Coach's Perspective: David Svoboda 2/9
By David Svoboda PrepsKC Columnist
While many top high school programs celebrated the successes of their individual athletes this past week on National Signing Day, something even more important was happening – and it was likely virtually unnoticed.
For every Nick Ramirez, Ben Johnson or Jordan Darling in the city, there were countless players – whose names we may not yet even know – working to make sure their high school teams dominate on the field this fall.
And where were they doing that work? In strength and conditioning classes and after school programs that have taken our game to heights unimagined a decade ago.
So though it’s always nice to celebrate on an early Wednesday in February, if high school games are to be won in October – or, more importantly, in November – that unnoticed work in the weight room has become absolutely pivotal.
As is usual with most things that win championships, this work is hard. There’s likely nothing harder a high school athlete will do than wake up at 5:30 on a snowy February morning, make the trek to a frigid strength and conditioning facility that has yet to “spring to life,” and deliver the kind of quality reps and sets necessary for the daily improvement all coaches – and athletes – desire.
And for a group of athletes and coaches who preach all year the importance of team and togetherness, these battles, to be sure, are individual ones – with the scoreboard consisting of a series of “PR’s” that the athlete likely tracks more closely than his Algebra homework.
Dynamic strength facilities have some common threads: coaches cross trained in technique and psychology, great equipment – some conventional, and some not-so – and a group of student-athletes hell-bent on personal improvement…and helping their lifting partners get there along the way, too.
Let’s look at each of these common threads.
The “lead dog” in most strength facilities these days is as impressive a person as you’ll find on most high school campuses. The best coaches combine years of practical training in what makes the body “work” with a brand of motivation and inspiration that’s increasingly rare in today’s society.
These men and women make it their life’s work to help others succeed – while all too often receiving little or no credit, other than intrinsically, for what they do on a daily basis.
For every Ramirez, Johnson or Darling, there’s a coach like Ross Schwisow, who worked with Johnson from BEFORE his days at Basehor-Linwood even began to right up through his Signing Day experience with the University of Kansas.
And Schwisow’s work with Johnson likely is far from over. Most strength coaches foster a climate of competition and caring in their facilities that is so rare that it attracts athletes to “come home” during off seasons, breaks, and whenever they feel in need of a “jolt.”
The equipment these coaches are having athletes use these days is an interesting mix of what you’d expect to see – dumbbells, weight plates, bars, racks and benches – with things you might not have found in high schools just a decade or so ago.
From tractor tires to mini hurdles, from resistance parachutes to med balls of all sizes and weights, the tools our athletes are working with are many and varied.
But it’s those athletes who are flooding into these facilities in greater numbers – and with more disparate backgrounds – who really make the whole thing “go.”
As any coach will tell you, it’s hard to make chicken salad out of chicken crap. It’s much easier, however, to take an athlete who has a willingness to learn and a propensity for hard work and turn him into the kind of performer who will shine on Friday nights…and all of those important “building” days in between.
Thus, it’s more important maybe than ever before that the athlete enters the facility with only one thing in mind – personal improvement. “Clearing the mechanism” is hard to do for a 35-year-old, let alone a 16-year-old who has just flunked a Biology test or had a fight with a girlfriend.
But it’s absolutely essential for the growth and development – physically and mentally – of that young athlete. And, thankfully, we’re finding the number of those young people willing to make those kinds of sacrifices increasing by the day.
Those young people – who may or may not find themselves on a Wednesday in early February, behind a table with a college banner on front and a congratulatory cake ready to be devoured nearby – are the ones who keep our programs humming along.
They’re the ones, working in the darkness before the dawn and the minutes after the day’s final bell, who make our game the special one that it is.
David Svoboda is a former high school football and baseball coach and is now a Columnist for PrepsKC.
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