by Dana Cavalea August 12, 2017


You guys know that this past week I have been on a hardcore rant about abusive strength and conditioning protocols and practices as they apply to athletes, especially youth athletes (high school and college)

We have been seeing tragedy at this level for years, most recently a high school student with a log at Sachem East HS and another at Kent State University.

This should show us just how fragile life can be. You can't put a price on it, but maybe we should?

Meaning, in all of my years dealing with High School and College programs, the majority of them have steep budgetary concerns when it comes to the allocation of funding towards a structured, certified, and monitored strength and conditioning program.

There are many high schools now making the investment, which is great, but my follow up questions is, Who are you hiring and why? and... Why did it take so long?

How do you qualify somebody as "competent" or "able" to do the job? Team ranking? No. Number of Certifications? Just the starting point. Degree in the disciplines of exercise science, sports medicine, or exercise physiology? Another starting point.

It is harder than ever now with social media as well. I have seen behaviors from Coaches that are mind blowing. From encouraging the use of social media and selfies in a weight room while high level training is supposed to be going on, to low level Coaches walking the fine line of professional and non to promote themselves and their "journey" when they have not proven themselves in their own industry yet by taking all the "hard" reps and floor time needed to take your game to the next level. Coaching is more about being cool now then about being a true leader. A leader that is donned the crown by the athletes they Coach and the Head Coaches they work for.

But lets go back to hiring, how do we know who to hire and who is right for the job?

Always start with character. Always start by understanding the ethics of the Coach you are looking to hire. Understand his or her WHY. On-field Risk Mitigation starts during the interview process, by asking the right questions. Keeping Athletes safe and healthy should be concern number one of any Program or Coach- but this sometimes gets forgotten with the promises of speed, strength, power and dominance.

When it comes to keeping athletes safe, I believe it comes down the a few factors. The first for me begins with understanding the mentality of the person you hired. A high intensity, high end fire engine kind of coach, who lacks discipline, self control, and emotional control....who works under the same type of person, has a higher chance of pushing athletes beyond limits than somebody that has a more structured approach and progressive demeanor.

For me, I had to understand the athletes I was dealing with before creating any programs. Example: prior to training any athletes, at any level, shouldn't you have a deep understanding of the ability level, injury history, training age, training ability, and current pain/ fatigue that may exist amongst your sample?

If you do not understand these metrics, both subjective and objective, your risk goes up as a Coach. When risk goes up, the chances of an on-field, in weight-room failure rise exponentially.

My focus has always been on managing risk. Most importantly managing the ratio of risk vs. reward which was taught to me early in my asset management career (managing 300million in human assets) by some great General Managers.

Is it really worth it to have a hazardous training drill at play, knowing the risk of a trip and fall, or drop situation?

Couldn't we just use timed intervals, with resistance, or a timed wall-sit that forces that athlete to push mentally without quitting to achieve the same objective?

The field of strength and conditioning is in jeopardy with every former, un-degreed athlete, gym coach, coach, and/ or personal trainer that thinks they can train athletes because they like sports and see the lower barrier to enter into the field. I mean what do you really need to be a freelance strength coach? Ladders, cones, a gym membership?

This field is a boat in turbulent seas due to the battling of certification bodies fighting for market position and dominance within they membership numbers and dues collection.

The origination of another "stretching certification, strength certification, mobility certification, movement certification" for the pursuit of industry autonomy, recognition, relevance, and the almighty dollar is what has rocked the boat. Equipment companies hosting B-grade conferences to push product and "Educate" coaches is also a concern.

We are now left with Coaches that can teach mobility without the ability to teach speed. The ability to teach speed without the ability to develop a progressive strength program. Incredible skills to design programs and an inability to Coach.

Discouraging. Over the past 15 years I have seen this field abandon it's organic roots, built on passion and science. To be since uprooted for fortune of under-qualified Coaches- and the development of a culture based on my certifications vs. your certifications, or this piece of equipment vs. that.

To be a great Coach, you must have all your boxes checked. Ability, competency, on-field knowledge, people handling skills, leadership, focus, commitment beyond yourself, and an immense commitment towards development. Progressive, unswayed development. Development that takes a small freshman today and turns them into a competitive, well trained, senior with dynamic habits and character. That is training. That is strength and conditioning.

So for all you that are still trying to figure it out, take your certifications and shove it up your ass. Go back to the basics. Go back to the science. Get on the field and watch the true Artists of Coaching--- and never forget the principle of Progression and Progressive Overload.

And finally--- know your athletes. All of them. Everything about them. Not turning over one stone could cost somebody their life. #trainlikeapro

Dana Cavalea
Dana Cavalea

Dana Cavalea is the World Champion Director of Strength and Conditioning & Performance of the New York Yankees. Currently, he is a High Performance Speaker & Consultant to Pro Athletes, Entrepreneurs, Business Executives, and Workforces on lifestyle strategies to reduce stress, improve work/life integration, and most importantly improve daily performance /outcomes. Book Dana to Speak at your Company Event or Conference Today!

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