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Winning Ways:
Are You Ready To Hit?

Wednesday, July 22, 1998

By Gregory "Graig" White
SJSports Physical Fitness Advisor

The beginning of the high school football season is right around the corner. Coaches, I would like to ask you a question, "Are you ready to hit?" I know that your weight rooms were open during the summer, but did you give your athletes everything they needed to get the job done? As I visited some schools during the summer, I found that most of the programs were missing a vital component in their conditioning program, and that was a comprehensive philosophy.

At Rutgers, our philosophy is based on a four point attack. Those points are safety, the needs of the athletes, the effectiveness of the program, and last but not least balance. The question the coach must ask first is, "What is the objective of our conditioning program?" My answer to that is first and foremost, is to prevent injury and enhance the athletic performance of their athletes.

When playing football there are certain givens. One is that the more you play, the greater your chance of injury. Another given is that if my athletes are going to get injured, it should be in a game, not in the weight room. Athletes sometime fail to realize why I make such a big deal about replacing weights when they are done lifting. It is done to minimize risk of injury while in the weight room. Your program should work to protect, prepare, and enhance the performance of your athletes.

When it comes to assessing the needs of your athletes, the greatest weapon a coach has is common sense. Remember, we are conditioning football players not to be power lifters or bodybuilders. Yes there are some similarities and differences. The smart coach recognizes this and makes the proper adjustments.

The effectiveness of a conditioning program must be constantly measured. Making needed adjustments is the name of the game in order to make it better, safer, and to ensure the effectiveness of the program. Two things I would suggest coaches do. One, have all players maintain a log that documents what the player is doing as far as conditioning and nutrition. Secondly, be accountable for monitoring attendance for every workout. Once the players know that you will be there, attendance is not likely to fall off. Also, remember to reward the athletes on consistency and effort, not for testing and performance.

The last component that I want to discuss is balance. Balance is something that all coaches strive for and believe it or not, few actually obtain it. I can't say it enough, coaches must make an impression upon the athletes how important it is to devote time to all phases of preparation. Many times I have seen players spend all summer lifting, then on the first day of camp pull a muscle that keeps them off the field. If that player works on his flexibility, that muscle pull may not happen. When it comes to conditioning, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Remember that when given the task of preparing athletes to compete, use every resource available to you. Look for resources that are reputable, deal with facts, and above all else keep in mind that the athlete is the reason why you are there.

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