What is the foundation of your program? Is it as solid as it can be, or does the slightest change in the wind make things crumble? This is something that needs to be looked at and reassessed on almost a weekly basis. The further from your foundation you get, the weaker the structure becomes. This is true not only in your staff but with your athletes and workouts as well.

Your foundation needs to be deeper and stronger than your core values. It must be a part of your being, some things that you will never give into or allow to change. Ever. These can also be small things, but small things that will get you, your staff, and your players through trying times and not even know it.

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As I said in my last few articles, I was on the committee to hire our new football coach. It was a great honor and a responsibility that I did not take lightly. When our last coach was let go, our players found out I was on the committee, and they said they trusted me to bring in the best guy possible. It was a unique situation to be in as a strength coach for sure. We wound up hiring the guy whom we all thought was the best guy we could find.

Winter workouts were rolling, and he was making great decisions regarding the program. He brought new energy and a sense of purpose to our team. We were definitely on the right track. Our relationship was great, we were both on the same page, and our foundations were poured by the same concrete for sure: attention to detail, little things matter, effort, and desire wins over perceived talent — great foundations for a new regime.


 Engin Korkmaz ©

Then disaster struck. Right near recruiting, he got sick, and due to the severity of his illness, he had to step down to focus on his health. I wish him and his family all the best and strength through this fight. Now we were in no man’s land, and our players were nervous since we were looking at a third head coach in six weeks! We wound up promoting our offensive coordinator into the position. And we did not miss a beat.

My colleagues in this business were all calling, asking how I was doing, how they could not believe that happened in such a short period of time, that some of their teams fall apart when they lose a position coach! I told them I was doing great, and we never missed a beat. We are rolling forward with even more steam, and he was a former player here to add a great dimension of bridging the past to the present, and I can’t wait for the future.

I am always curious about the “whys” of things, no matter what they are. Why are some people successful and not others? Why is this business run better than that one? Why does this team win more consistently than that one? In my search for why, my staff and I started looking at why we did not miss a beat throughout this whole process, and our answer was the foundation we have been laying with our players.

The coach who had to step down gave me one of the best compliments you could give. After one of our winter workouts, he came to me and said that he could tell how much work we put in teaching our kids body language, standing tall no matter how hard the circumstances, their attention to details, and their emphasis on finishing. Those are the foundations that I believe in and are never up for debate.

You can ask any player from day one, when I started with the mighty Bloomfield Warhawks (“We are few, we are fierce, we believe”) 22 years ago, and at every stop until this one, and they will tell you that standing tall, finishing, paying attention to details, and coaching exercise technique have been emphasized every single day, every single workout, and every single rep.

Sand texture.

Janunya Napapong ©

LISTEN: Table Talk Podcast — Jim Wendler's 5 Core Values for Training

Those are things that I just cannot let go. It is infused in my DNA. It is not just players; I hold the same foundational truths to my staff. If we all follow standing tall, finishing, paying attention to details, and coaching exercise technique over weights, we will all be successful here or anywhere we go.

The only times that I have been miserable at work are the times that as a staff, even if it’s just one, strayed from this foundation. The structure got weaker, and it eventually crumbled and cost us our jobs. It was my fault as the boss. I just took for granted these things that were getting done, and we all know what happens when you ass/u/me.

The places where I loved work were where we threw our egos out the door, and both players and coaches lived and breathed these foundational principles. It was not a coincidence that we won a ton of games. It was the most successful run in that school’s history to this day, and hopefully, we are on our way to doing that here. We did not skip a beat after all that chaos because the foundation that has been laid over the past three years.

I had a former staff member get a head coach job who is doing his best sticking to these principles and fighting through the coach wanting to “kill them every day.” His players just kept getting better, and the coach could not argue with the facts, and things have gotten a lot better for him because of it. If you just do whatever others say, with no rhyme or reason, how much better are your athletes going to get? Running or lifting kids into the ground day after day and week after week will get them nowhere, and where do you go from nowhere? Nowhere.

As many strength coaches will agree and listen to this, our job is to help reduce injury and increase their performance. If you are not doing that, then what are you doing? Trying to please everyone will please no one. Tell your coach to look at the numbers and the results that come with a plan based on a solid foundation, not some willy-nilly workouts thrown out to destroy the players. You will both be surprised at what happens.

Build your foundation on rock. Sand is for vacations.