By: Eric McGinnis, CSCSSports Performance Specialist, Rollins College Strength CoachSpectrum Sports Performance

This is my first season working full-time for Spectrum Sports Performance. I’m currently assisting SSP President Will Hitzelberger with our athletic teams at Rollins College. I’m particularly excited about working in college athletics because my college strength coaches were a huge inspiration to me. The neat thing about being new to different avenues of training is that all of the lessons I’m learning are still fresh on my mind. I recently completed a season working in pro baseball with the Detroit Tigers before accepting this position training at Rollins College. Given the recent switch from training professional athletes to college athletes, I thought it would be appropriate for me to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned since starting my first season working with college sports teams.

1) It’s bigger than what is on the paper

Here is something I wasn’t taught in school: Environment is everything. Creating a positive and intense training environment for your athletes is obviously important regardless of whether you’re working with a college team or with a high school athlete in a one-on-one setting. However, when you’re working with an entire team, I believe that as coaches we have more of a responsibility to create an atmosphere that breeds success. You can write the most brilliant training program in history but it is meaningless if your athletes are not motivated and focused. College coaching is more than simply making our athletes physically fit. We also have the opportunity to teach things like discipline, attention to detail, accountability, and responsibility. Hitzelberger has shown me the importance of fostering this kind of environment. Sometimes it might be more beneficial to completely scrap your original workout plan in favor of teaching your athletes a more important lesson. If a positive working environment is lacking, then you won’t get the most out of your workouts, so focus on the atmosphere before worrying about what’s on the paper.

2) There is more than one way to skin a cat

If you compared individuals who were the best at their particular craft, you would find that there is more than one way to accomplish the same task. In coaching this is also the case. What is more important than the task is that the end result is understood and there is clear communication between the coach and the team. I’ve learned that it’s okay that Hitzelberger and I have different approaches when training teams at Rollins. However, our expectations of the teams we train are identical and we have clear and flexible plans aimed at reaching those goals. The way in which coaches program, discipline, motivate, and communicate with their athletes can all be different yet all be successful. When training college athletes what’s important is that we maintain high expectations and are flexible enough to make adjustments to our approach if necessary.

3) Everyone is different and so is every team

This ties in with “more than one way to skin a cat.” You wouldn’t treat every athlete you work with the same and you shouldn’t treat every team you work with the same. Every team we train at Rollins is unique in some way. A team’s personality can be a reflection of its sport coaches, captains, upperclassmen, as well as the culture of its respective sport. We have teams that respond well to a strict and controlled training environment where the coach’s voice is the only thing heard, while others do best with a little more freedom. Communication can be different as well. Sometimes punishment is the only way to get your point across to a team, whereas we also have teams that have a much greater understanding when you have a serious talk with them. As I stated in the previous lesson, you might use a variety of ways to communicate with your teams, but what’s important is that you are getting your point across.

4) Working harder can work against you

The importance of hard work is clear and I’m one of its biggest advocates. However, recently I’ve seen time and time again how athletes can work against themselves when they are so eager to make things difficult that they are unwilling to slow down and do things correctly. Those who are willing to stop and learn how and why we do things a certain way will see the greatest gains in the long run. I saw it with my own training in college and I continue to see it with the athletes I work with. In the weight room especially, an athlete’s ego can be his or her biggest enemy. As much I hate to generalize, I find that guys tend to have more of an issue with this than girls. Male athletes tend to feel they have something to prove when it comes to lifting weights and that can be one of the biggest roadblocks to making gains. Alwyn Cosgrove, a well-respected expert in the strength and conditioning field, once wrote, “If I made it a national rule that all guys had to use 10% less weight and perfect form – they’d get better results.” From seeing the evidence time and time again I know it to be true. In order to get the most out your athletes, communication about what we do and why we do it is crucial.

5) Integrate the training

Since college, I’ve wondered how sport coaches and strength and conditioning coaches can better integrate their training. Spectrum Sports Performance really excels when it comes to training and Hitzelberger makes this a priority over at Rollins. I’ll use the women’s lacrosse team at Rollins as an example. Hitzelberger has a close working relationship with Rollins lacrosse coach Dennis Short. Both coaches communicate effectively with what they see from the athletes and what direction they would like to go. Coach Short attends every strength and conditioning session with Hitzelberger in order to show support and help Hitzelberger make the movement training sessions specific to the team’s on field needs. Coach Short then uses similar verbal cues and instructions at lacrosse practice in order to bridge the gap between the two sessions. Equally as important, in the weight training sessions, Hitzelberger uses the his knowledge about the team and its goals in order to communicate and motivate effectively to create a successful training atmosphere.

Closing Thoughts
These are just a few lessons I have learned since starting my new position over at Rollins. I’m looking forward to many more seasons. The more I learn as a coach, the more the athletes I work with will benefit. Look for continued success over at Rollins College as we make strides with the teams we are training.

Edited by Courtney VandeStreek

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