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Why your sports program may be dying

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It’s the beginning of the HS spring sports season and that means my inbox is filling up with emails from parents and athletes already frustrated with the workouts their coaches are running.

As I’ve watched the youth sports coaching industry (from a global standpoint) evolve over the past half decade, I’ve noticed parents and athletes are far less patient with bad coaching.

Today, sports are so competitive that athletes can’t afford to waste their time following the type of coaches who have their athletes do, for example, fly 40s, during the first week of practice.

Such coaches (and they are the majority) immediately lose any credibility they may have been trying to gain.

This just means our athletes suffer. And if we’re not interested in doing what is best for our athletes, we find ourselves in a morally ambiguous situation.

But, at the very least, we’re infecting our programs with the disease of reduced performance, injury, lack of commitment and general disinterest.

Kids simply don’t want to be a part of those types of programs or compete for these types of coaches.

Why? Beyond the obvious reasons (it’s not fun) parents and athletes have less patience with bad coaching because of:

1. The Internet

In 2010, qualified coaches, parents and athletes can go online and find out what successful coaches are doing.

Once they acquire this new information, they’re going to compare it to what their coaches or their kids’ coaches are actually doing.

So when these athletes have to go to a practice run by a coach who hasn’t learned anything new since the 1990s, if ever, they find themselves in a situation where they are better coaches than the adults in charge.

No athlete wants to be a part of a program like that.

No parent wants their kid to be a part of a program like that.

So the kids lose interest in that sport, lose interest in the program being run at the high school level, specialize in one sport, flee to club/AAU programs or seek out…

2. Individualized coaching

Some outdated coaches and athletic departments still endorse the ‘3 sport athlete’ model and believe this is the most effective method for building a better overall athlete and athletic program.

This would be true if athletic departments were run like businesses following a ‘Capitalist’ or ‘Free Market’ model where success and results are rewarded.

But high school sports instead follow a ‘Socialist’ or ‘Forced Parity’ model where the prevailing philosophy is:

‘We can’t let a kid quit soccer to play volleyball. That might help the volleyball team but it hurts the soccer team.’

The athletic department is saying, in essence:

‘The soccer team is too big to fail. So we’ll bail the team out instead of letting it go out of business due to a bad business model.’

Such a philosophy is why the ‘3 sport athlete’ model only works on paper.

Just not in the real world.


Most coaches in most sports at the high school level aren’t doing any athletic development.

All they do is practice their sport.

If you’re not in the weight room all season, running a Short to Long speed development program, doing a fully dynamic warm up, engaging in technical feedback with all technical skills, running timed intervals based on event/position and doing athlete specific energy system development as part of your training above and beyond running plays and schemes, then you’re not developing athletes and the ‘3 sport athlete’ model is simply a regurgitation of the status quo long abandoned by progressive coaches and programs.

The world is a far bigger place than the town you live in.

This is why my athletes volunteer to quit their other sports to train with me another season. Because when they compare the type of training and results they’re getting with me against the…stuff… they’re doing in their other sports, well, they want to quit their other sports because it now feels like a waste of time.

But I’m not their only option.

Here in 2010, athletes don’t have to listen to us. And there are often other options than their high school sports.

Athletes know whether or not their coaches are competent.

If we’re not continually improving and, at the very least, keeping our training in line with the approaches easily found with a 10 second Google search, than our athletes are simply going to hire a personal trainer, go to a sports performance facility or specialize in the sport where they’re getting the best coaching.

Your local high school athletic program may run on a Socialist model, but out in the real world, people are competing for your athletes under the Free Market model. This means athletes are going to go where they are getting the best opportunities and coaching. If that’s not you, it’s going to be someone. Coaches who live in the fantasy world where athletes are just going to show up to our programs, en masse, out of town pride are, well, living in a fantasy world.

But they’re not living in 2010.

When athletes ask me ‘Why?’ they’re running a particular workout I have one of two options.

1. Give them a good ‘Reason Why’ so they have faith in my coaching and want to give me their best effort.

2. Say ‘Because I said so’ (or some variation) because I don’t actually know the answer (and athletes know you don’t know) then give them a dirty look for having the audacity to question my authority.

(Know any coaches like that????)

It’ll get me out of answering the question, but kids are going to hate playing for me. Or they’ll just hate me in general.

(If you’re OK with an average program, then keep doing the same things you’ve always done.)

But, as coaches, if we want run a successful program, provide a positive atmosphere for our athletes and keep them from defecting to a better coach running a better program (which may be outside of our school entirely), we have to put as much effort into our coaching knowledge as we expect our athletes to put into practicing and competing.

Otherwise, we may find ourselves immersed in a dying program.

And the only way to save a dying program is to cut out the disease.

Think about it.


Resources I recommend:

Complete Speed Training


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