There are good things and bad things that happen when you have been in this business for a long time. Even though we have to prove ourselves day in and day out, coaches will usually give you the benefit of the doubt when you have certain ideas you would like to try. During winter break, I took a look at what we were doing, and I really tried to answer the “why.” Why are we doing this and not that? Is it because that’s how everyone else does it? Could we get better results by doing it another way?

I thought there were some things that we could do better, and I was excited to implement them. We have a very young team, and luckily, we had a great in-season with the kids whom we did not play and redshirted. Something we looked at during training camp was our kids’ age group and how we needed to develop these kids the right way. We not only decided to make a change, but also we flipped the entire script. We went from three workouts a week to five; they lifted balls to the wall and then went to practice. It sucked for them at first, but as they got battle-hardened after a few weeks in, they came together and got it done.

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There was a lot of trust built, and we were on our way. That is what got me thinking about really looking at the upcoming off-season workouts coming up. Could lightning strike twice? After looking at a bunch of different things, what we came up with was different from everything I had ever done in twenty-plus years of this. I had one goal in mind and based our entire programming on this one thing: We were not going to run once. No 60s, 100s, 40s—nothing. Also, we were going to agilities only two times a week and play basketball the other two. In addition, our lifting sessions were going to consist of mixed martial art warm-ups (not fighting techniques but rather movements for time) before we lifted.

Ready to win

Bernard Bodo ©

Agilities were just a variety of bag drills, come drills, and carrying heavy things. All drills had to be done all out, and everyone had a finish line that he or she had to sprint to.

Also, we took the entire team and broke it up into ten teams of seven for basketball. Everyone was on the court, and each team played at least six five-minute games a day. We broke all of the games up into a huge tournament that went on for three weeks, with everyone playing everyone until we crowned a champion. The games were intense, and no time-outs or fouls were called, just up and down the court for five minutes. The players were gassed at first but got better as we moved along.

The same for agilities, two minutes for a drill, and one-minute rest for 12 stations. Effort had to be all out, or that section was repeated. It was attention to detail to the max. All parties, players, and coaches, knew what was expected of them, and if it was not done right, it was repeated. We had some long sessions early on until the players figured out what we were doing and caught on that paying attention to the little things mattered.

The lifting sessions were a different animal. The warm-ups killed the players at first. By the time we got to lifting, they were shot, but we kept pushing them, keeping the lifts as basic as we could, just adding more sets than any of us were used to. Week by week, we got better and better, and after six weeks, these cats were ready. In fact, in one of our last lifting sessions before spring ball, our team had the heaviest squats and benches collectively than ever before by a mile! We had more players squat in the 600s than we had in all of our years combined!

It was all an amazing transformation, and we could not wait for spring ball to start. Once it did, we were more than pleased with the results! The kids felt like they were in the best shape they had ever been in, and the coaches even commented on how our players were flying around during the entire practice. Things were rolling along until the virus hit, and we canceled spring ball and sent all of our players home.

Now, I am a virtual strength coach trying to keep our players doing quarantine workouts until who knows when. This setup poses a bunch of new challenges, mostly because schools and gyms are closed all over the country. Push-ups and chair dips galore! I hate it, especially when you have been doing something you love day in and day out for so long, then it is gone. It is hard, but I am glad we are doing the right thing by keeping the kids in our care safe. We will live to fight another day!!! The only upside is that whenever we get back, we have a blueprint to get these players going in the safest and quickest time possible.

I caution all of us to be smart. This will be the longest layoff in our players’ lives, so when you start up again, be sure to be smart and bring them along accordingly. Nothing would be worse than surviving this damn virus and then have a player go down because we are asking him or her to do too much too soon. Remember, the best-laid plans of mice and men do not always turn out how you want them to, but you have to make the best of the situation. I can’t wait because I want to revamp all of the speed work I am going to do with our players before camp. That is the next session I am going to hit.

Remember, do not be afraid to learn and try new things; just have a plan in place and go for it. I can’t wait to dive into some of these new things going on. If I can guide myself through this mess of information on the Internet during this quarantine, maybe I will get a little smarter and wiser during this break. That would be another positive change for sure! Be safe.