I saw a friend of mine bitching on Facebook the other day. This friend, who also works with high school football players, complained about how infuriating and appalling inflated weight room numbers can be. I, of course, asked him if he was talking about a popular recruiting site, to which he said he was.

Perhaps it's because I am getting older (or perhaps it's just that I don’t give a shit about what other people do in their programs or weight rooms these days), but I can’t bring myself to get upset about it anymore. Honestly, I really only concern myself with what I do with my athletes. In turn, the only other coaches I pay attention to are those I respect or feel that I can learn from. Since it has been known for quite some time that most recruiting websites are full of shit, this is not something that really gets to me. I think we need to consider that there are a few factors at play with regard to why we see these inflated weight room numbers.

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Who Is Coaching?

We could piss and moan about the system of preparing coaches in America, but the subject has been covered multiple times. I will admit that I am as guilty as anyone for beating this dead horse. However, think about what is probably going on at most high schools.  Usually, there may be one (or more) of the following scenarios occurring:

  1. The head coach assigns a program that is either copied out of a magazine or an outdated book, or is simply what he did when he was a player.
  2. An assistant coach who has some interest or experience in lifting weights is appointed to run the off-season workouts. His workout will probably be similar to scenario one, or it may be whatever workout he currently does.
  3. A coach writes something on a board or gives players a sheet of paper and tells them to do it while he sits in an office and periodically checks in to make sure no one is injured or dead.

In all of these scenarios, it is pretty obvious that none involve an extensive history of teaching correct lifting techniques, standards, and so on. Most high school coaches are paid very little and may see the off-season as time off; therefore, we don’t necessarily have quality instruction (if any instruction at all). We have to remember that when high school kids fill out the questionnaire that goes into these internet recruiting scams, they may not have any idea what lifting technique involves, not to mention if they were performing lifts correctly or not. It isn’t as if these players have decided to go online and claim preposterous numbers in order to piss off those of us who “know better.”

Don’t think, however, that I am excusing running an off-season program in any of the scenarios above. I am just stating why, as professionals, we almost have to ignore these numbers. Most people who have worked at the collegiate level can tell you that in most cases you are going to be backtracking and correcting what has been done incorrectly over the previous four years (if at all). We could all go and make angry blogs posts and YouTube videos, telling everyone that they are stupid and how all of these athletes are full of shit. However, people can only listen to so much of this before they stop listening altogether.

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The Other Side of the Coin

The other side of this issue, and maybe at the real heart of it, is that in many cases, coaches should be able to admit what they don’t know. To put this in perspective, consider the following:

I have been driving since I was 16 years old. I earned my driver’s license the first day I was legally able to do so, and I began driving almost daily shortly after. Since that day, I have probably driven a car for the better part of the past 14 years, excluding my freshman year of college and when I used public transportation while living in the NYC and DC areas. From a rough estimate, I would say that I have spent the past 13 years behind the wheel. However, if you were to ask me to overhaul the engine of my car, or perform even more rudimentary mechanical procedures, I would not be able to. Just being behind the wheel of the car does not give me a deeper understanding of how it works.

Similar to this would be a football coach thinking that he is qualified to design an off-season program because he lifted weights and trained as a player himself years ago. His experience is a very small view of what the training process is and cannot really replace the understanding at a deeper level.

Fortunately, this can be remedied in a few ways. First of all, I am not going to say that every coach must be extremely involved and knowledgeable in regards to thoughts on physical preparation (like some authors on this site for example). At the very least, they should teach their athletes how to perform movements safely and correctly. As far as what movements are used, I really don’t care. If a coach is very skilled at teaching the Olympic lifts and can get a team of kids to do these safely and efficiently, then, by all means, use them. The same can be said for powerlifting movements and all of their variations. After our staff meeting at the beginning of the off-season, our head coach was telling me that he really liked how the things I was doing had scientific backing. While all of that is well and good, I noted that it wasn’t overly hard for me to build the program. Why? Because the athletes had at least adequate form before I came on board, so I only had to tweak it slightly. I told him that science at the high school level can be a little off, but as long as you teach movements in a sound fashion and are able to get your athletes to understand this, then you will be ahead of the curve. Attend seminars, read, and understand how and why to do this. Then, you will at least be on the right track in one way or another.

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Secondly, if you are a coach and don’t have the time to do this, or if you don’t have anyone on your staff who is skilled or has the time to learn, then hire someone who can do this. In my situation, my taking over the off-season preparation has freed up other coaches to work on other football and non-football related things. Some of these are academic issues at the school, others are work-related issues outside of school, and others deal with the administrative issues of coaching. At the high school level, there aren’t numerous employees dedicated to the development of a football program. Coaches are overworked, they fill multiple roles, and they may not have a lot of time to dedicate to off-season preparation. Because of this, finding someone who is passionate and knowledgeable in this area can help lighten the load on those who do not have many resources in the first place.

What We Can Do to Help

Those of us who are knowledgeable in this field can actually help high school coaches as opposed to being looked upon as enemies. First of all, we need to stop going online and talking at people. Instead, we need to talk with and educate them. It is one thing to legitimately present information to coaches. It is another, however, to randomly spout off insults about how they are wrong and don’t know what they are doing. Of course, there will always be those who will shut out any information that differs from or contradicts what they are comfortable with. In turn, some coaches are doing what they are comfortable with because they haven’t looked for or been shown that there are better ways.

Secondly, we can stop tearing down everything we don’t agree with. While I think that recruiting websites, combines, and the like are bullshit, I know that tearing all of these things down is an inefficient use of my time. I am not making my own athletes better by pointing out poor coaching, and I am not making myself a better coach.

An example of this happened earlier in the year. A high school lineman allegedly benched 515 pounds for a triple in some high school in a state like Kansas. Of course this had all of the Facebook experts talking about the video being fake, the plates being fake, and any other reason they could think of to discredit the lift. I saw the video, and I watched it once or twice, but I really had no opinion for a few reasons. First of all, if the video was real, it meant that a high school kid did something very impressive. This, however, does not make those who are incapable of this feat inferior. It also does not make their coaches inferior because they were not able to do this. Secondly, if I would have jumped in and trashed this video, the kid, his coaches, his teammates, the school administration, etc., it still wouldn’t have made me a better coach, nor would it have made any of my linemen capable of benching 515 pounds for three reps. We should concentrate on what makes us better coaches and what makes our athletes better at their sport as opposed to why others are wrong.