The time limitations that are in place make it even more critical for the strength and conditioning coaches to get the most out of each session.
Although the primary job for strength coaches across America is to make their athletes bigger, faster, and stronger; I would argue that the greatest purpose for any strength coach is to help establish the attitude and culture of the team.
Boots on the Ground
Visibility and engagement are critical to any teaching or coaching environment. Make sure all coaches on the strength and conditioning staff, as well as the specific sports staff, are living up to the established standard for the weight room or speed work sessions. You cannot properly establish an energetic, enthusiastic, or high performing culture from your office, from a seated position on the nearest empty bench, or scrolling through your social media feeds. The student-athletes take notice, and they will follow your lead, if you want high performance, you must be the leader. Be there, be engaged, be energetic, and be consistent.
The exhausting part for any coach, educator, or leader of any kind is consistently holding people accountable. The smallest details matter just as much in the weight room or speed sessions as it will during any postseason game for any sport you coach. If you have a specific dress code, hold the student-athletes and coaches to it. Make sure you have a plan in place to publicly “remind” your athletes that being on time is a critical aspect of a winning culture. Whether a clean weight room or locker room is important to you, the act of forcing your athletes to place things back neatly in the place they found it is a powerful tool for establishing the responsibility and discipline you are looking for. It will not take long to identify who your leaders are when you call for the cleaning up at the end of a workout session.
The 10/80/10 principle is a popular leadership principle that discusses the typical breakdown of a team. This principle can help coaches and leaders with implementing strategies to improve, group, or eliminate their personnel.
Top 10%– Your elite personnel, followers of the rules, natural leaders, and very low maintenance
Middle 80%– Majority of your team, many of them are confused and need direction, role players, easily influenced, positively or negatively
Bottom 10%– These players can often be very talented, high maintenance when it comes to holding accountable to rules and policies, will often pull down some of your middle 80% Many crave and seek attention
Taking the time to identify which players fit into each category can help coaches with establishing the accountability and culture that teams need to be successful. Using the knowledge of the personnel categories, strength and conditioning coaches can facilitate healthy and productive workout groups. By pairing Top 10% athletes with the Middle 80%, there is a likelihood you can elevate the performance of the Middle 80% athletes and avoid having them slip to the bottom 10%. Avoid having bottom 10% athletes paired up with too many of your Middle 80%; they are often strong enough influencers to pull down some of the Middle 80% and now you are dealing with more issues. Firmly hold the bottom 10% to the requirements of our program and when you do see improvements in behavior or positive leadership, be sure to quietly, acknowledge and positively reinforce.
I firmly believe that capturing the hearts and minds of your athletes is a year round job and a group effort. When all of the coaching staff’s that interact with the athletes, are consistent with their goals and messaging, the chances for establishing a high performing team culture is greatly increased. Just remember coaches, it’s not what you preach; it’s what you tolerate that truly matters.
Having been exposed to a variety of leaders throughout my coaching and private sector careers; I often think back to those leaders that have had the most impact on me. One of the greatest examples of powerful leadership is Coach Danny Pearman. Coach Pearman was an assistant football coach at Virginia Tech when I was there as a player and has been the Assistant Head Coach at Clemson University since Coach Dabo Swinney took over in 2008.
I believe that many people have natural leadership ability and take great pride in the mentoring and development of other people. These are the coaches and leaders that make transformational changes in their players and employees. Striving for this-this long term type of impact can change our “job” to a mission of significance.
About Steve Canter
Our guest blogger is a man I respect very much, Steve Canter. I have known Steve since 2000 when he transferred from Concord University and became a Hokie football player. Steve’s motivation, positive attitude, work ethic and intensity caught the attention of both the Strength and Conditioning and Football Staffs here at Virginia Tech. Consequently, he served two graduate assistantship in Blacksburg, one in strength and conditioning and one with football.
Following his experiences at Virginia Tech, Steve began his “official” coaching Vita beginning as a high school football assistant, then Head Coach at Landstown High School in Virginia Beach Virginia. Coach Canter began his collegiate football coaching at Norfolk State University in 2008 and subsequently at Rhode Island University. Currently, Steve is working as a project manager for a software development company and as a professional leadership and team performance consultant, life coach and keynote speaker.
Interesting to me is the fact that Steve is now competing in ultra marathons. He has taken his competitive fire and channeled it from the football field to 50-mile races! He is a person of remarkable authenticity.
Steve’s Instagram account is @canterzone and has a live presentation posted on YouTube under Steve Canter. I encourage you to check it out.
~ Mike Gentry