By this time, position coaches are gone, players are getting geared up and ready to go, and you are ready to put your personal stamp on the teams and individuals you are training. Better yet, you will finally be able to use all the knowledge you gained and the ideas you learned over the past few months. Summer is a time for many of us to prove ourselves all over again—coaches, interns, players, programs, you name it. As a collegiate strength coach, the most commonly asked questions from newcomers/interns (besides those regarding programming) are about summer workouts—what to expect, tips, and advice they can use to help them succeed. So, I am going to give a few tidbits of advice that I wish I had when I started.

Have the support of your head coach

For my very first job, when I was hired as a high school strength coach, I came in only a few days before summer workouts. I did not know any of the players on the team or anything about them. I didn’t even know where to park my car! I was out of my mind excited and was ready to go with what I thought was the best summer program ever. However, when the first day finally arrived, I had only two players show up. Two players. So what did I do? I took those two kids and absolutely killed them. Lifting, running, you name it, we did it that day. When the head coach came by and looked at the two players, he turned to me and said, “They will all be here tomorrow.” And you know what? They were. He felt so strongly about what we were doing that he got on the phone, got those players there the next day, and we never looked back.


Remember, especially in this day and age, the head coach hired you for a reason. He has your back, but you have to have his as well by running your program in the most professional manner possible. The level you are training does not matter. From training individual players and coaching at a high school to serving as a strength coach in the NFL, you must have your head coach's back and do your professional duty. Make his players better and keep them healthy, and he will be yours for life.

Never speak until you have coached a mile in his shoes

If you are not the head strength coach—the guy in charge, then you better put your nose to the grindstone and do what he says. As assistants, we all have ways of doing things that differ from our bosses. It is true in the weight room, amongst football staffs, and even throughout corporate America. However, until I became a head guy, I realized that a lot of what my former bosses did was for reasons only they knew...and only they could deal with. It really opened my eyes, and nothing pisses me off more than some young know-it-all "with all the answers" who can’t even load a bar correctly. So, go to your boss directly and ask him specifically what and how he wants things done if you have to. In the end, who do you think he is gonna hire?

Be Loyal

Loyalty — have it. Be loyal to the boss and to his program. Players come and go every four to five years, but hopefully you will outlast them all. But the only way you can is to do what is right and not cut corners. Coach your ass off for him and the program will outlast them all!

Either you have standards or you don't

Coaching is broken down into two things: 1) you are coaching it or 2) you are allowing it to happen. Anyone who has ever worked for me knows this inside and out. If a player has bad form in the squat—you either let him continue to do it, or you put your minds together and figure out how to fix it. Same with drills—do they all stand behind the line or are they all over the place? Whatever standards your boss or the program dictates, do everything you can to uphold those standards! I repeat: do everything you can to uphold those standards! I think this is the most important part of coaching. Discipline is not punishing a player for missing class by making him puke from running. Discipline is making a player change his behavior before he messes up so that he can make the right choices in everything he does. That is discipline—doing what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it. And you can only get that way by upholding standards. Little things mean everything.

Keep your players healthy

There are so many common sense things you can do to not only keep them healthy but to also improve their performance:

  • Rhabdomyolysis (Rhabdo) is a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle tissue breaks down rapidly. Breakdown products of damaged muscle cells are released into the bloodstream. Some of these, such as the protein myoglobin, are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure. The severity of the symptoms depends on the extent of muscle damage and whether kidney failure develops. This usually happens with a high volume workout following a lengthened time of inactivity. Thankfully, it is easy to avoid—simply start your first few days with a little less volume than usual. Don’t try to kill them right off the bat. As tempting as it is to want to set the tone early, this can be a very serious situation to your players and your program. Severe permanent damage to the kidneys and even death can occur if it is not caught in time.
  • Sickle Cell Trait has been linked to an increased risk of exercise-associated sudden death in individuals undergoing intense physical exertion, and possibly rhabdomyolysis. Exercise-associated sudden death in individuals who have sickle cell trait most commonly occurs in those undergoing intense physical exertion, such as military recruits in basic training and football athletes during conditioning workouts (although it can occur in other sports and activities as well). Get with your trainer and your entire weight staff to understand, identify, and treat anyone who may have it on your team. The protocols are simple to implement. My sickle cell trait players are the only ones who can go down on one knee so they are easy to identify, and we can make allowances from there. This is definitely a subject you should spend some time researching. Have a plan—it can, and it has, saved lives!
  • Hydrate your players and allow them to drink fluid! This is not the 1950s. There is water and/or sports drinks available to our athletes any time they are not in the process of lifting or running. This is a no brainer. Their bodies will function more efficiently, it dramatically decreases the chance of any heat-related illnesses, and it keeps their heads in the game. They can drink all they want during games, so why not during training? You decide.
  • Listen to your trainer.If your trainer says that it is too hot and/or humid and you can’t run outside one day, then don’t do it. You and the trainer should have the best relationship in your program. If you don't, and both of you are at odds all of the time, then you had better iron out your differences pronto—even if it means getting the head coach or administration involved. You will never win a pissing match with a trainer. If he pulls a kid, let him pull. In the end, he is protecting the kid, you, and your program. If any liability occurs from something that happened, you are going to want him on your side—no questions asked. Be smart, do it right.

I hope this article has answered some of your questions regarding summer workouts from a different perspective. I wish you all the most productive, healthiest summer ever.