The one event that did more for improving my skills as an athletic performance coach was my time on the football staff at a very small high school where extra funds were scarce. In small schools, there hasn’t been a time when a coach or two fantasized about the “what if” regarding that bottomless bank account that would be the “difference maker” in achieving a championship season.
Working at a small high school changed the way I approached coaching, because it made me learn to work creatively with what we had. Our campus had four things that were extremely significant in developing our athletes and didn’t cost our team a penny. These included a track, a hill, a very small grandstand and a football field. OK, I’ll be honest, I brought in some home-made wooden “plyo boxes” (they weren’t pretty to look at, and were ridiculously heavy, but they worked), a few rubber tubing configurations and some orange “hazard” cones. The weight room was stuck in the 1960s -- that’s another story for another day -- yet it too served as another example of how coaches working together can turn any environment and some creativity into a highly productive training center.
Those bleachers weren’t only a place for our home team fans to sit. The 25 steps from bottom to top did more to develop linear speed, step-over techniques, high knees, arm speed, lateral movement and complicated footwork patterns than one could even imagine. We worked those stairs endlessly as a key tool in our training curriculum. Those stairs probably did more for our athletes than any prop even the most creative inventor could design.
The hill was much more than a long mound of dirt. Its slope was at the perfect angle for developing stride length and power running uphill. The downhill run on that same piece of real estate improved their stride frequency, forcing them to place their feet down at a rate that this “custom made” prop was capable of providing.
Our rubber track was the perfect place to work on countless linear movement skills using speed ladders, cones, and low hurdles, while also providing the perfect surface when the obnoxious Northwest rains made slipping on the grass hazardous.
Last but certainly not least important was our football field -- where the boys could acclimate to their competitive home season through tempo runs, zone-cone drills, one-on-one coverage and countless other situations they would encounter on game day.
The lesson I learned that year became a lesson to our entire staff. Regardless of the plight of the “small school budget,” we all bought in by agreeing that we would make the most of what we had and rely on our creativity, cooperation, enthusiasm and unwavering respect for our head coach. That year ended with a solid championship run -- one that we will never forget. More importantly though, we found out that everything we needed was literally found right in our backyard.
Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-750-0815 and online at www.theflashpoint.org and www.victorfitnesssystems.com.