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FEBRUARY 2022 NEWSLETTER


In This Issue:

 


INSTALLATION SPOTLIGHT:

ST. CROIX FALLS HIGH SCHOOL, WISCONSIN


Located on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border right along the St. Croix River, St. Croix Falls High School may be small, but it makes a big impact on its student body and its community. The school, currently at about 330 students, was ranked the ninth-best school in Wisconsin by U.S. News in 2012.


Like almost any other high school, St. Croix Falls prides itself on its athletic program and values the health and fitness of its student body. On top of their athletic training programs, St. Croix Falls also has weight training classes during the day, so strength and conditioning is an important component of their curriculum.

Head Coach Grant Belisle

Their weight room, however, was lacking. “It was getting outdated and, due to the number of kids going through there, we just needed a space that was bigger and safer,” Head Coach Grant Belisle said.


While attending a clinic at a high school, Coach Belisle and team looked at the hosting school’s weight room and wondered why they couldn’t have equipment and a layout as nice as what they saw.


“We’re just large enough that we have to compete against schools—in some sports—that are twice our size,” Coach Belisle said. “When you look at the weight rooms of schools that are twice our size—that’s what you’re competing against.”


At first, the coaching staff merely started dreaming about what a new weight room would be like. Some time later, their school went to referendum and their dreams became a line-item on it. The community believed it important enough and suddenly St. Croix Falls was approved to build a new weight room.


The high school was fortunate to have a 5,000-square-foot space available to install a new weight room. They wanted to make sure they chose the right equipment and layout to best serve their student body. “And that’s where you guys came in,” Coach Belisle said about Dynamic Fitness & Strength.

Midwest Territory Manager Coach Joe LaBuda

Dynamic was Coach Belisle’s first choice as a manufacturer. He had spoken before with Coach Joe LaBuda, the Midwest territory manager, and was familiar with Dynamic’s equipment. “To me, it was a no-brainer.” The rest of the coaching staff, however, needed convincing. They all made a trip to the Dynamic Fitness & Strength facilities in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.


“Once we went on the visit to Dynamic,” Coach Belisle said, “everybody was sold. It was done. They all knew what company we should go with.”


The coaching staff visited several other Dynamic Fitness & Strength weight rooms to get ideas about what their weight room should be. One aspect of the layout that was critical to them was visibility. They wanted to make sure they could have eyes on their students at all times.

Working with Dynamic’s team, they went through multiple layout revisions. The advanced 3D renders were a tremendous help to the St. Croix Falls staff getting the best visual of how the equipment would lay out and how they should proceed. Not surprising, everyone from the athletic directors and school board to the superintendents and maintenance crew had a say in how the weight room would be designed. Coach Belisle said that the communication, continual updates and revised renders from the Dynamic team really helped keep essential staff at St. Croix Falls High School informed and the project moving forward.


“The whole customer service end of it,” Coach Belisle said, “some of the things your company has done for us that I’m assuming most weight room companies don’t do—it’s been amazing.”


The coaching team had a lot of expertise to rely on while planning the weight room. One of the physical education teachers—who also happens to be the baseball coach and assistant football and basketball coach—has a degree in strength conditioning and coached at several universities before coming to St. Croix Falls. Additionally, one of the school board members used to run a gym and is passionate about school athletics.

In the end, with Dynamic’s help, they created the ultimate weight room for their program—a room that can stand up to almost any other high school, let alone ones their size. Sixteen racks with built-in Annex storage comprise the main area, with 5 of those including lat/low row attachments and two others with functional trainer attachments. Additionally, their room has 5 inverse leg curls, two belt squats, a leg extension, a prone leg curl, a head and neck isolator, a bi-lateral low row and eight cardio machines.


“To have that equipment available to them is really important,” Coach Belisle said, explaining how they can offer alternative rehabilitative training options for injured athletes. For example, “if someone has a shoulder injury, those belt squats are amazing.”

He added that a lot of the faculty make use of the cardio equipment, as well as members of the wresting team.


Coach Belisle said that the installation went smooth. “The whole setup—the install—was done in a day. The flooring people you work with are amazing.”


The end result is a stunning space that easily accommodates their student body and athletic programs and gives them a full range of training opportunities—all in a safe environment that blazes with the pride of the St. Croix Falls Saints.

Coach Belisle said, “We have the logos on everything, from our bars to our weights to our benches to our racks to our floor to our turf to our wall. It’s awesome.”


The wall really is amazing and finishes the room in a dramatic and unique presentation. During the planning, they had known there would be a significant amount of wall space they would need to fill. The St. Croix Falls staff investigated a lot of different ideas until they came up with one everybody liked. Coach Belisle recalled, “I ran it by Joe (LaBuda) and said, ‘Joe, is this something you guys could do?’ He said, ‘Let me run it by our guys.’”

The result is an amazing 3-dimensional steel logo commanding the room across the far wall.


What was the reaction of the students when they first saw the weight room? “Oh, they couldn’t believe it. They just couldn’t believe that they got to work out in there.” And that reaction hasn’t died down yet.


“The weight room has been unbelievable,” Coach Belisle said. “I couldn’t even dream up a better thing for us when it comes to the whole fit and finish of it, the process from ordering to the install to the usability. It’s been amazing.”



 

NHSSCA COACHING RECOGNITION

REGIONAL COACHES OF THE YEAR ANNOUNCED


On February 1, 2022, the National High School Strength Coaches Association (NHSSCA) announced its 8 Regional Coaches of the Year for 2022. The NHSSCA awards this annually to high school strength and conditioning coaches in recognition for coaching achievements and passion for the profession. Nominations are submitted by members during the month of September via www.nhssca.us . Selections are made from among the top coaches across the eight regions of the NHSSCA.

REGION 1: Coach Brandon Herring Hewitt-Trussville High School, AL


REGION 2: Coach Alan Abel

Crawford High School, TX


REGION 3: Coach Skyler Miller

Hurricane High School, UT


REGION 4: Coach Jay Nacionales Jesuit High School, CA


REGION 5: Coach Josh Bravo

Kuna High School, ID


REGION 6: Coach Amber Curson

Lexington High School, NE


REGION 7: Coach Mike Crissinger

Perry High School, OH


REGION 8: Coach Marty Klingelhofer

The Landon School, MD


 

FEATURED ARTICLE

FIVE TIPS TO ENHANCE COACH-ATHLETE COMMUNICATION

By Guest Contributor: Brett Bartholomew

Performance Coach, Author & Keynote Speaker



Coaching is teaching. And one’s level of effectiveness in teaching is not evaluated solely by what they (the instructor) know, but rather by what their students understand.


Successful behavioral interventions are anchored via successful social interactions. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. While the mantra may be straightforward, the reality is that communication and human behavior is a complex subject. If this were NOT the case, we wouldn’t have researchers in the space of behavioral economics and/or psychology who are awarded the Nobel Prize. It just doesn’t seem as important to many of us as strength and conditioning coaches because the topic has not been a focal one in our industry.

You see, we have been focused on trying to optimize human movement (and rightfully so), but we have forgotten to also emphasize human behavior.


We do still actually coach people, right?


In general, people are puzzles of needs, wants, drives and insecurities. It’s our job as coaches to find or even be that missing piece for them. And in doing so, we can gain their trust and respect all while augmenting engagement and effort which will only help our training programs become more effective in the long-run. This is not manipulation; it is adaptation! Personalized coaching strategies are the most direct way towards driving the behavioral interventions that we need to take place, so our athletes have a better chance at reaching their goals.


Below are some quick and easy-to-use tips that you should abide by whenever you are leading a session. They may seem obvious, but common sense is not common practice, and learning how to communicate in a versatile manner requires just as much fine-tuning as any other aspect of our craft.


1. Listen!

This is by far one of the most neglected communication strategies in the world — which is why a lack of it has contributed to everything from failed relationships, to people losing their jobs, to major catastrophes throughout human history. Sound a bit dramatic? Good, because the ill-effects of not being willing to close your mouth and open your ears are parallel to you as a strength coach writing a program without being aware that an athlete under your care has sickle-cell trait or cardiac issue.


That means flexible communication is a must. Besides, everything we do as coaches is a screen of some sort, which should provide us with data (both objective and subjective) that we can use to enhance the quality of care we provide to our athletes. We spend so much time learning about the history of an athlete’s body, but far too little time learning about their mind. You may be the training expert, but only they know what it is like to be them. You will also learn far more from them than you think.


I know that Stephen Covey quotes have been worn out, but there is a reason for that. Perhaps one of his most powerful phrases is, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” There is often no guiltier culprit than the strength coach as they often feel rushed due to the time and logistical constraints placed upon them while working with large groups or in general. Ask strong, open-ended questions, listen to the answers and write them down or record them just like you would data in a performance profile. Drawing upon this information will help you out in more ways than you think.


2. Speak Their Language

Great coaching is about figuring out an athlete’s purpose and matching it with an evidence-based process. To do this, build off of what your athletes tell you and relate everything you do back to their goals and specific drives. Ask yourself: what do they say they care about most? Why does that matter to them? Learning how to do this efficiently and effectively takes more practice than some care to admit. It is, however, especially effective since you are showing athletes that you are attuned to their goals and have an understanding of what matters most to them.

When you speak their language, you scale your message by essentially “talking in color” and painting a vivid picture in their own mind’s eye. This is what leads to increased efficiency while you are on the floor coaching or when you are reviewing their performance results from a previous phase and getting ready to set new goals. It will also help them learn since the information is “stickier” and more personal, which both saves you time as a coach and adds greater significance to the very task you are trying to get them to perform.


3. Know Their Sport

As a strength coach, you should be doing this anyway, since the unique demands of their sport are in part what will influence the training programs that you write as well as some of the skills that you teach. However, even if you do understand the biomechanical and physiological aspects of the sport, there are still various cultural and psychosocial aspects to consider. Every sport has its own unique “cultural” aspects that can affect player personality as well as their perception of what constitutes success. This is where a better understanding of human nature becomes even more critical.


Going back the previous tip, it is hard to “speak a language” if you don’t understand the geography of its origins. This metaphor has real meaning since aspects of their upbringing will also influence how they behave in groups, especially as it pertains to working with individual sport athletes vs. team sport athletes. Just as you need to be aware of the myriad of variables that can throw off the success of your training program (poor diet, time constraints, sleep issues etc), you need to keep a keen eye on the “not so obvious” elements of performance which can often be neglected in favor of the typical or more focal aspects of what we do.


4. Be Transparent and a Bit Vulnerable

This can be an uncomfortable one for many, but all I am saying here is that building trust is not a one-way street. You cannot expect to be able to bombard your athletes with both questions and information and expect them to never ask you questions in return, or for you to have to volunteer some information about yourself as well. Not doing so leads to a parasocial relationship, which is the antithesis of what you want when aiming to become a more effective coach. A true professional always welcomes mutual inquiry.


By its definition, coaching is a social process; coaches are at the epicenter of it. It was the researcher Pierre Bourdieu who in 1997 first ascertained that the coaching process (as well as coaching practice in general) is to be considered a form of “regulated improvisation.” In his 1996 text, Sociological Theory, Dr. George Ritzer observed that effective practice is neither entirely objectively determined nor the unbridled product of free will. Yes, you heard that right: it is an imperfect practice that can only be refined by your willingness to get your hands dirty and enhance your social skills as well as your technical skills.


5. Alter Your Perspective

It is not uncommon for strength coaches to be viewed by their athletes as someone who “doesn’t get it.” Not every athlete likes lifting weights or various other forms of physical training and can often view the performance side of things as just another task to “check off” so they can get back to playing their sport or living their life. You don’t have to agree with this point of view, but you need to be cognizant of it if you are going to have any hope of reaching your athletes on a truly meaningful and influential level.


One of my favorite movies that I used to watch with my father growing up was “Trading Places,” which starred Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy. In the movie, Ackroyd played a wealthy commodity broker and Murphy was a broke hustler always looking for his next con. Through both an odd and humorous turn of events, the two ended up switching places and throughout the rest of movie eventually learned the error in regard to their previous biases and behavior. The movie ended with the both of them in a far better place than either were in the beginning, imbued with a renewed sense of perspective, compassion and wisdom.


I bring this up because right now it seems like one of the biggest things that coaches like to incessantly complain about is “millennials” and how they behave/interact. I get it, but at the same time, it’s my opinion that grumbling about how it’s hard to coach someone from a different generation is akin to whining that you can’t write a good program because you don’t have enough equipment. Be creative, get outside of yourself and find a way.

 

Reposted with permission. Find the original article and many more on Brett's blog page: https://brettbartholomew.net/bretts-blog/





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