Building Great Athletes Starts With Character

I had a great conversation over the weekend with my buddy, Todd Hamer who is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Robert Morris University. He helped me to realize that a stronger and more conditioned athlete should not be my focus as the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Heritage High School, but the byproduct.

My focus needs to be developing boys into men of character through relationship. Our time in the weight room is just the catalyst for their development. Lifting weights develops in the athlete, self-confidence, work ethic, teamwork, accountability, and mental toughness, just to name a few character traits. These character traits are only built through relationship with the athletes and not just handing them a workout and having them complete it. As these traits are developed through relationship, the athlete wants to work hard for you, their strength coach. In turn, they become stronger and more athletic in their particular sport.

My focus needs to be developing boys into men of character through relationship.

Without knowing it, I was doing this with my athletes. If you ask Reed Prosser, the Head Football Coach at Heritage High School, what was one of the reasons that he had the best record in school history last season, he would undoubtedly say because his players were stronger and their bodies more resilient. This didn’t happen just because of my expertise as a strength and condition coach or because I found the perfect program for our football team. I truly believe it is because I developed a relationship with the athletes by talking to them about things other than weights. They know that I care about each and every one of them and so they genuinely care about the workouts I put together for them.

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My first year at Heritage High School I struggled to get more than 10 football players in the weight room in the off-season, but now I regularly have 40 football players lifting in the off-season. Not only that, but I have football players asking me for additional workouts. They genuinely want to be in the weight room now.

I am not the only one noticing the difference. I regularly get emails from parents telling me how their child’s time with me has changed them for the better. Here is an excerpt of an email I received from a parent the other day, “Hi Coach Ford, I just wanted to thank you for your consistent encouragement of Ryan in lifting and beyond. You have pushed him to be a better version of himself not only in athletics, but in self-discipline. Your positive influence has made a great impact on Ryan and we are grateful.” This is the impact that a Strength and Conditioning Coach can have on not just an individual, but a team. Every high school should invest in having a Strength and Conditioning Coach because it will not only help improve their athletic teams, but it will also help improve their student body.”

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