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Off-Season Evaluation – Ted Rath: Detroit Lions

As we approach the end of a season we take time to look at the upcoming off-season training program.With thoughts of off-season training you must consider a number of questions, the number one question that I ask myself when planning for the off-season program is “What can we improve upon this off-season?”As a strength and conditioning coach our goal is to challenge our athletes and provide them with a program that is safe, effective, efficient, and balanced.Each season we look back on the previous training year and evaluate our program.We look for many things including, areas of success, areas for improvement, overall effectiveness of the program, and player participation.

Ted RathAreas of success are important to identify so that you don’t attempt to reinvent your entire program every single year.You will drive yourself mad as well as lead your athletes and coaches to question what your philosophy is as a strength coach.If something works, continue to use it.Yes, there is always room for improvement and I am a firm believer in the phrase “be happy but never satisfied” but you must also establish a core philosophy.After you establish a core philosophy you can tweak it anyway you see fit.

Areas for improvement are detrimental to look at when evaluating your program.In the field of strength and conditioning fads and new training tools are constantly being created.It is a full-time job just to keep up with the changing modalities and philosophies available in the field.Being able to discern what and how you can use the tools you have available will help you grow as a coach and allow you athletes to develop gains that otherwise may have been overlooked.Communication with a Certified Athletic Trainer is invaluable when evaluating areas for improvement.The Sports Medicine staff will have significant data that can be used to address areas of need.For example, if your athletes experience a high number of hamstring injuries in a given season it is important to look at how you may be able to add movements that will help to strengthen the posterior chain.

Overall effectiveness of the program is perhaps the most challenging area to assess.Many coaches are hired and fired based on their team’s win/loss record.This can be a tough assessment due to the fact that the strength coach neither recruits nor signs the players on the roster.The strength coach doesn’t have the opportunity to call plays on game day either.Others strength coaches are commended or dismissed based on the number of injuries suffered by the team.It is obvious in contact sports that some injuries are unavoidable; luck plays a significant part in most championship runs.Another notable comparison for injuries is whether the injury occurred during competition or in practice.If a team has a high incidence of soft-tissue injuries during practice and preparation this could be a red flag.One key that you can look at is the length of time immediately following an injury.A stronger athlete who is very fit will have a tendency to recover from injury more quickly.I personally believe that you can assess the overall effectiveness of your program based on a number of factors including but not limited to: Player buy-in to the program, number of soft-tissue injuries (muscular), and overall strength and fitness gains.Once again, there are many factors to take into consideration when assessing the overall effectiveness of a program these are just a few examples.

Player participation doesn’t simply mean the attendance of your training sessions.Players may be there physically but are they checked out mentally?A special skill that a strength coach must possess is the ability to get their athletes to leave their comfort levels on a daily basis.As we all know, some athletes are mentally tougher than others.It is truly a challenge to convince an athlete to donate every spec of effort and energy that they have to one measly set in the weight room.Every great strength coach has this ability.Their athletes not only buy-in to their program, they give their undivided focus and energy to each rep of every workout.Another question to ask yourself is “do my athletes know why we do what we do?”Do you take the time to explain to your athletes the reasoning and science behind your philosophical views on strength training?A well educated athlete is a better prepared athlete, why should we not expect our athletes to learn in the weight room?

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