3 Ways To Keep Your Athletes Engaged During Summer Conditioning

Summer break is fast approaching, and that means your teams will be leaving campus with the potential to undo all the great training they've completed this spring. Keeping your team engaged during this summer training period can be the differentiating factor between hitting the ground running in the fall, or spending weeks getting them back up to speed.

We connected with three of our contributing experts to learn how they keep their team engaged during the summer months.

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Loosen Up & Participate - Chris Holder

The summertime is likely the most important time of the year for me here at Cal Poly. Primarily because our fall sports are about to enter into training camp at the end of July, and we have to be physically prepped. 

Since we cannot make the sessions mandatory or track attendance (NCAA rules), we do a ton of politicking throughout the regular school year for our kids to find a way to stay and participate in our summer program. We don’t pay for summer school, so those who stick around sincerely have the team’s best interest in mind.

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The way we motivate during these times is to loosen the grip on them.

The kids who are here want to be here, so we seldom have to yell and scream to get them to work. The music changes and we try to keep things light. We include things like swimming pool workouts and random locations to run to keep the vibe feeling fresh. 

Another thing I have done for years is my staff and I jump into workouts with the kids.

Last summer my assistant Chris White (who is a physical specimen) ran with our morning groups. He was an All-American back when he played and has stayed in phenomenal shape since retiring. It’s amazing the level of intensity that is brought to a run when a coach has his or her hand on the line too. It’s entertaining to jaw with the kids who end up taking an L on a rep to a coach. I’ve been known to jump in with our kids during a kettlebell finish, and they absolutely love watching me hurt.

The take home idea is that we are willing to put ourselves through the same hell they are going through to help the culture of all sports thrive. End result- everyone’s game elevates (including mine).

Don't Forget About Fun - Chris Tutela

Some athletes have razor-sharp focus and don’t need much to light a fire under their own asses. Others, however, need more of a push.

I don’t mean the lazy ones. I’m talking about the guys or girls that work hard, but need something more to get excited about.

We have to remember that they’re kids. And in between the long summer practices during brutal (in my case, New Jersey) summers, projects for the upcoming school year, and having a social life, we ask a lot of our athletes.

If training 3 or 4 days per week only revolves around beating them into oblivion, they aren’t going to be excited about putting in the work.

Some will just show up and go through the motions because they’re supposed to. It is our job as coaches not only to program intelligently and work our athletes hard, but to also incorporate things that are fun and enjoyable.

At our facility, Tutela Training Systems in Clark, NJ, we work in some stuff to keep our guys and girls motivated, working hard, and having fun.

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Here are some examples of the stuff we do during our summer strength and conditioning program to keep our athletes engaged.

1. Competition

I have discussed the importance of competition in the weight room in previous articles. Athletes LOVE to compete, and when you put together a competition that keeps the energy cranked up - it’s a win for everyone.

2. Strongman Training

Strongman training is one of my favorite ways to condition. It has several benefits from a strength and conditioning standpoint, but it is also unique, and frankly...pretty damn cool.

Tying competition into your strongman work is ALWAYS a great time and something for your guys to get excited about. We usually have a strongman challenge at the end of the week, so it gives them something to look forward to.

3. Record Boards

Something as simple as putting someone’s name on a white board for breaking a record can make all the difference in your athlete’s performance. When young adults know they can potentially get their name up on the wall, they tend to get super excited and work much harder. They love it. And if you set weekly challenges they will always be much more excited to show up and set some new records.

These are some of the tactics we use to keep our athletes engaged and excited to train during our summer programs. I guarantee that if you start incorporating some of this stuff with your team or in your facility, you will get much more out of your athletes during the summer months.

Plan + Support = Success - Tim Crowley

Being a strength coach at an international boarding school with high-level athletics has its own unique challenges, especially when it comes to summer training. Many of our athletes are spread out across the globe, so it is important that we create detailed training plans before they leave for summer.

We explain to the athletes that the next step in their athletic development is to take responsibility for their training. The staff is available to support the athletes during the summer through various electronic platforms.

We create two workout versions for each sport:

  • One with the availability of basic strength equipment
  • One other that requires no equipment at all

These workouts will include strength training as well as conditioning work. We encourage athletes to stay in contact with the strength staff for any questions or logistical issues they may have. Our goal is to maximize their training so they return with a good fitness base.

Since English is a second language for many athletes, we include a detailed training manual. This includes video demonstrations and coaching points for each strength exercise and conditioning/running drill. Not only does this alleviate confusion on the part of the athlete, it also helps with adherence.

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We also run three sessions per week for our local day students, which is attended primarily by underclassmen. This allows us to get a head start on teaching proper lifting skills, as well as our training culture.

We hold weekly training sessions through the summer. We do pre- and post- testing and give them summer goals to be achieved by the beginning of the school year. These will be a combination of technical skills and performance goals which will have them ready by the start of the school year.

Having a detailed plan and staff support leads to a successful summer.

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