This article was originally featured on PLT4M. PLT4M partners with over 800 high schools as an online strength and conditioning tool, delivering customizable, research-based fitness and performance programs for every level of student-athlete. STACK is proud to partner with PLT4M.
Ask a group of 14- to 18-year-old student-athletes to get into a "good squat position" and see what happens.
Based on my past experiences as a coach, athletic trainer and athletic director, you'll likely see a few different things.
You will have a few individuals that keep their chests up, have a nice flat back, thighs parallel to the ground—good, safe form.
Another handful will likely be looking around to their peers for guidance and mimicking what the first group is doing, but may need minor corrections or cues to help them establish the proper position.
Meanwhile, several others are likely in some sort of awkward position—likely not one that resembles a true, safe squat technique. But they can learn.
Through the proper implementation of strength and conditioning (S+C) programs, we can better educate student-athletes on the fundamental components of body awareness and proprioception, which are crucial to athletic performance as well as injury prevention. But we can also do so much more than just making a kid a better squatter.
Listed below is a small sample of the many benefits of an S+C program I've noticed during my experiences training athletes, educating coaches and treating athletic injuries. And because I have worn so many hats, I couldn't keep it to the catchy Top 10 Benefits of S+C, I just had to go with 11. Let's go!
1. It increases athletes' strength, speed, flexibility, agility, balance, endurance, reaction speed and proprioception.
I thought I would start with an easy one we can all agree on!
2. It identifies weaknesses as well as potential risk factors that could lead to injury.
This aligns with ATC domain No. 1: prevention of athletic injury. This, in turn, allows ATC to provide more quality care spread across fewer injuries.
3. It prepares athletes for sport-specific training that will improve their athletic performance while also identifying and combating inherent risks associated with their sport.
As both a coach and a Certified Athletic Trainer, improved athletic performance and a reduced risk of injury is music to my ears.
4. It keeps more players on the field or court, allowing for greater individual team success through a season.
It's hard to love a sport when you're constantly injured. A quality S+C program helps keep your kids in the game.
5. It builds communication between strength staff, head coaches, athletic trainers and student-athletes.
A great S+C program requires buy-in, communication and trust from all parties involved. The end result is a better-informed, better-equipped group of coaches and trainers that can better serve the athlete.
Those first five points covered a lot of ground. But let's tap into a few more specifics. First and foremost, we want our kids to trust us, and what better place to start than in the weight room?
6. It builds a foundation of trust between athletes and coaches.
As we hear time and time again, a lot of kids do not love the weight room. They love their sports. If you're able to help even those who do not love the weight room experience some of the benefit it can offer, that creates trust.
7. It prepares the body for essential sports movements. Basic S+C translates to basic sport skills like tackling, boxing out or jumping over an opponent.
Connecting the weight room to the sport creates buy-in. You'll get a kid's attention once they hear how a Squat can help them dominate the low block on the court. And maybe you don't have to tell this next point just yet, but I think it's worth noting...
8. It increases student's self-confidence and helps them play fast.
So these have been in the context of our high school world, but we don't just live in that, do we? What's next? For athletes looking for the next level, the weight room will most certainly be a part of it.
9. It prepares athletes for the expectations that will be placed on them if they intend to play beyond high school.
And whether they play in college or not, the weight room is a place for life skills.
These last two points are where we wrap it all up. It is why we work with students in the first place. Whether we are coaches, athletic trainers or athletic directors, we can all get behind these.
10. It teaches basic movements that can translate to a lifelong practice of exercise after their athletic careers are over. It provides an outlet for maintaining a healthy lifestyle after high school.
11. It allows athletes to set and work toward objective, realistic, attainable goals that are within their control. This skill is essential for success in life.
While this list could go on and on, these are some of the key benefits of a quality S+C program I've witnessed.
The recipe for a great weight room starts with the right training program. Learn how PLT4M can empower your student-athletes at PLT4M.com.
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