The Role of a High School Strength Coach

When one of my athletes, Cade Carney was a freshman at Wake Forest University, I received the most rewarding phone call that a strength and conditioning coach can receive.  Cade Carney is a running back at Wake Forest University.  During his freshman year his team tested the bench press, back squat, clean, vertical leap, and 40-yard dash.  Evidently Cade tested really well, and his father called to thank me for the work that I did with him during his high school career.  One of the big markers was that he bench-pressed 405lb.  Benching four plates is a big deal as a freshman running back.  He also clean 370lb, runs a 4.4 second 40-yard dash, and has a 40-inch vertical.

Those big numbers are not what this article is about though.  I just added that because I am proud of this young man.  His father went on to say that the coaches are singing Cade praises because of his technique.  His technique in the clean and squat are already the best on the team.  That is exactly what I want to hear from the college strength coaches.  I want to hear that my athletes have great technique, are easily coached, and have the best attitude on the team.  That’s what you should want to hear as well if you are a high school strength and conditioning coach. We’ve had four of the strength coaches at Wake Forest come and visit to see what we do with our athletes. That’s just a huge honor man!

When I coach a high school athlete, I have certain goals that I want to accomplish with them during our time together.  At this point in my career, I only work with athletes that have the desire and the potential to play college athletics.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy working with athletes from a variety of athletic abilities.  It’s simply that I am limited on time. However we have several amazing coaches that coach everyone else from athletes to simply kids wanting to get in shape. With the lack of physical education in public schools, we need more fitness classes for children than anything really.

Here’s the point that I want to get across to all of you high school coaches out there. If you are a high school strength coach, you should have a list of markers for your athletes as well.  Don’t be the coach that just beats the crap out of athletes on a daily basis.  What are you accomplishing with them?  That’s the question to ask. Whatever markers you set should be easily quantified.  Here is a look at the markers that I set for my athletes. 

1.  I want their technique on lifts and athletic movement to be perfect.  Perfect technique ensures two things.  It ensures that they are performing the movements safely.  It also ensures that they are getting the most out of the movements.  Proper technique and movement of a clean will produce the most power.  That’s the point of performing the clean. A clean performed poorly is simply a waste of time and dangerous at best.

The goal should be to send the athlete to their college strength coach with perfect technique.  The job of the college strength coach should be easy with all of your athletes.  You want your athlete so proficient that they are helping with their classmates.  I want deep squats, flat backs, proper knee traction, and stable trunks.  Proper technique sets the athlete up to be able to improve the most during their time with you and during college.  The athlete that improves the most over time will eventually be the best athlete.

2.  There are certain strength and speed markers that I am looking to hit for the various sports.  Let’s take Cade for example.  We wanted a back squat between 2 and 2.5 times his body weight.  We wanted a clean between 1.75 and 2 times bodyweight.  We wanted at least a 4.5 second 40-yard dash, and a 40” vertical leap.  These are just a few of the markers, but we more than hit all of them.  His recent 405lb bench press was way more than I ever imagined that he would hit as a freshman. 

3.   I want these athletes leaving me with amazing goal setting abilities.  You don’t want to do the goal setting for them.  That’s a big mistake.  They are not always going to be with you.  Your job is to teach them to excel without you whether it’s on the football field or in life.  Strength and conditioning coaches have a big responsibility.  We are a lot more than coaches teaching athletes how to clean.  We are preparing them for life.

4.  We have to build their mindset.  Cade is my poster child in this area.  He has no doubt that not only does he belong in Division I football, but he also has no doubt that he will dominate.  A lot of athletes have a tough time believing that they belong is high-level athletics.  They simply lack confidence.  They have a poor paradigm or view of reality. 

One’s view of reality is simply a bunch of lies that they have formed in their head.  Those lies come from family members and friends.  The strength coach’s job is to erase those lies.  On a daily basis Cade and I would talk about the next step.  We would talk about him starting as a freshman and breaking records.  The more that you talk about positive things like that will result in the athletes starting to believe it.  All of a sudden those negative thoughts are replaced with positive ideas.

5.  We have to prepare the athlete for what to expect at the next level.  At this point it helps to have been there, but it’s not absolutely required.  I let them know that they are going to be thrown into the ring with athletes just like them.  At the Division I level all the athletes have been all-state, all-American, and all-world.  No one cares about what they did.  Everyone is simply interested in what they are about to do.

The athletes that come to college with the mindset that they are going to start are the ones that at least play right away.  Some athletes simply can’t grasp the thought of coming in and being the best on a big Division I college team.  The ones that simply aren’t impressed by the upper-classmen or intimidated are the ones that come right in and asserts their will on the field.  The ones that are intimidated take a year or two to adjust to the environment of college.  The strength coach’s job is to prepare them for this moment.

6. What if your athlete is going to college to play a sport? For most of these kids we are their introduction into health and fitness. We have the ability to change lives y’all. If we make the weight room an awesome experience, there is a much bigger chance that the kids will go on to workout when they are adults. Obesity is an epidemic, and it’s killing people. We are the first line of defense, and we need to start acting like it.

This is the job of a high school strength coach.  It’s a big job.  If you are just taking money from parents and running kids through a circuit, then you are stealing money.  It takes time on your part to prepare these young men and women.  Your goal should be to get the phone call letting you know that you prepared your athlete perfectly for their college sport.  I am excited to watch Cade and the rest of my amazing athletes play again next fall.  I will get to watch the fruit of my labor march up and down that field. Oh yeah by the way, Cade rushed for over 1,000 yards last year. Yeah that made me happy!

If you’re an athlete or you’re a parent of an athlete near us in Lewisville, NC, come check us out for a Free Week. Simply email us at:

Check out our clinic that we are hosting at our facility in Lewisville, NC Saturday February 9th with NFL Fullback, Tommy Bohanon and Coach Travis Mash. You can read all the details here:

Tommy Bohanon and Coach Mash Clinic

Coach Travis Mash