One Strength Training Program for Your Entire Athletic Department

Want to know why you should get all your ath­letes in the weight room? James Coffey, Maine high school ath­let­ic direc­tor and coach, can explain.

One Strength Training Program for Your Entire Athletic Department

Want to know why you should get all your ath­letes in the weight room? James Coffey, Maine high school ath­let­ic direc­tor and coach, can explain.

Starting and main­tain­ing a uni­fied strength pro­gram for your entire ath­let­ic depart­ment is eas­i­ly one of the most ben­e­fi­cial things you can do as an ath­let­ic direc­tor. It’ll help you build a win­ning tra­di­tion, pre­vent injuries, improve phys­i­cal and men­tal strength — and def­i­nite­ly help you tal­ly up wins.

So why doesn’t every high school in the coun­try have one?

Well, that’s complicated.

Certainly there are schools in this coun­try that have top-notch weight rooms that rival many col­leges, but that’s the minor­i­ty. There are also schools, par­tic­u­lar­ly in dis­tricts where mon­ey is tight, that have noth­ing. No weight room, no strength coach, and maybe not even an ath­let­ic trainer. 

In my pre­vi­ous dis­trict, it took a full five years to entire­ly imple­ment our strength pro­gram. We had some resources, but it still involved a lot of tri­al and error before we real­ly had high par­tic­i­pa­tion and a rock-sol­id pro­gram. Once it was imple­ment­ed, we offered the pro­gram after school, and in the sum­mer, we had a pro­gram run­ning three days a week. The first sum­mer after imple­ment­ing the full pro­gram, our com­bined ath­let­ic depart­ment fall record was 92 – 13. 

We’re now in my cur­rent school’s fourth year of hav­ing one strength pro­gram. After some improve­ments to our weight room, and set­tling in with a high­ly respect­ed local strength coach, we’re start­ing to see play­er improve­ment and few­er injuries. 

Athletes at all levels in any sport benefit from time in the weight room.

If you’re look­ing to start a strength pro­gram at your school, there are two main ele­ments you need: a room and some­one to run the program. 

Use what you have

Do you have a weight room cur­rent­ly? If so, is the equip­ment safe and up-to-date? If you don’t have one, try to find an open space you could use. 

My school’s weight room was super small. It was clut­tered with old Nautilus equip­ment and big bulky machines. We actu­al­ly gave away a bunch of the old equip­ment we weren’t using to cre­ate more space. Then we dis­cov­ered a stor­age room adja­cent to the weight room that was full of old, unused equip­ment. We got rid of a lot, found anoth­er space to store the rest and knocked the wall down between the stor­age room and our weight room. That expand­ed our weight room by over 500 square feet. 

We laid down a new rub­ber floor, bought a mint con­di­tion rack of dumb­bells (5’s-100’s) from a local res­i­dent, and were able to secure three new pow­er racks. In a few months, spend­ing just the mon­ey we had avail­able, we were able to sig­nif­i­cant­ly upgrade our facility.

A lot of second-hand equipment is still in great shape and costs a fraction of what you'd spend on new weights.

Who runs it? 

In a per­fect world, you’d have an expan­sive weight room and a nation­al­ly cer­ti­fied strength and con­di­tion­ing coach, but it’s just not the real­i­ty for most schools. For a lot of ath­let­ic depart­ments, only the foot­ball pro­gram does any strength train­ing and that’s usu­al­ly run by the coach­ing staff. 

So what resources do you have that you could lever­age? Do you have a PE teacher, coach or an ath­let­ic train­er that has a back­ground or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in strength train­ing? Is there a local gym you could con­tract through? Is a parent/​guardian or boost­er group con­nect­ed with a strength coach in the area?

In one school I worked in, we con­tract­ed a respect­ed nation­al orga­ni­za­tion to come in and run a two day, in-ser­vice work­shop for our coach­es. All of our coach­es were cer­ti­fied to their stan­dards, and we used that train­ing to imple­ment a strength pro­gram for our ath­letes. It worked well for us.

My cur­rent school con­tracts through a respect­ed local gym that’s geared toward ath­let­ic per­for­mance. They pro­vide us great ser­vice at a rea­son­able cost.

Create a program for everyone

Our pro­gram is sim­ple, yet effec­tive. We aren’t sport-spe­cif­ic, and that’s key. Our goal is to make our kids stronger, bet­ter ath­letes through a foun­da­tion built on basics. We change the exer­cis­es each ses­sion, but every work­out fol­lows the same sim­ple structure:

  1. Push some­thing
  2. Pull some­thing
  3. Squat
  4. Hip hinge
  5. Carry some­thing
Make sure to have a lot of varying weight options to cater to all your athletes.

This broad frame­work allows you to dif­fer­en­ti­ate instruc­tion between kids based on their abil­i­ties. Not by sport. Every ath­lete in every sport can ben­e­fit from a strength pro­gram. And so can your school.

James Coffey attend­ed Endicott College in Beverly, MA where he got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sport Management. He has spend the last four­teen years as an ath­let­ic direc­tor at three dif­fer­ent high schools. Coffey was named the Massachusetts Secondary School District A Athletic Director of the Year in 2012. He has also spoke about the pos­i­tive effects of social media on ath­let­ics at sev­er­al New England conferences.