Train to gain in-season.
I am Phil Tran, championship-winning high school football and strength coach, owner of PT Strength, and NHSSCA Maryland Coach of the Year.
I am talking about the importance of year round strength and conditioning. This is different from playing only one sport year round, which I will discuss in a future episode.
In-season strength and conditioning is often missing at many high school sport programs. There are four major reasons for this.
1. There is a prevailing myth that if you train at all during the sport season, you train to maintain, not train to gain.
2. The vast majority of high schools in the United States and Canada do not employ a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in any capacity. Thus, in-season and offseason training is left at the hands of the head sport coach, a physical education teacher, or worse, the football coach lowest on the totem pole who is expendable during film session.
Many of these coaches subscribe to the aforementioned myth regarding in-season training. Others, by necessity, prioritize game planning over strength training or exclude strength training altogether during the season because of time limitations. This is a segue to the third reason.
3. Virtually all high schools, including the ones with Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists on staff in varying capacities, lack time to schedule weight lifting during the season. Kids are in school for seven hours. Many schools I have seen outside Texas public schools do not have athletic periods during the school day where kids can lift weights with their team and accomplish other tasks related to their sport outside of practice after school.
In schools that do have weight lifting classes, there are school districts that prohibit separating the weight lifting class into an athlete-only class and a non-athlete only class because they do not want the athletes to feel superior or the non-athletes to feel inferior. Combining athletes and non-athletes into one weight lifting class is not an ideal arrangement.
Imagine being forced to teach AP kids and regular students all in one period because the administration does not want to recognize different levels of aptitude. I have experienced this classroom setting firsthand. Both male and female athletes cannot get the workout they need at the proper intensity when they are intermixed with non-athletes.
If kids are unable to lift during the school day, practice time after school will have to be cut in order to accommodate weight lifting and for 99% of sport coaches out there, this is verboten. Time is in such short supply.
4. Finally, with time constraints come space constraints. In every high school, space in the weight room is limited and teams may not be able to get on the schedule.
Schools that do not employ permanent strength staff end up having a weight room that is akin to the wild west. It is a free for all and how time and space are managed is up to the rapport and communication efforts or lack thereof between all the sport coaches. So even when you do have the time to lift, you may not have the adequate space needed to lift with efficiency and attentiveness.
Even schools that do employ Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists cannot avoid the space limitations. For example, during an after-school practice time that is cancelled due to lightning, every single outdoor sport will invade the weight room. It is a challenge for anyone to handle weight room traffic management under those circumstances.
Those are the four major reasons why in-season strength and conditioning is often missing at many high school sport programs. Let’s debunk the “train to maintain” in-season myth first.
If you want to win at the high school level, you train to gain. You don’t train to maintain. Kids are growing. Kids are young. Kids recover very fast. You need to take advantage of every opportunity to get girls and boys lifting and sprinting during their formative years of growth.
Training cannot be restricted to the offseason. In the case of the multi-sport athlete which I and many other reputable strength coaches and researchers promote, the athlete is always “in-season”. The multi-sport athlete cannot afford to “train to maintain” year-round. In-season strength training and sport performance are not diametrically opposed to one another. They go hand-in-hand to benefit the athlete.
Here is a quick, simple answer on how to craft a year round workout plan for the multi-sport athlete. Find out which sport the athlete considers as his or her number one sport. When the athlete is in-season for the number one sport, focus on developing strength and power and keep the lifting sessions short. The lower number of repetitions will not fatigue the athlete and the heavy loads will promote strength development. You can always reduce workload if the athlete is worn down late in the season and work on other tasks like core development and flexibility training. I believe many aspects of Pilates need to be incorporated into every strength training program, especially in-season to supplement powerlifting and Olympic lifting movements.
If a multi-sport athlete is a backup in other sports, this is the best time to increase the volume and intensity of in-season strength and conditioning. Make this in-season training look more like offseason training.
All told, all kids will benefit from year-round strength and conditioning.
As for the second, third, and fourth reasons why high school teams cannot get the amount of weight lifting they need during the season, talent, time, and space constraints are all interrelated. Even at the most athletically inclined and committed high schools with gleaming, state-of-the-art facilities and qualified, permanent strength staff, resources will always be limited in varying degrees.
Elite is a lifestyle. Athletes should always find ways to get the edge off campus. I succeeded as a football player and got to play and letter in college football because as a high school athlete, I was working on my craft off the clock and round the clock. Strength and conditioning outside of school hours and organized team activities allowed me to target my weaknesses for destruction and double down on my strengths. Most importantly, it gave me clarity, discipline, drive, and focus to achieve my goals.
I started PT Strength to serve two niches as a private sector coach. One niche is adult women’s fitness and we will talk about that later. The other niche is athletic performance enhancement for girls and boys of all sports ages 6-18 plus football coaching for those in this cohort who are football players. The success I achieved on and off the field thanks to strength and conditioning is the same success I want to offer to girls and boys with big dreams and equally big desire and determination to win.
If you have children who need personal training so they can improve their physical literacy, enhance their enjoyment of their sports and, if it is in the cards, get the opportunity to play at the next level, please reach out to me. I work with clients from Maryland, DC, Northern Virginia, and Southeast Pennsylvania in-person. If you are from beyond and far away, reach out to me anyway. Thanks to technology, I can consult from afar. I do have an international professional network so I might even know someone close to you I trust who can assist.
Email me at Phil@PTStrength.com. Follow me on all social media platforms at PhilTran22. Subscribe to my YouTube channel at PhilTran22 to receive my new episodes of Sport and Life first. Visit my website at PhilTran22.com for free coaching resources.
Don’t train to maintain. Train to gain. I will see you next time.