Starting Somewhere – Growing Weight Room Attendance

Starting Somewhere – Growing Weight Room Attendance

“Over 60 kids came in this morning before school to get better. How about the commitment from this group!?!?” 

If you scroll through any of your social media apps, you will probably see a coach boasting about their crowded weight room. Rightfully so! What an incredible achievement to have a large group of students bought into strength and conditioning.

In recent years, it seems more and more high schools have embraced the weight room as an integral part of their future success. Male and female athletes of all sports are getting after in the weight room! 

Blame Game

Yet some schools still have not caught up to this growing trend of high school strength and conditioning. Why? 

Athletes not caring? Coaches not investing? Administrators not prioritizing? 

Before we cast the blame on the easiest victim, let’s stop and notice the coaches who are willing to at least start somewhere. Even when only a handful of students come to workout, there is still a coach willing to open the doors, coach the kids up, and give them the very best. 

Those coaches are worth a spotlight! 

Justin Shaffer

For this spotlight, we turn to Justin Shaffer at East Buchanan High School in Iowa. Coach Shaffer is used to the feeling of: One step forward. Two steps back. 

“There are times we get everyone in the weight room on a consistent basis. But with high school athletes, playing multiple sports and being busy, sometimes the weight room commitment can start to slip.” 

And instead of pounding his head against the wall, he sees some basic similarities to even the most elite programs. 

“I love the 10-80-10 principle that Coach Urban Meyer is famous for outlining. 10% of your group is elite, 80% are compliant and 10% are resistant. The challenge Meyer talks about is getting those members of your group in the 80% pack to move towards being elite.” 

And we all know that middle pack very well. Good kids, who do the right thing when they need to, but might not necessarily go out of their way to do that extra work. Getting THOSE athletes to show up to the weight room on a consistent basis is where teams can start to really make progress. Especially difficult at a small school like the one Shaffer is at. 

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Help From Other Coaches

While Shaffer can preach the importance of the weight room, he knows he needs others to share the same mission as him. 

“Multi-sport athletes get pulled in a lot of directions. But as a small school, if we can get coaches to all come together we have a great chance to grow the strength and conditioning program that every team will start to benefit from.” 

One of the biggest things Shaffer wants both coaches and athletes to understand is that S+C is a work in progress. No athlete is going to walk into the weight room and be perfect, nor should they. What Shaffer hopes for is improvement, and to do that, people need to be willing to start somewhere. 

“Athletes will look towards their coaches for direction. If they look and see their coaches in the weight room. Well, that is where they will go.”

And while that step takes education and empowerment for coaches and athletes, Shaffer knows that making change takes time. For now, his best chance at growing the program is giving his very best to those athletes that are showing up consistently. 

Praise and Promise

Shaffer goes out of his way to highlight even just the few handful of athletes who are part of the East Buchanan “Committed Club”. 

“It goes a long way for kids to get recognized. It shows them that they are valued and respected for doing the work.” 

Shaffer will promote and post out the athletes via Twitter, and while it sometimes feels like a shortlist, those kids get a well-deserved nod. 

Better yet, he is confident that those athletes will be the ones who see the field and see success. While it may take some serious leg work to get more athletes in the weight room, Shaffer still shows up every morning before school to help those looking to get better, get better.

So while some coaches might see a small group of athletes as a sign to give up, Shaffer knows to grow the program to what it can truly become, he has to start somewhere. 

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