Strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches with a specialty in training youth athletes is a component within S&C that is on the rise in Canada. This includes the private sector as well as team or school-based S&C programs. Additionally, as outlined in the CSCA’s spring 2019 newsletter, high schools across our country are looking to offer S&C programs.
Physical education classes where students can train but also learn about the training process and how it can positively affect their performance in the short and long-term are also on the rise in Canada. While these classes are taught for credit and come with additional benefits of training for sport, a subsection of high school S&C has emerged in the private and independent school setting where schools are hiring dedicated S&C coaches who have little to no additional teaching responsibilities.
I began my professional S&C career as a full-time S&C coach at Upper Canada College in 2008 and at that time was one of the few in the country. At this point, I am aware of several that run across a continuum of full-time S&C to teaching roles across the nation including Scott Vass at Vancouver College, Dan Noble at The Hill Academy, John Murray at St. Andrew’s College plus many more in either a full or part-time capacity. The main thing that sticks out to me among the above mentioned is that these highly demanding positions are filled by long-standing coaches who make an impact in the lives of the student-athletes they work with. These coaches have experience at the collegiate, national team and professional levels to complement their high school experiences. Their expertise is being offered up to help develop and educate high school athletes aspiring toward higher performances in order to move on to the next level in their sporting careers.
With the growth in the area of high school S&C, I feel that it is important to lay out some foundational concepts for people to consider when screening a potential high school S&C program for your son or daughter. Additionally, this can be useful for sport coaches, administrators, and athletes when deciding what type of program could be of benefit in their situation. Fortunately, we have arrived at a time when S&C based training for high school athletes has become more widely accepted and supported by evidence. Click HERE for additional details.
Since my time in high school as an S&C provider, I have gained experience working in the collegiate, professional, and Olympic settings. Given these opportunities to learn and, most importantly, reflect, this is what I wished I had passed on to my athletes at the high school level so that when they progressed to higher levels, they could truly take advantage of the opportunities that were presented to them. It is important for high school athletes to learn foundational and lasting aspects of S&C training so that they can then build on these concepts when they get into higher performance settings such as collegiate or national team training environments. It is not uncommon for an athlete to be part of an exceptional high school S&C program and move on to the next level of sport where the support is of lesser quality or non-existent.
Additionally, it is a reality that many athletes do not participate in competitive sports beyond high school, but a form of structured exercise is still of utmost importance for their overall health and well-being. Regardless, it is important for foundational concepts learned in high school S&C to be understood and ingrained so that everyone can draw on these concepts later in life, either for performance or health.
I have folded these foundational concepts into my 3 Cs of high school S&C. I believe that if the foundation is set within these 3 concepts that it can help in the short term with improved athletic performance and can also be built upon in the future for the betterment of athletic performance or health and well-being. The concepts are broad in nature to allow adaptability for each athlete’s setting. These can work within a new S&C program as much as they will work in an established system. This is key as we should be doing our best to build upon an athlete’s training career with commonalities instead of beating down prior experience based upon differing details of sets and reps or exercise selection.
My 3 Cs of high school S&C are Consistency,Correct, and Coaching. The meanings are simple and intentionally broad. I have included some aspects that I believe fall into each category below.
– Focus on training both in the off-season and in-season (periodized to meet the needs of the student)
– If something is important, practice it regularly
– Train aspects of speed, power, strength, and endurance year-round (40+ weeks of the year)
– My guideline: 2 S&C workouts per week for 2 years straight, then worry about complexity (or not!) or increased frequency
– Important to learn things right the first time
– Perform the exercises safely, and effectively
– Read programs and how to implement them correctly
– Track workout progress and processes by using a training log with qualitative and quantitative information
– Creating a relationship with a coach and understanding each other’s roles
– Learn how to take coaching and its impact on an athlete’s constant development
– Recognize and use different types and amounts of feedback to improve training and competition
– Develop questions to ask the coach to supplement the sessions that you will not have hands-on coaching
Jordan Foley CSCS, RSCC*D, is a Strength & Conditioning Coach at the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario working with Athletics Canada. Jordan is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach with Distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Throughout his career, Jordan has worked across a multitude of sports from the high school, collegiate, national and professional levels.