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Wanted: Competent High School Strength Coach

I was out at the high school track this afternoon running some sprints (just having fun and working on technique. Not training for anything particular), when a high school coach came out with one of his female athletes to do some track work.

I understand the situation that schools are in. They have a limited budget to devote to athletics and a lot of high school teachers played sports when they were younger, and some even played on the collegiate level, so naturally it is easier to just hire from within and let the teachers coach the athletes. The problem with this is that the teachers, while they may have been good athletes, have a very little understanding of how to coach the sport and how to properly progress and teach the athletes.

What I watched made my head want to explode. This girl warmed up and then began working on her starts. Now, I am not a great track and field coach by any stretch of the imagination, I do love the sport and I am striving to get better as I would like to coach more sprinters in the future, but I can see common flaws in running technique. This girl was terribly slow off the start and some of it was do to the way she positioned herself. She had very little leg strength, as she had no push off the ground, not just at the start but, through the entire run. Her knees would buckle in with each step and she had a very slow stride rate. It was like the track was covered with flypaper and she just stuck to it with each step. Gravity was defeating this poor girl. Her arms were coming across her body and she held an incredible amount of tension in her hands. She also ran with a pretty good anterior tilt and her torso sort of swayed back behind her center of gravity.

Now, I am trying to put this girl down at all, she was working very hard and really seemed like she wanted to improve. The reason I am stating all of this is because the coach chose to fix none of it! He didn’t comment on any of the technique flaws. After each start, all he would say is “Gotta be faster off the start. Move your legs quicker.” I don’t get how that is supposed to help anyone? There are reasons that she is not able to move faster!

After working on starts for a while they moved on to a maximum effort 400m run to end the workout. The coach took out his digital camera to get the action on tape. It was unreal. She started out running like mad and by the final 100m straight, she had absolutely no kick. I honestly thought she was going to not be able to finish. And, if her form wasn’t bad at the start of the run, by that final 100m, it was horrendous! The coach seemed pleased with the video however. He just said, “good job. Just need to get faster.” Seriously, if that is the only thing that he picked up from that video, he should be shot.

After that final 400m, the girl also commented that her ankle hurt, to which the coach replied, “Well, you have tendonitis, that’s all. Just have to walk it off. That is all you can do.” That last bit put me over the edge. Seriously, and this guy is in charge of people’s kids every day? That is horrible. What bad advice.

The problem is that things like this go on all the time. I would say that most coaches at the high school level have very little understanding of what is going on as far as coaching the sport and more importantly, how to effectively develop the athletes and their strength and conditioning program. I would love to see a day when competent strength and conditioning coaches are hired by schools to handle these issues and help to develop these young athletes. Who knows, we may have a lot better athletes and a lot less injuries if that actually happened.

If you are in the Phoenix area and looking for great coaching in the sport of track and field or cross country, I support the AZtech training team 100%. The coaching staff have years of experience and Head Coach/Exercise Physiologist Bill Strachan is one of the most knowledgeable people in the sport that I have ever met.


Why don't you approach these problems head on? I am not saying be brash about it.

Educate the runner and coach a little in a short conversation. After all you line of business is about networking, as frustrating as it can be seeing that.

That is a great question.

It can be difficult to approach people for a couple reasons:

1) Ego's run strong. It is like trying to tell a guy at the gym that his squat form isn't that great or that you see him doing his workouts and you feel that they aren't effective/efficient. It can be really tough to hear that from someone that you don't know and it can (and will) bruise your ego a bit. Coaches that are working with the athletes don't want to have some unknown guy (like me) walk up and try and make suggestions.

2) Not only do the coaches have ego's and want to believe that what they are doing is the absolute best ever, but the athlete's do not want to believe that their coaches don't know what they are talking about. At a gym I was working out at for awhile, there was a high school football coach who would bring his players in to train. They would do some of the most ridiculous (and dangerous) things I had ever seen. The program was awful. It was so hard to look at that it would actually ruin my own workout! I tried to comment to some of the kids about their workout or their form, but they would defend their coach to the death! Afterall, he is their coach and he did play college football. Nevermind the fact that he understands nothing about strength and conditioning or anatomy/phsiology. That is just the way kids are.

All I can do is (a) present information for others in via my blog in the hopes that they can learn something, question what they are doing now, and develop better programs and (b) do the best I can with the athletes that I have.

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