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As a teacher and coach in several small schools in the state of Kansas, I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve as the head football coach of five programs in 18 years and at each one of those schools, I have also been the lead strength and conditioning instructor. I have also had the opportunity to be the head basketball coach, head track coach, head softball coach, and athletic director as well in several of those schools. Over the course of my career, I have had to learn to balance being the head coach of my own sport and doing the best job in serving the needs of my athletes and other sports programs along with their coaching staffs.
The prevailing opinion is that a head football coach will inevitably train all the athletes in a school like football athletes. At smaller schools like the ones I have worked at, you find out very quickly that most of your athletes aren’t just football players. They typically (and hopefully) are multi-sport athletes who compete in a variety of sports.
While it is my firm belief that the profession of strength and conditioning has got its first solid footing because of football coaches and their realization that strength training and conditioning was vitally important to success on the gridiron, that does not mean in our day and age that we can assume that we can train all athletes like football players. I will say that many of the movements and lifts that build the skills and physical attributes that you need to be a superior football player are ones that translate to success in many of the sports that every school’s students compete in. However, it is very myopic to state that you need to train all of your athletes like football players. Politically, it is a path that will burn your relationships with all of the other sports. Physiologically, you are not meeting the needs of all of your athletes which should be your number one priority.
Even if you are not a head football coach, but coach some other sport either as a head coach or assistant, you must find a balance to improve not only the athletes you coach on the field, court, track, etc. but also to improve the athletes who come to train with you regardless of their sport (if they even play a sport!).
As a plan of action, I would follow these steps to help create a balance that will help you be successful as a sports coach responsible for training all manner of athletes and students in your school.
In conclusion, meeting the needs of your athletes, designing a universal program, remembering that your job is to help your athletes perform, and incorporate the input and presence of your other sports coaches in my opinion is the most effective way to avoid the pitfalls that you may encounter as a sports coach who trains all the students and athletes in your school. Remember your number one priorities should be DO NOT HARM and to improve the performance of ALL of your athletes!
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