Starting a new athletic program from the ground up is definitely a challenging process. Knowing how to effectively and efficiently train your players is a key step in rebuilding your program into a powerhouse team. Lyle Henley, the Director of Sports Performance at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, is someone who has not only achieved success in giving a program new life, but sustaining that success long term as well. Lyle let us in on his secrets to success, and his best practices to keep in mind for strength and conditioning when starting a new program.
When starting a program from scratch, you will be working with a lot of junior college players whose strength and conditioning skills are not as in-depth as D1 players. Lyle began with 120 players, 50% of which were JUCO players. Because he was building the program from the ground up, he understood the importance getting everyone on the same skill level as quickly as possible. Below are the three tactics that he used to train his athletes.
- Assess your current players’ skill levels. For establishing a fitness and ability baseline for each player on his team, Henley chose to start with a software platform from Fusionetics. Fusionetics uses cutting edge technology to help decrease injury, optimize performance, and enhance recovery. This software platform uses a Movement Efficiency Test to look at an athlete’s lumbar support, range of motion, knees, shoulders, etc. This tool is used on an individual basis so that you can understand each player’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to better understand how to tailor workouts for each specific player.
- Establishing a six-step training plan. The next training regimen that Lyle talked about was his six-step sequence for training. These steps can be used for any type of exercise to perfect efficiency and technique. The goal for your athletes is to complete this part of the program in four to six weeks. These six steps can be applied to all different kinds of lifts and movements. They are intended to be completed in order, first mastering the correct movement of a specific task, then ultimately achieving endurance with power, speed, strength, and balance.
- Movement and Mobility
- Coordination and Balance
- Employing progressively individualized workouts. Another training method to work on is position-specific workouts, though during the offseason Lyle says to not get too position specific. A more general workout will allow you to focus on the team as a whole, thus gaining a better understanding of where your team’s strengths and weaknesses are moving into the season. As the season approaches, workouts begin to become more movement-specific for each position. As you start progressing more into position-specific workouts, it’s important to understand that strength and power are the key elements of the workout. Every position needs to focus on these two things in order to be prepared for the season.
While Lyle laid out his best practices for the UAB football program, they may not work for everyone. His best advice is to sometimes just throw out what you know, and use trial and error to determine what’s best for your team. While all levels of strength training and conditioning are important to achieving success on the field, the most important part of training and building a team is to create a unified, winning culture that the players can get behind from day one.
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