Culture is the buzzword around football at every level these days. It’s important to create a positive culture that kids want to be a part of and immerse themselves in. This is not easy to do, and one can never stop working on it.
During the summer months and into the season your culture is manageable because you get to see your players every day. But that culture starts long before those dog days of summer. Once a season is done, regardless of the result, coaches get back to building their team for the next season. This is when the culture is really built. The weight room is the obvious choice in constructing the culture. A coach can set a tone and standard that will keep the kids excited while chiseling them into football players.
As great as the weight room is for building strength, determination and resolve, the issue with most schools is that many football players play other sports, which should be viewed as a positive. With sport specialization and select teams in other sports, no one embraces multisport athletes more than football does. As we encourage kids to play other sports, we have to come to the realization that those athletes may not be in the weight room every day as their other coaches have training plans that will keep their athletes healthy and peaking throughout the seasons for their respective sports.
So as we have a select group in the weight room every day, who become the offseason heartbeat of our program, how do we keep our multisport athletes feeling important and excited about our football culture while they are playing another sport? This is a great question and one that needs flexibility in answering. Right now basketball, wrestling and hockey teams from across the country are preparing for or are currently in their postseasons. It’s important to celebrate their other activities through your program. The following is a few ways to keep these multisport athletes connected to your team and program:
Communication: Having constant contact with the kids on a variety of topics is huge. Use the time when college coaches stop by to get them down to visit with those coaches. Talk to them about recruiting and help any of these athletes with their Hudl highlight films. During this time, help give them a blueprint for the recruiting trail. Ask them about the sport they are playing and what lies ahead of them. Talk about anything at all to let them know you care about them.
Leadership groups: Leadership groups are such an important cog in the culture of your team. Set them early in the offseason and meet with them regularly. Have a coach assigned to each leadership group and use this time to get to know these kids outside of football. On a bigger stage, we hold a leadership lunch every Monday, where the kids bring their lunch to a large room and there is a leadership talk that is interactive with the young competitors. As we raise these young people into great adults, we will cherish the relationships built and will develop the culture we are striving for as we go.
Bonding activities: This can be anything. Our small town has its perks such as a movie theater, small enough to rent out and show a movie to just our football team. We pick a Sunday when there is no sport activities going on and open it up to whoever can make it. The coaches of the leadership groups can have that group over for dinner on a night when the other sports are off.
Work with the other coaches: Just like most coaches, we’d love if every kid was at every offseason workout. That’s a tough thing to ask of any kid, and although a few can do it, most aren’t able to function like that. We try and work with the other coaches of different sports to assist or do the strength training for them. In this day in age, most coaches know the benefits of strength training as a maintenance tool. Basketball players benefit from lifting, albeit maybe not the same way as the offseason workouts that are being done by others. Try to have at least one or two days a week where the basketball or wrestling team is in the weight room at the same time. Their coaches may want to tailor their workouts a bit, but you will have them together.
Get the workout warriors out to support their teammates: Make it a priority to talk about the other teams and how they are doing. Urge the players to support their teammates at the games and cheer them on. In any sport, kids typically hang out with the people they are working with. By getting out and supporting these athletes, we can keep them all close. This goes for the coaches as well. Get out and watch as many home games in all the sports as possible. Stay after a few minutes and meet with them to let them know you were there and how fun it was to watch them.
Playing multiple sports is proven to be beneficial to every athlete: We as football coaches embrace it more than others. It’s important to foster the relationship with these athletes throughout their other seasons to continue to show the value that we provide them and the significance they have in our program. As much as we want our players at all our workouts, do not punish them if they are playing other sports. Be flexible and find a solution to keep them lifting throughout their other seasons and keep building them up as important pieces of your team.
Terry Donovan is a Master Trainer for USA Football’s Heads Up Football program. He is the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and B-backs coach for Kasson-Mantorville High School in Kasson, Minn. He has coached with the U.S. National Team Program. He’s also a youth coach and Director of Youth Development in the Kasson-Mantorville Youth Football Association