This is part 2 of a 2 part series by Coach Haycock. Make sure to check out Part 1 here https://cvasps.com/uncategorized/engaging-student-athletes-process-part-1-katlyn-haycock/

TASK #4: Be present at other team events

More often than not, the student-athletes we work with will see us in the weight room.  However, we cannot forget to attend other team activities when our schedules allow.  First and foremost, it is important to make it to competitions when able.  We need to have a vested interest in improving performance in the given domain of competition.  We should see our student-athletes compete, not only to observe what weakness we can improve upon and strengths we can fortify through lifting or conditioning, but also to demonstrate to our student-athletes we care about improving their performance as whole.  We are here to help them reach their potential in sport, with strength and conditioning practices being our tools of choice.

Team practices are also a great opportunity to get “face time” with our student-athletes and the coaches.  Culture is the foundation of any team.  In practices, we can gain a glimpse into how the coaches expect the student-athletes to conduct themselves, how the coaches interact with the student-athletes, how the athletes respond to the coaching styles, and the overall atmosphere of team training.  Practices are opportunities to speak with the coaches about current key elements they are trying to introduce or enforce into the team culture.  We can then find ways to include those into S&C sessions.  Herein lies a connection between the sport training and strength and conditioning work, making all three components come together as “training.”  When our student-athletes see the best performances come from having all the puzzle pieces together, they become more engaged in working on the individual puzzle pieces.

Additional team events where we may have opportunities to attend include team meals, games on the road, or recruiting-related activities.  Team meals tend to be more relaxed and let the student-athletes see that, yes we are, in fact, human.  We can talk about something other than squatting and sprinting.  The same goes for team travel.  Our student-athletes have the opportunity to see us in “real clothes” and have conversations with us about topics other than training.  Sometimes we also have the opportunity to meet with recruits during visits.  These recruiting trips give the current student-athletes a chance to hear things from our perspective, and it also allows any future student-athletes to have a little familiarity with us and with the weight room.  Maybe, then, freshmen year will be slightly less intimidating as they begin their initial S&C programs.

Our presence at team events outside of the weight room demonstrates that we are sincerely interested in how the teams perform outside of the weight room, that we are another member of the coaching staff as opposed to a separate, stand-alone entity, and that we do have interests that extend beyond lifting or conditioning.  We become more relatable to the student-athlete with the hopes this will transfer to buy-in and greater engagement from the student-athlete.

TASK #5: Include and educate the student-athletes

When working with the student-athletes, we need to remember two important things: 1) The student-athlete is the one completing the sessions we program, and 2) every student-athlete will respond differently to a training plan.  Educating and including the student-athlete (beyond just proper technique for performing the exercises) by explaining the specific goals for a training cycle and asking for feedback regarding the program is helpful to us as coaches, and it also motivates the student-athletes to more intensely engage in their training and take ownership of their training.  Further engaging the student-athletes in a training session may reveal some unanticipated responses to our program designs, and will open the door for greater communication with the student-athletes, while also increasing their awareness of how training impacts performance.

Once we have their feedback, we must make sure to acknowledge that we have heard and understand what the student-athletes said, and that we are actively seeking ways to incorporate their feedback when appropriate.  Is there something a number of the student-athletes thought was not beneficial or even detrimental to performance?  Do they have suggestions of how modifying an exercise may make it more applicable to their sport?  Do the student-athletes notice that they are working a specific muscle group in practice that is not covered in the weight room?  Do they feel certain exercises have more carry-over?  These are all questions we can use to pull some feedback from our student-athletes. \

As coaches, part of our job is educating these student-athletes, but we cannot forget that some of the most impactful lessons are those discovered by the student-athletes themselves.  We can promote this through posing certain questions that have the student-athletes monitor personal progress, and have them report findings back to us.  Do they feel they have put in 100% during this training cycle?  In which areas have they seen the greatest improvements?  What areas of weakness could they work to strengthen?  Do they feel they could have performed better had they more fully committed to training?  In asking questions like this, we can help the student-athletes to be accountable to themselves and teammates.

While sometimes it may be difficult as coaches to hear corrections or suggestions from our student-athletes, remember we can always be better.  If that means making an alteration based on feedback from a student-athlete, perhaps due to an unintentional oversight on our part, we need to consider it a learning opportunity.  At the end of the day, our goal is to provide the best possible training program and coaching to our student-athletes.  No one wins if we let ego infringe upon our goal.

TASK #6: Continue to cultivate the team culture in the weight room

The weight room is an excellent venue to work on growing and enforcing the team culture.  Before the season begins, we can meet with the sport coaches and learn what the team has defined for goals in the upcoming season and what expectations the coaches have set for the student-athletes.  We should discuss with the coaches how they are implementing practices and what they are going to be emphasizing during the practices.  Once we know these things and have a more in-depth view of how the team operates, we will be able to incorporate certain aspects into our lifting and conditioning sessions.

Additionally, we can meet with the team captains and hear what their visions and expectations for the team are that season.  We can work with them to show we are here to help and that we want to hear from the players, not just the coaches.  This is another way to engage the student-athletes and have them take ownership over their training.  When the team comes to the weight room or heads to the field for a conditioning session, we want them to be excited to train.  We want to create a positive training environment where the student-athletes can build self-confidence and also have confidence in the training plans the coaches have designed to help them achieve their goals.

Gathering this information helps us to understand what the team is working towards, and presents a consistent message to the student-athletes.  They hear the same phrases and directives in practice as they do in the weight room, making the components of training cohesive as opposed to separate entities.   We want the student-athletes to view strength and conditioning (if they do not already) as another necessary component of training.  The more we can incorporate the team culture into our programming and educate the student-athletes, the more the student-athletes, and the sport coaches, will trust we are working to design and coach the best program to meet their needs for improving performance.

CONCLUSION:

These six tasks are a great starting point we can use to engage our student-athletes in the training process.  There is purposely an overlap between the various steps, which serves to create a cohesive training environment, bringing together training in the weight room with the sport training. While these are not the only methods, they can help us to build a solid foundation with our student-athletes.  As we get to further know our student-athletes and understand what inspires and motivates them, we will be able to develop our own methods to more fully engage them in training.  Some of the greatest moments as a coach are when we have our student-athletes buy-in to our strength and conditioning program, immerse themselves fully in the plan, and ultimately see them improve performance and continually excel as all the puzzle pieces come together.

Who is Katlyn Haycock?

KH MichiganKatlyn Haycock joined the University of Michigan Olympic Sports Strength and Conditioning team as a graduate assistant in August 2011 and currently serves as a strength and conditioning coach for Olympic Sports. She is responsible for program design and implementation for men’s and women’s swimming and diving, field hockey, and women’s soccer. In her time working at the University of Michigan, the women’s soccer team has made three NCAA Tournament appearances, while the Field Hockey team made a Final Four appearance following their regular-season and tournament conference championships in 2017. The men’s swimming and diving team has been five-time Big Ten champions (2012, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16) and NCAA champion (2013), along with the women’s swimming and diving team, who has been back-to-back -to-backBig Ten champions (2016-1 8). Additionally, Coach Haycock has been the S&C coach for Club Wolverine Elite since the winter of 2011 and designs the dryland training plans for the Club Wolverine age-group swim club. Prior to joining the Michigan staff, Coach Haycock worked as an undergraduate assistant with Syracuse University Strength and Conditioning (Olympic Sports), assisting with the women’s tennis, lacrosse, soccer and ice hockey teams. She also completed internships with EXOS (formerly Athletes’ Performance) and Etcheberry Sports Performance. Along with coaching, Coach Haycock is a contributor to the Volt Athletics Blog, and has presented on Off-Season Training for Women’s Soccer, and been a co-presenter for Gearing Up for Game Day: Game Day Conditioning, Fueling & Hydration and Hands-On Training for Agility. Follow her on social media here: Twitter: @KatlynHaycock and @umichstrength; Facebook: Michigan Olympic Sports Strength & Conditioning

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