Most high school sports coaches have a basic understanding of the weight room. But few coaches actually feel comfortable being the person in charge of what goes on in it.
John Van Kempen at Unity Christian High School in Iowa is not afraid to say where his knowledge starts and stops,
“By being the football coach, I am the de facto strength coach. But I don’t have the knowledge to write a program that progresses kids through. I can teach a movement. But, I can’t write a program.”
After seeing his fellow coaches and colleagues share similar sentiments about the weight room, Josh looked to find a better way. Now, athletes and coaches benefit from unified strength and conditioning at Unity Christian High School. Here is how they went from a coach by coach approach to a unified strength and conditioning program.
The Challenges Of An Inconsistent Approach To S&C
The biggest challenge that Unity Christian faced was creating consistency. There were small steps in the right direction, but Josh describes how these steps were not sustainable,
“We had a former graduate who wrote and ran a summer program for us. But then we would hit the in-season, and he would be gone, and none of our coaches have a great understanding, or really any understanding of what an in-season strength program should look like.”
Because of the lack of understanding, some coaches would do their best to put together an in-season program, and others would avoid the weight room entirely. And because many athletes at Unity Christian played multiple sports, depending on the coach they had, athletes would find themselves doing all sorts of different things in the weight room throughout the year.
There was no continuity, which led to confusion and frustration amongst athletes and coaches.
Looking For The Right S&C Solution
After feeling the challenges of an inconsistent approach, Unity Christian set out to find something to help with workouts and programs. Josh describes the search,
“We wanted to find something that was easy for coaches to use, so they didn’t have to feel like they needed to be an expert. But we also wanted something easy for our kids to use that wasn’t completely different off-season and in-season.”
Outside of athletes just being in the off-season or in-season at different times, like most high schools, Unity Christian had a wide range of experience levels they needed to support,
“Some kids really know what they are doing because their parents might have got them into it when they were younger. But, on the other hand, some kids might have never seen a weight room before. So we wanted to find something where movements were similar but would be easy to use for all our different athletes and coaches.”
Utilizing PLT4M’s Strength and Conditioning Programs
Knowing that they needed programs for all the different student-athletes, Unity Christian turned to PLT4M. With PLT4M, coaches no longer had to develop workout programs for in-season and off-season training. Now, they used PLT4M to take care of all their programming needs. Josh saw it as the perfect fit,
“With multi-sport athletes and all different experience levels, we felt like PLT4M was made for high schools like us.”
With PLT4M, in-season teams just had to carve out 20-30 minutes a few times a week to get into the weight room. It took away the pressure for sports coaches to have to feel like expert strength coaches,
“We have sports coaches who can feel comfortable enough to go in there and teach movements and help athletes, but now don’t have to worry about the more intimidating aspects of strength and conditioning.”
And because the programs were all coming from one source, athletes could transition from in-season to off-season without a problem. Josh saw the comfort and confidence increase with the athletes,
“The kids became comfortable with it because it was consistent across the board. With the PLT4M app, they had a clear plan based on when they were in and off-season that they could follow throughout the entire year.”
A Sustainable Approach To High School S&C
When Unity Christian set out to take a unified strength and conditioning approach, they wanted to find something that would last more than a single summer or season. They wanted to find something consistent and sustainable for both the athletes and coaches.
Now, Unity Christian is in the fifth year of its unified strength and conditioning program. Even after the excitement of something new like PLT4M wears off, the benefits can create a lasting impact. Josh describes why long-term, PLT4M has been the perfect fit,
“We didn’t want another quick fix that only lasted a few weeks. We wanted something that could support our athletes and coaches year over year with great workouts that fit within a larger plan. That is what PLT4M has given us.”
Key Takeaways On A Unified Strength and Conditioning Program
The key to a unified strength and conditioning program is consistency. For some high schools, that means a consistent strength coach that works with all student-athletes. But for most high schools, a dedicated strength and conditioning coach is not an option.
Because of that, high school sports coaches need to have the appropriate resources and support to safely and effectively bring student-athletes into the weight room. Otherwise, many will avoid the weight room altogether.
For Unity Christian High School, a unified strength and conditioning program has been developed and sustained because of a consistent approach to both in-season and off-season training. The continuity allows athletes and coaches to have clear expectations from season to season and from year to year. As a result, the weight room has become a place where all student-athletes come to work hard and get better.