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Anonymous: I'm a Strength Coach and Just Got Furloughed

Jun 26, 2020

I got furloughed, now what?

It was a lovely Friday afternoon and I hopped on a zoom call with the athletic training staff and then received the news that we would all be furloughed from June 8th until July 31st.

A furlough is a temporary leave-without-pay status for a specified number of days where you may not perform any work-related services.

Local high schools were predicted to start back training around the date that my furlough was slated to begin, and I was looking forward to having athletes back on campus as well. I felt a mix of emotions when I received the news; sad that I’m not training athletes on campus this summer, helpless because communicating with athletes is prohibited, happy that I am able to continue spending more time with friends and family, yet confused that the CARES Act will pay more than my salary.

This is not a training related article, but I hope that my furlough experience can help others cope with being furloughed.

Thankfully I received the news a week in advance, therefore I could prepare a checklist to complete within that time span:

  1. Program out the rest of the summer for all of my teams
  2. Plan different phase approvals for return-to-training in the fall and share with both my Head Athletic Trainer and Athletic Director
  3. Schedule Zoom meetings with all of the coaches to teach them how to use TeamBuildr, in the instance athletes have any questions
  4. While it’s encouraged, communicate with my athletes about my lack of communication due to my furlough

Programming

Programming during this pandemic has had its challenges. Thankfully, TeamBuildr came out with a 5-week Bodyweight Program in March when schools began closures. I’ve uploaded exercise videos to my YouTube channel, so providing links on the mobile app will ensure athletes understand each exercise. Most importantly, I had to make sure all of my exercises were tagged into different categories.

Once you tag your exercises in TeamBuildr then you can program by assigning tags and not leave your athletes stuck with that one exercise or give them too many options to choose from.

I learned that lesson from last summer when I noticed that the completion percentages were not as high as I would like them to be. I found out that the athletes were still working out but were adding in their own exercises or didn’t have the proper equipment to execute the specific exercise programmed on TeamBuildr.

So, I had a week to finish programming for two months for every sport, and I finished it in one day using tags. I used a M/W/F split and each day is a full body workout with the first two blocks basically being athlete driven. Here is what it would look like depending on the emphasis of the day:

  • A Block = Total Body Exercise
  • B Block = Lower Push or Upper Pull Variation
  • C Block = Upper Push or Lower Pull Variation

Programming this way gives my athletes some autonomy without taking away from my style. It also allows me to be 'hands off' while giving them the tools to be successful in training.

 

Planning

However, when we return to campus there needs to be a plan in place to safely and effectively train athletes. The multi-phased plan that I shared with my leadership included some of the following suggestions:

  • Implement occupancy restrictions and outline what the training would look like at 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% occupancy
  • Check athlete temperature or include that within a mandatory pre-workout COVID-19 questionnaire.
  • Make sure each athlete has their own water bottle and a towel, because there will be no access to the water fountain
  • Mark clear direction of traffic flow: one-way entrance and one-way exit.
  • Eliminate, to the best of your ability, the use of shared equipment such as a stationary bike, rower, stability balls, foam rollers, etc
  • Create work-stations where athletes can have their own set of equipment and social distancing can somewhat be achieved

return to gym checklis

Preparing

Scheduling Zoom calls with the head coaches was extremely vital while I was going to be furloughed because I had to teach them the ins and outs of TeamBuildr.

Coach Tip: Make sure you assign the head coaches to their athletes groups AND calendars if you want them to have the ability to view their athletes

Overall, this call allowed the coaches understand the amount that I interact with the athletes on a weekly basis. I made sure the coaches knew how to add and delete athletes on TeamBuildr, knew how to answer any login issues, program on TeamBuildr, and check-in with their athletes on how the workouts are going. I also created video references, but TeamBuildr also has a Support Page to help!

Communicating

Lastly, I felt like it was important to let my athletes know about my furlough. I know it can be a sensitive subject, but I’ve always been the type of coach that is 100% authentic and genuine with my athletes. In the message, I outlined what furlough meant, the duration of my furlough and that they should direct all questions to their sport coaches. Now, will this eliminate all questions when you directly work with athletes? Of course not! But it is an attempt.

How has furlough been thus far?

I have been on furlough now for two weeks, and it has been tough. This time last year, I was training my local athletes at the school 4-days a week. Now, I have to get permission just to go on campus and workout in my own weight room.

I still get questions from my athletes about random stuff and about the workouts, and it’s just not in my nature to ignore them. Some of the questions are hilariously prefaced as, “Asking as a friend, not as an athlete at your school…” so I guess that works right?

What hit me the hardest in the first week was thinking about my local kids. Are they training at all? Who are they training with? What does their training look like? So, I decided to contact the local private strength and conditioning coaches to see if any of my athletes were training there and if I could possibly train out of their facilities. Thankfully, a friend of mine reached out to me and we made an arrangement for me to do so.

While I was able to train my athletes for free at his facility, we agreed that I was to train a couple of his group sessions each week. Fair enough. I did have to create some rules with my athletes that I was training due to the furlough:

  1. 100% confidentiality
  2. No school gear when you are working out with me
  3. No compensation (because I’m receiving unemployment benefits and I’m sure the IRS would come after me)
  4. No posting on social media about the workouts or facility

So far, the training is going very well and I am being very conservative based upon the insight I’ve received from other strength coaches who are back to training their athletes. I am starting off with 2-days a week and will go to 3-days a week in July.

I wish I could train my athletes on campus and I wish I didn’t have to be sneaky about what I’m doing, but there is no way I am going to just sit back and not coach my athletes for a total of 4+ months.

Other than training at my friend’s facility twice a week, I am really enjoying the amount of time I can devote to some new hobbies and to my family. I am not checking emails or TeamBuildr in the meantime, which is new. I will need to start thinking about programming in July, but I’ll be honest; I don’t know how to program for so many unknowns.

Unfortunately, I won’t get any information or have the ability to meet with coaches until the first week of August. So, needless to say August will be an interesting month getting back to work.

In the meantime, I am going to continue to lay low and be as prepared as possible for any information that comes out in the next month or so. I wish I knew of other strength coaches who are also on furlough, so I could reach out to them and see how they are handling this situation because this is definitely something I was not prepared for whatsoever.

give up excel

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