Table of Contents:
Part I — Introduction; Safety Considerations in the Weight Room
Part II — Improving the Athletic Department as a Whole
Part III — Personal Development; Next Steps
THE HIGHLIGHTS:– The entire athletic department stands a chance to benefit from hiring a strength and conditioning professional.- Aside from enhancing the play on the field, all sport coaches will be glad to have less on their plate once the responsibilities of performance training are taken by the strength coach.- Overall care for the athlete is improved through synergy between the Athletic Trainer and the Strength and Conditioning Coach.
Improving the Athletic Department as a Whole
I don’t think many people would disagree with the claim that hiring a strength and conditioning professional can significantly improve the athletic department. From a performance standpoint, there are countless ways in which having a true performance coach can help the athletes and their respective sports teams improve their outcomes on the field.
Without delving too deep into the performance factors, let’s briefly address a couple potential benefits:
- Improved movement quality, proprioception, kinesthetic awareness, and tissue tolerance to allow for greater degrees of freedom in movement on the field/court, and a greater ability to withstand these athletic movements, thus reducing the likeliness of injury.
- Increased strength, allowing for a greater capacity to produce power, which will ultimately lead to an enhanced ability to express other athletic traits.
The two points above are essentially the main goals of the strength and conditioning professional; prevent injuries and enhance performance, in that order. Together, these goals seek to accomplish a much more broad mission — win games.
There are other significant benefits that the athletic department stands to gain, though, which may not come to mind as quickly as performance enhancement and injury prevention.
More Freedom for the Sport Coaches
Most pertinent to sport coaches is the amount of time and effort that will become free for use once the strength and conditioning professional takes over the performance training aspects. In the very least, this will give each sport coach 2–4 hours of additional time each week to do what they originally signed up for — to be a head/assistant sport coach (and in many cases, a teacher). The headache that is associated with the weekly question, “What are we going to do in the gym/weight room?” will vanish.
If, at any given point in the year, just some of your “major sports” (MBB, WBB, Football, BSB, Softball, MSOC, WSOC) are training in the weight room, that gives at least seven coaches a break from trying to design, implement, and coach workouts. Instead, those coaches can spend that time in a more beneficial manner. Time will be used more efficiently, and the sport coaches will be much more content in the long run, even if they don’t initially jump at the idea of yielding some of the control over their program.
In some cases, it’s the sport coaches who also must communicate amongst each other on weight room scheduling, all trying to deliberate on who gets priority. Other times, it’s the Athletic Director or another administrator who bears this responsibility. This is another aspect in which the strength and conditioning professional can help streamline the department as a whole.
Creating a “Medical Staff”
Intra-departmental communication can improve in another major way with the hiring of a performance enhancement professional. Let’s consider the athletic trainer and the ways in which a strong partnership with a strength and conditioning coach can enhance both of their jobs and essentially create a “Medical Staff” in the department.
Something that I truly came to appreciate working in Professional Baseball was the working relationship that can be had between the strength coach and athletic trainer. For the duration of the season, you become tied at the hip, and together you work solely in the best interest of your athletes.
How can this help the athletes, and ultimately the entire athletic department, at the high school level? For starters, it takes the responsibility of communication out of the equation for the athlete.
For example, let’s look at a scenario in which a basketball player rolls his or her ankle during a game. The ATC must evaluate the athlete that night, then re-evaluated the next day. Then, the ATC must develop a return-to-play protocol for that athlete. Not to mention all of the treatment that the athletic trainer must also give, it is then up to the ATC (or the athlete) to ensure that the sport coach knows of the injury and follows the plan set for a safe return-to-play.
But, what if the ATC does not (or is not able t0) write an injury report that is sent to the sport coach? Undoubtedly, the ATC is seeing tens of athletes each day for treatment, and has to cover as many teams as possible, making communication very difficult.
Having a strength and conditioning professional may not directly help this process, but it could facilitate progression in the right direction. For starters, the strength coach and ATC could have discussions about what the right return-to-play protocol looks like for certain athletes, and where in that process the strength coach can step in to help the athletic trainer. And, to that end, the integration of a strength coach could further constitute the development of an injury report to keep everybody on the same page.
Ultimately, that is what will benefit the athlete the most — getting the athletic trainer, strength coach, and sport coaches on the same page as it pertains to the health and well-being of the athlete. Knowing, not only how to treat an injury, but also what limitations that injury leads to in the weight room and during conditioning, and giving the athlete more resources to improve their treatment.
Hiring a strength and conditioning professional will not turn the athletic department into gold. But, it will be a great step toward improving the athletic department as a whole, and the athletes only stand to benefit from this improvement.
Isn’t that what this is all about, after all — providing the optimum environment for the student-athlete to excel?