Recruiting From Within the Weightroom

TAGS: time managment, recruits, Dr. Yessis, todd hamer, strength profession, training athletes, strength and conditioning

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

As strength and conditioning coaches, we are expected to be in the weight room (or on the field, pitch, ice, track, or court), and we are expected to be a motivating force. If you asked one of your athletes or coaches what they expect from you, they would probably say that they expect you to be a great educator who is motivated to make others better.

With this pressure comes the pressure to train yourself to a certain level of strength and conditioning (even though some of us skip the conditioning). The problem with this is that often we let our own health slip. We start living on coffee, energy drinks, and crap food because of the demands and hours of the job. With this is mind, I asked a group of my fellow strength coaches how they train, stay organized, and stay healthy while training athletes in the weight room. I want to start with the words of a few friends who are smarter, stronger, and all around cooler than me.

"'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.' Basically for me, it's all about time management and preparation. I have every athlete's training prepared ahead of time, so each athlete knows every exercise, rep, set, weight, etc. This allows me to make adjustments easier if I need to. On my end, I prepare food ahead of time and I keep a tight schedule.— Zach Reed, Georgia Tech

"I think most people outside of coaching do well to be very structured with when they're going to train, but I have to be flexible and patient more than anything. I often don't know when I'll be able to train, but I know that I will train because I love it and I think it's a necessary component of being a good coach. Saturdays are when I gain my sanity back though. I train alone with loud music of some variety that the athletes would hate." — Skyler Farley, Charlotte 49ers

"I think it's very important that we train. I fit it in when I can. Instead of taking a lunch, I train. The time is never consistent and I usually get interrupted, but I don't mind. I'm sure I'd get interrupted if I were eating, too. As long as I get those moments when I'm (stealing this from Dave Tate) in the 'void,' I'm fine with it. This is typically why I only do summer meets (also because it's slower in the summer). It's hard to have a serious conversation with a recruit in your squat suit. They have caught me before though, so I just made a joke about real men squatting in giant diapers." — Nate Harvey, University of Buffalo

"I have spoken with several people about this as of late. I feel like I am working more now than I have in the past, but it is simply talking with people and building relationships. I don't often miss workouts but almost never have one that is uninterrupted. I used to hate this! Despise it with a passion. Now it is simply part of the deal. I walk out of my office into a weight room, but it also happens to be a room full of our "end users," as our administration (I guess that's me now, too) likes to call them. The flip side is it allows our student athletes and coaches to see that our staff still walks the walk. One thing that has helped me tremendously is Google calendar. Our graduate assistant has our entire schedule up there, so I know what is happening when not only with my teams but everyone else's as well. Yes, it is something I should already know, but it helps to check it every day or several days in advance without having to send a text to everyone to see what's happening. This is also something we plan on making available to our entire athletic staff, so they can see what happens with each team and come down for a workout without interrupting a team workout." — Tim Kontos, Virginia Commonwealth University

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It Isn't Your Weight Room

In our profession, we have a tendency to say “my weight room.” In reality, it's the university's weight room and we just happen to be the guy who holds the keys right now. Remember, one day you'll quit (if you're lucky and don’t get fired) and someone else will come in, act tough, work too many hours, and get frustrated when someone can’t sit back in a squat. Remind yourself that you're just the guy who currently has the keys and they will be passed on to someone else sooner rather than later.

Because it isn't your weight room, your athletic director could come down and tell you that you can no longer train there. It's the athletes' weight room and the athletic director could tell you to go to Gold’s Gym. I've never heard of this happening, but that doesn't mean that it isn't within the rights of the athletic director to say this. I would like to think that most athletic directors understand that a strength coach who trains is better than a lazy, fat dude who does nothing with his life. So while I don't see this happening soon, it's possible. The reason I bring this to light is that we must remember that we don't own any of the equipment we use to train athletes and ourselves.

Knowing that the weight room isn't ours, how do we treat our training time? Imagine this scenario—you're in the weight room training, and you're doing some clusters, so rest periods need to stay under 15 seconds to make the session effective for your current goals. Now, unannounced, one of the coaches for the university shows up with a recruit. What do you do? Do you stop your sets, walk over, and introduce yourself to the recruit and his family or do you keep training?

I can hear some of you saying, “This would never happen to me because my coaches tell me when recruits are coming.” If you say this, keep working in this field and it will happen.

I can also imagine hearing, “Well, they should've told me that a recruit was coming in. This isn't my problem.” I can honestly say that both of these responses won't help you move forward in this profession.

The third and worse comment that I can imagine hearing (because I've heard it) is, "Well, it depends on the coach and what team." Each team will be treated differently based upon coaches needs and wants, but if you're ignoring a team because you don't think they're important, you should really search for a new career!

Currently, with my training, I'm doing the dumbest workout that has ever been invented. After having a mediocre meet in early August, I decided that I needed to fix some weaknesses. After speaking to some good friends, I decided to play with Dr Yessis’s 1 X 20 for a three-week wave. Jay DeMayo (University of Richmond) was pushing me to do this (I’m pretty sure that he wants me to do it because he doesn't). So far, it's miserable!coaching weight room elitefts todd hamer train 082814

I do 15 exercises, each for 1 X 20 starting at about 60 percent. I try to increase the weight with each workout. Pretty simple, right? Well, today while I was doing this, about eight different athletes from different sports came in and asked me every question that you can imagine. The best was the freshman football player (who thinks he's a bodybuilder) who wanted to do incline bench to work his upper chest. So while I was dying and almost puking, I had to stop and do my job. The question that I have is, will you be selfish and keep lifting or stop and spend a moment with one of your athletes?

So What Is Your Balance?

Yes, it is of the utmost importance that as a strength professional, you train and you train hard! No one wants a weak and pathetic strength coach. But search for your balance. Know that you are there first and foremost for the athletes. Also, know that we aren't always the most welcoming and warm group of people while training.

To end this article, I want to share a story about my training. I train every Sunday. One Sunday, I had to train alone. I don't know why, but no one could make it while I was training. Well, I had something like 20 X 1 deadlifts with 45 seconds of rest. I tend to use a hook grip as much as I can, and unbeknownst to me, I had a hang nail on my thumb. So while I was training, blood kept being forced out of my thumb.

I finished my 20 sets and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked like a bad horror film. My white shirt had blood everywhere. There was blood on my forehead and arms, and the chalk was pink and pasty. I thought, "Oh no! I’m leaking somewhere!" I had no clue where. Well, I looked at my hand and saw the impressive cut. I thought that it was best to clean myself up, and as I headed to the bathroom, my men’s lacrosse coach came in with a recruit and his father. I explained why I looked like Nightmare on Hamer Street and gave my recruit spiel. I was a little concerned that the parent thought I was unprofessional.

Well, the next day at work, the lacrosse coach approached me and said, "The recruit's father yesterday thought you were awesome. He said it was so badass that your strength coach kept training through the pain." Now, there wasn't any pain and I barely knew about the injury, but the perception was there.

The moral to the story is that we never know how we're perceived by the people who don’t do what we do, so we need to try to be better as professionals. Tim Kontos really taught me this when I was a young strength coach and didn’t listen enough. For those of you out there who want to ignore this, trust me. Learn from those who have been there! I didn’t and it would have made my life easier if I would have.

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