Meet The Author: Travis Lombardozzi
- Brunswick High School (OH) – Physical Education Teacher (9-12)
- Director of Strength & Conditioning
- NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
- Follow on Twitter: @BHSstrength
Unified Strength and Conditioning – 6 Tips As You Push For School Wide Training
High school strength and conditioning takes on a million different forms. Many schools only open the weight room before and after school. Other schools have Physical Education classes dedicated to S+C but have sports coaches merely hoping the course can fit their athlete’s schedule.
Most schools hope for some form of a unified strength and conditioning program. What I mean by that is the Physical Education and Athletic Departments unified together in a collective school-wide strength and conditioning initiative.
It is no simple task, but as a Physical Education Teacher and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Brunswick High School, where we have a unified strength and conditioning program, I know it can be done.
There are a million ways to approach building a unified program, but in this article, I give 6 tips to get you going in the right direction. I start with a student-centered approach (Tips 1-3) to then help make a case for other stakeholders to start investing (Tips 4-6).
1) Make Exercise & Training Work For Everyone
Whoever walks into your weight room, teach and coach them every single day. Some students want to get better at their specific sport; others may simply want to learn how to exercise.
Almost any kid, regardless of their goals, wants to know you care, not how much you know about strength and conditioning.
By showing you care, your students will know that you are going to find a way to make the weight room work for everyone.
2) Differentiate and Differentiate Often
Approach your workouts with an open mind. Ask yourself, ”What do I want my students to be able to achieve, and how many different avenues do I have to get there?”
As the coach in the room, you have to be ready for some students to progress directly from step 1 right to step 2. Other students will need steps 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 before coming close to step 2.
The most important thing to understand is what works with one student, might not work with another. Have back up plans if different modifications or drills do not work. There is no perfect way to teach or correct a movement, but having a variety gives everyone a chance to succeed in the weight room.
3) Differentiate Does Not Always Mean Separate
If the goal is to create a unified strength and conditioning program, do not rush to always separate students. Just because kids are at different experience levels, does not mean they cannot work together.
During instructional phases of training, I like to group students with varying experience levels. By scaffolding groups, more experienced students can model good form and technique for less experienced students to watch.
By creating opportunities where we all work together, everyone feels like they are sharing a collective and unified strength and conditioning program.
PLT4M partners with Athletic and Physical Education Departments in their pursuit for Unified S+C!
Get Others Involved
The first three tips were deliberately student-focused. The framework for a unified strength and conditioning program all starts by creating the best possible experience for the students in it. A program they all feel they belong in.
From here, you can get other stakeholders to see the value of the weight room and strength and conditioning program.
4) Show Sports Coaches Value
Not all coaches understand the importance of strength and conditioning. YET.
Some coaches might not think it is worth the time, and others might think that the weight room is a place for a particular type of athlete.
Invite coaches to see first hand what is going on in the weight room. Have them come workout or watch a workout either during one of your classes or after school. Many coaches will be surprised and impressed by the overall development going on in the weight room and start to care.
And because you have such a student-centered model for success, coaches will see the value. Once they see it themselves, coaches will push for more of their athletes to get involved.
They will either encourage their athletes to sign up for the classes being offered, or schedule time before or after school to get into the weight room as a team. Either way, sports coaches bought in are one of the best tools that will drive a unified strength and conditioning program at the school.
5) Seek Funding Creatively
With a growing strength and conditioning program, you might want to start making additional investments in more or better equipment. This is where many teachers and coaches have to turn to administrators.
Before seeking funds, your first step is to help administrators see the importance of the weight room. Show them, like you did for your other coaches, why the weight room matters.
If you are starting to build a unified program, you can make a case that any investment is going to benefit every student at the school.
While a new field or jerseys would be great for a few teams, any investment in the weight room is helping each student-athlete at the school.
Similarly, if every student ends up walking into the weight room at some point in the day or year for a class, you have one of the most used classrooms at the school. Go seek out different funding opportunities available for classroom teachers.
No matter where you seek funding, create the case that the weight room is the place for everyone, and investments will only help further that mission.
6) Always Improve
A high school strength and conditioning program will always have opportunities to improve. Even schools, like Brunswick that have unified strength and conditioning programs across PE and Athletics, are not perfect.
As you try to grow or improve your unified strength and conditioning program, realize that you are a reflection of the program itself. You are the culture of your weight room and classes. The way you walk, talk, and act are the ways students and stakeholders will start to view the weight room.
So whether you have a few classes, teams, or even kids in the weight room, be your very best self, and the rest will start to improve around you.