In my last article I covered a variety of “old school” training beliefs I thought were timeless to the strength and conditioning field. A week after writing that article I took the family on a weekend trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Hot Springs is a place where they have hot water that comes from the ground in different locations, forming natural hot baths — pure and natural hot tubs. People from all walks of life from presidents to mobsters traveled there for their therapeutic qualities and first-class spa treatments.

One of the oldest bath houses is still in existence, preserved as a museum to the past. While taking a tour we came across and old "weight room," complete with Indian clubs, sit-up boards, ropes, rings, and medicine balls. On one of the workout sheets they had posted, it gave an explanation of what they believed weight training to be. It stated that, “by using light weights at first and frequently changing the movements, the weights and amount of exercise can be gradually increased without fatigue.” Read between the lines and it basically says to start light, do it right, be consistent and you will get stronger and in better shape. The craziest part is that I thought I was old school, being born in 1968. This old school instruction? Written in 1886. Enough said.

RECENT: 5 Old School Principles to Hold Onto

Now back to the focus of this month’s article.

Everyone’s job has its own unique set of challenges or obstacles to overcome. I am going to tell you some of mineIt doesn’t matter what school, division or sport you work with; everyone has them.  People working in the same place even have their own unique challenges different from the other people in the same office. The boss has things he has to worry about, the assistants have other things to worry about, the interns have things to worry about, etc. I think that this is what makes the strength and conditioning profession so unique — there is a different challenge literally every day and every hour. The funniest part is that everyone thinks they know how to fix the other guy's team problems with no insight at all of what issues that person, team, players and situations are. We are all guilty of it, myself included.

I remember when I was an assistant and I would sometimes question to myself why my boss would do some of the things he did with his team, his players, or us for that matter. I stored all those situations in my head, and when I became a head guy, it all made sense. I cannot thank him enough now for letting me see how to handle certain situations that may not be the norm, but that fit just right when needed.

A wise man once told me you never really know the situation until you are sitting in the boss’s chair. This statement could not be more true. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Just when you think you know it all, have seen it all, and have it all figured out, you get hit with a curveball. When this happens, hopefully you have something in your history or some knowledgeable friends able to help you through it. 

One of the biggest obstacles that you will face, especially if you are new to a school, are cultural changes that are or are not occurring with your team. I have actually gone through that situation myself recently and it is finally heading in the right direction. Finally. I had a lot to figure out, had to make some serious changes and decisions, at one point even calling in some old guns. The biggest issue I faced when I got here—and all the other issues stemmed from this—was a lack of accountability in the weight room. Too many players cheating reps, form, weight — you name it, they were cheating it. I had guys that would not finish a 10-yard flex line! They would go maybe eight yards then walk their way to the line. I was seconds away from an aneurysm all day, every day for the first month I was here.  I did a drill I call ATD (Attention To Detail) which consists of 10 simple tasks that should take five minutes to complete just by following simple directions, and it took an hour! That was when I knew we were in trouble, man.


Then spring ball ended. Since we are at a smaller school, I found out not a lot of guys stay for the summer to workout. I had to send them workout packets and hope for the best. I had a crew of about twenty for the first two weeks of the summer, mostly true freshmen. The other guys were working eight or nine-hour shifts of real jobs to pay for themselves to be here (this is why most of the older guys came in the last five weeks of the summer; they had to work to make some money. They could not afford it).

This was a very different situation than I was used to. I have always had everybody all summer, forging a team for the season ahead. I was really at my wit’s end, and had to put a plan together fast. The first thing I did was call an old football coach friend of mine whose opinion and insight I have always respected and always will. He is just a straight football guy with a lot of years and situations under his belt. I told him what was going on and in his calm, caring demeanor he said, “You better just control the f***ing kids that are there, make their s*** better than the guys that aren’t there. Control what you can control!”

The light went on. I had to take care of the players that were there working out with me and stop complaining about the guys that weren’t. It is so funny how we always let the negatives run what we do, and get so caught up in it that we are almost numb to it. How many times have you had a great team workout and let one clown ruin your day because he messed up, ruining the other 80 guys who were great? It was happening to me, and I just made it stop. I rolled up my sleeves and went to work.

First I took all the young guys and made them come in in the morning, teaching them how we are going to do things our way, the right way. I taught them the progressions from my article, "5 Old School Progressions to Hold Onto" and got them going. 

Then I brought in the older guys later in the evening after they got off work, and I was relentless. I mean relentless. I was determined to break them of their habits and get things done the right way. Everything they did had to be done to the standards we were trying to set. No quarter was given. After two of the longest weeks of my life, things started to change. They started to do things our way and even started coaching each other up to help them all get through it together.

So now we had two problems on their way to being solved: freshmen and older guys that were here for the summer. For the guys at home, we had to make it interesting. We started a contest in which the player who tweeted the best workout video or picture of themselves for that week won a t-shirt. It started keeping them engaged and got them to focus. That helped. When we started sending videos and pictures back of the guys here working out, it really got their attention.

Interest was peaking, and you know what happened?  Players started trickling in, showing up and moving back to town. The guys that were here, older and younger ones, were helping the newcomers get on board. It actually worked great because we were getting two to three guys every couple of days, so it was easy to get them on the right path because of how they stood out.

Fast forward to this week and we had 65 kids putting in some great work. On our agility day on Tuesday, not one guy missed a line, and everyone focused and finished. It was awesome. For the first time in four months we are looking and acting like a team.

Control what you can control. Hold them to your standards. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Have faith in your players. They just don’t know, which is why they need coaches. We have to teach them.

Photo courtesy of Chris Whitacre