How Do We Get to the Steak, Not the Sizzle?

TAGS: high school football coach, core beliefs, athlete development, Coach G, programming, strength and conditioning, football, Sports Training, athlete, strength training, strength coach

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In order to become great at something, you have to be able to look back honestly and objectively at what you've done. You have to get rid of things that you haven't done well and that aren't working no matter how much you like them. It's good to get in the habit of taking the end of every year to look back on what you've accomplished and assess your program. In football terms, this is called “self-scouting.” It's a good way to look at your tendencies and check your strengths and weaknesses.

One of the first things I do is read over my core beliefs and mission statement. Hard work; heavy, ground-based strength training; conditioning for the correct energy system; sprinting; and agility work pretty much cover it. Then I ask myself:

  • Is this what my program and I stand for now?
  • Have I gone away from my core principals?
  • Did I change in a good way or a bad way?
  • Did my program evolve?
  • Is my team at a different level and I had to make some changes, or did we just stray from the path a little bit?

I'm always looking for new ways to do things differently, but I try my hardest to make them follow my core beliefs when doing so. One of the best methods that I use in putting together a program is the "what's important now" (WIN) principal. Use this as the fundamental building block of your programming. Before every training cycle, ask yourself, "What's the most important thing my team needs right now?" Don't do this a year down the road or wait until the summer. Do it right now. This is very important because no matter what level you're coaching at, many strength coaches get lost in trying the latest fad or doing what they feel comfortable with even if it isn't what the team needs. I guarantee that it's a heavy dose of basic lifting and running. But it never fails, and it's just what the doctor ordered. The more you stay true to the basics, the more you'll get what you need right now and that’s what’s important.


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I'll use Jurassic World as an example. The newest dinosaur, the Indominus Rex, may be the coolest thing ever. Its genetically modified DNA was made up of all different animals and dinosaurs to make it unstoppable. It was faster, fiercer and smarter, and it could even camouflage itself, which is unreal for something that weighs 50 tons. It had all that was new and flashy, and guess what happened? After an epic battle, the Indominus Rex was defeated by the basic, non-genetically modified Tyrannosaurs Rex. In other words, stick to the basics.

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This came up last week while I was speaking at a seminar loaded with high school football coaches. Following the talk, we sat down and met for some serious round table discussions. It's one of the best things about this job—learning from coaches from all walks of life, backgrounds and experiences. After the first 10 minutes of war stories, the real questions started flying around. Unfortunately, even in this day and age, many high schools still don't have strength coaches. If you think the time you get to spend with your athletes is limited, think of what it's like being a high school football coach. Try teaching classes and dealing with boosters, parents, administration, janitors and facility workers. Add to that always trying to find and keep coaches, raise funds, watch film, coach a position, make a game plan and, oh yea, train your entire team in a broom closet!

A high school football coach wears many hats and is pulled in many different directions. With this limited amount of time and space, the questions usually come down to, how do I get the most bang for my buck? How do we get to the steak, not the sizzle? That's when I got the idea for this article and it really made sense. After talking to these guys, it really reaffirmed my belief in sticking to the basics and getting the most bang for your buck. It isn't only important in developing your athletes, but it really helps when you have a limited amount of time to work with those athletes.


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In all honesty, which team is getting better within a certain hour rule—those squatting, cleaning and sprinting or those balancing on rubber balls and juggling tennis balls? I'm not knocking any type of training, and believe it or not, somewhere, somehow those things have their place. My hard and fast rule is if it works and makes them better, keep doing it. We all have a wealth of information out there, maybe too much. As coaches, we have to get better at assessing our team's needs and our athletes' needs. I'm not saying that you shouldn't add things into your program or try something different. What I'm saying is that whatever you try, make sure it's basic and falls into the realm of what your team needs. There shouldn't be any more cookie-cutter workouts or doing what you've always done even if it isn't helping your team because you're afraid to let it go.

There's a certain type of monkey on the island of Madagascar that people love to have as pets. They're smart, trainable and very expensive because of this. For years, it was almost impossible to catch these monkeys because they were so smart, they outwitted the villagers trying to catch them. At some point, the villagers found out that the monkeys liked this type of candy that was prevalent in their village because they kept stealing it out of the huts. One of the villagers had an idea. He took a coconut and drilled two small holes. On one side, he attached a chain from a heavy rock to the coconut. Then he put a piece of candy in the other hole. One of the monkeys came down, reached into the coconut and grabbed the candy. The trick was the monkey's hand and the candy were too big to fit out of the hole together. So they threw a net and captured the monkey. They did this over and over again until they caught a great number of monkeys. The monkeys were caught because they couldn't let go.

Don’t be afraid to let go and try something new. Just be sure that it will help your team now, it's basic and it falls under your core beliefs. You can’t go wrong with steak.

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