elitefts™ Sunday Edition

I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

— Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant's Child


I remember seeing that poem a long time ago in a writing class I had to take in college. I did not know at the time how important that phrase was and how it would impact my life as a strength coach. At the beginning of my coaching career, things were rolling. The high school I was working at had just celebrated its first football State Championship, I got married, and I had my first kid on the way. Then, out of the blue came a phone call—an interview for a dream come true: a job as a collegiate strength coach! After a great off-season, we won 10 games and got to the second round of the (then) 1AA Playoffs. The future never looked brighter. We had a bunch of great players coming back and our program was making the jump to the division-1 level the next year. All the stars were lined up. Everything was rolling along, and then...BAM! Our head coach decided to take a coordinator's job at a bigger school. I went from the best place in the world to the worst place in the world. The place all coaches dread—the “is he going to keep me” place. Hell on Earth. The waiting, the rumors, the hiring of the new coach, then the re-interview process for the job you already had. It was the most stressful time in my life.

Luckily, the coach decided to keep me. The original feeling of euphoria was short lived, however. Within a week, I realized that this coach and I had polar opposite opinions and strategies on how to train a team. He wanted it one way, and I wanted it another. Guess who won. To make matters worse, he kept asking me why I did what I did, what type of program I ran, what my rules were, and on and on and on. And I had no idea. Why? Because I had always been a worker. In all of my previous years as a strength coach, I had blinders on. I would just write workouts, work the players out, repeat. Push, push, push, but never take the time to sit down and explain my philosophy, methods, or execution to myself or anybody else. I never had to. When I graduated college, I went straight to work at the high school level. I was not able to be a GA, do an internship, or even volunteer. I just went off personal experience and took advice from a few manuals I had received from college strength coaches or Powerlifting USA magazines. There was no internet, programs, or gurus. Even though I did not know it, I was totally unprepared for the other side of coaching—the professional side. Now I was asked to go and do all these things that I had no idea how to do. That's when I remembered the poem—who, what, when, where, how, and why. And that's when I understood...and my whole career changed.

I dedicated that entire year to answering those six questions. I broke down every aspect of coaching, programming, staff, and nutrition—everything that had anything to do with my program. But one year was not enough. It took me fifteen. And now, after much thought and urging from friends, co-workers, and coaches, I am going to publish a book. This book is 15 years worth of various thoughts and ideas that I have used on my journey as strength coach. It is more of a blueprint, a textbook for strength coaches. It is not a list of workouts; you guys are all great at that. Programming is probably the easiest part of being a strength coach. If you are smart, consistent, and work hard, your athletes will make gains. Every weight room has different programs, and many people have success. Instead, I am publishing this book in an effort to help strength coaches look at things a little differently, to show them another side. It is an invaluable tool full of real life information that was used or is currently being used right now. It covers staff responsibilities, tons of running and agility drills, nutrition, strength training, conditioning, speed philosophies, and more. You can manipulate it any way you want, and it will definitely make your job easier. Regardless of your current level, I know that it will help you as a strength coach.

I feel that I have a responsibility to give back and help young coaches in areas where help is most needed. If I can give some advice to young strength coaches, it is to take the time and figure out who you are and what you are about. Answer those six questions about yourself, your program, your core beliefs...everything. Be a master at your craft and make it yours. One of the biggest faults/weaknesses I see in interns is a lack of self-awareness or confidence in knowing who they are or what they stand for. They are always quoting guys they worked for or played under and what they do or say. But I don’t want clones. I want guys who can think for themselves and make decisions based on what they believe in. So answer the six honest serving men. You may be surprised at the answers you’ll find.