well first and foremost a good coach doesn’t talk in absolutes, and realizes that training is fluid and must continually evolve.  They also realize that the basics work for a reason, and they don’t jump from one new fad to another.  That’s a subject for another time.  A good strength coach produces more than just immediate results, anyone can do that.  They produce results over the long term.  Their athletes show progress each year.  A good coach can take a well trained athlete and make them better.  Taking a novice lifter’s deadlift from 200-300lbs sounds impressive, but its not nearly as impressive as increasing an experienced lifter’s deadlift from 600-630lbs.  Other indicators of a good coach are a low rate of injury in their athletes.  What good is all this newfound athletic ability if you can’t stay on the field to use it?  In collision sports, injuries are going to happen.  That’s the nature of the beast.  However, a high rate of injury in non-collision situations is a huge red flag.


Athletes must FINISH!

There are many more variables that go into being a competent strength coach.  I personally think that the ones I mentioned are a few of the more important ones.  As parents you should know who is teaching your kids.  The bad habits they learn now could stick with them, and they are harder to break as the athlete gets older.  One final indicator of a competent strength coach is how his teams perform in the last quarter, inning, period.  Can they finish?  Are their athletes in game shape?  That shows you that their conditioning is where it needs to be.


Actually the quickest way to judge a good coach is this…if their athletes are NOT endurance athletes, and he constantly has them running long distance…STEER CLEAR!





  1. Jason Nave

    So, Don, do you think we should abandon our pre-season three mile run test for our football team this year?

    • Don

      It depends. How long is a Football Field again?

  2. Scott Agee

    Great article, and I like the response to the 3 Mile Test. Thanks for sharing!

    • Don

      Thanks Scott, the inside joke is that the guy that asked about the 3 Mile Test was the coach from the article…haha.

  3. Scott Hessel

    This is a great post! You might want to follow up on this.


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