Endurance as Part of Your Transition Programming
Endurance training in the high school setting is most often times left up to the sport-specific coach. However there are certain times of the year that strength coaches can benefit multiple athletes and coaches across a variety of sports. The time in which fall athletes transition into winter sports or the off-season is an excellent time for training!
Our largest group of athletes in the fall are our football players, several of which are going on to compete in a variety of winter sports. Football doesn’t require the same energy system as the majority of our winter sports, so before we begin our off-season training program, I like to put our athletes through an adaptability workout that I found on Cal Dietz’s website www.xlathlete.com.
Focus 1: Returning Athletes to Health Post-Season
The football kids are finishing up a grueling season that’s left them banged up. Consequently our top priority is to return them to health. This includes healing from injuries and decompressing from contact. Additionally, we find that often times their cardiovascular health is at far lower levels compared to their early season conditioning. Their strength is maintained as much as possible during the season. Yet in reality they are simply not as strong as they were at the beginning of the season.
Further compounding the issue, Winter coaches are always excited to get their athletes back. For good reason! They’re chomping at the bit to get them in shape for their sport which may require the development of an entirely different energy system. For these transitions I turn to Cal’s strength-endurance workout for several reasons:
- The athletes need to establish a base of fitness prior to beginning a strength and conditioning program, and the kids going on to winter sports need to get in shape.
- Their bodies aren’t healthy enough to immediately begin strength training. We have athletes of various ages and abilities in the room right now.
- This workout focuses on a limited number of exercises which allows us to emphasize technique during these exercises and movements.
- There is no load other than the bar. This puts our younger athletes at ease as there isn’t any stigma associated with lifting lighter load. At the same time this forces our older athletes to focus on baseline fitness rather than chasing heavy loads and high intensities.
- This is a very crowded time of the year in the weight room. This allows us to work a lot of athletes in stations.
Focus 2: Building an Army in the Off-Season
The football coaches often refer to this phase of the year as “building the army” as we get a lot of kids working very hard in the weight room. The basketball coaches like to see these kids working and getting into shape. They have been working with their basketball-specific athletes all fall, and know that their biggest issue with picking up the Fall sports kids is getting their level of conditioning up.
I love this workout because it allows me to oversee the athletes return to health. I love working kids hard, but as strength coaches we have to be smart enough to know that they need time to heal. This crossroad can be often times difficult for the strength coach. Fall coaches are excited to build for next year and Winter coaches are ready to kick off their season. Stuck in the middle are the athletes themselves. Some are going to train through the winter, others are going to compete through the winter. Accommodate both.
During this phase of the year we really lay the foundation of lifting whether it be in-season or off-season training. The focus is on technique and endurance, which is the foundation of our athletic performance training. You don’t want to build a nice house on a poor foundation as it will be destined to crumble. As a result we use the fall/winter sports transition as our time to build that foundation.
Johnson is a graduate of Normandale Community College, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota, playing football at both NCC and Augsburg. “RJ” teaches physical education at Wayzata High School and is the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for Wayzata Public Schools, a position he began in 2000. Wayzata Athletics have captured 52 team state titles in histenure; Johnson works directly with the three-time state champion football program as Director of Operations and Player Development. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Specialist – both certifications with Distinction and is the Minnesota NSCA State Director. NSCA awards include Minnesota High School Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year 2010; State Director of the Year 2013; Strength of America Award 2015; and 2017 National High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. In 2017 he became a founding Board Member of the National High School Strength Coaches Association (NHSSCA); and serves as a Regional Director for the organization. A former volunteer firefighter, he also received an Award of Merit from the Minnesota Department of Health and Safety for participation in a lifesaving CPR/AED effort to revive a player that suffered sudden cardiac arrest while at practice. Johnson is a frequent clinician, speaker, author and his Wayzata Trojan Power program has been visited by over 50 other high school and small college programs. He also volunteered his time in the Rockford School District where he and his wife and four children reside by serving as the Rockford Area Youth Athletic Association President and Youth Football Director.