5 Ways to Improve Off-Season Engagement on Your Football Team



Summer is offically here and chances are you've kicked off your summer conditioning program. The next eight weeks is the most grueling part of any off-season training program. 

You'll start this summer with a roster of returning athletes and an incoming batch of freshman. Things are looking pretty good on Day 1.

But what happens when the grind gets unbearable and your team starts to lose interest?

Your job:  Engage your team and build a conference championship team out of the assortment.  

And the easiest place to start is in the weight room.

Lots of good things happen in the weight room.  There are the tangible things:

  • Gains in strength, speed and agility
  • Mastery of technique and setting of new PRs in key lifts
  • The metamorphosis of adolescent boys into young men

Then, there are the intangibles, which might prove even more important:

  • Emergence of team leaders by way of example, participation and results
  • The camaraderie gained thru the shared experience of a gasser workout
  • Building a “culture of competition” and setting expectations

Want to learn 11 powerful ways to spark a fire of motivation across your entire program? Click here to download the Athlete Motivation Manifesto for champion strategies to ignite team performance.

With so much upside, we reached out to a few coaches to see how they motivate and engage their athletes in the summer conditioning programs.

Start With The “Why"

Jason Bott, AD, Crystal Lake South, IL

We focus on “why” and on building relationships.

When you line up next to the person on the field, court wherever, when you look over and see someone that has been getting up at 6AM to give everything they have to each other to be the best they can possibly be, good things will happen.

If you look over at someone that wasn't there or was not giving maximal effort, it is pretty hard to trust that person is going to do their job.

The “why” is so much more important than threatening [the athletes with], “You won’t start if you don't lift" or "Everyone will run 3 extra sprints for every person that doesn't come to the workouts." Those will work on the short end of things but in the long term, that will ultimately deteriorate the culture and not get the overall buy in to your program.

We focus on the positives that come from our program and provide data, real life examples, and facts to back it up.


You Reap What You Sow

Fred Eaves, Wellness Director, Battle Ground Academy, TN

We inform the players that they are participating in a "needs" based program instead of a "wants" based program. That being said, we are always going to train them with their best interests in mind in with our programming.

We remind them that we are interested in actions not words and we live by the Law of the Ladder and the Law of the Harvest. Meaning let's take one step to progress to the next step and you will reap what you sow.

Check out our Off-Season Football Training Guide for more offseason training strategies from Fred Eaves.

Those That Plan The Battle Won't Battle The Plan

Mark Wine, Head S&C Coach, De La Salle High School, CA

I select a group of 4 leaders when we start off-season training. They become the nucleus of the team, the heartbeat if you will.

We meet once per week where we discuss the work ethic and morale of the team. Who needs extra help on lifts? Who needs to be kept in line? Etc... During our meetings we discuss motivation and what is working. I ask them to nominate any of their peers to be invited into the group (but they have to meet certain standards).

At each meeting, I have a player pick out a passage from a Christian book that I have. They read the passage and then provide us with one additional motivational quote. They tell us why they picked the passage / quote and how it relates to what is going on. I give them some examples of how to make the passage fit to their lives and the team, and then we pray.

I should also mention that I give my core group shirts.


Reinforce Positive Performance

Dan Wolfe, Head Football Coach, Fort Defiance High School, VA

We do t-shirts for attendance - so every kid that makes a percentage of workouts gets a shirt. This year, not only do they get a t-shirt for attendance, they also get one for their performance in the weight room (1000 lb, 800 lb, and for the incoming 7th and 8th graders, 400 lb club).

I also send home an email recognizing attendance and percent of increase in each lift.  This email goes home to all active football player and their families.

This is still all just a work in progress. I feel like we are losing the battle to Open Gym, Summer Leagues, etc so we are doing whatever we can to motivate and encourage young athletes to enjoy the weight room and see its benefits for not only football but for all sports.

Create a Positive Environment

Dustin Rotan, Head S&C Coach, Seminole High School, TX

The biggest thing we have done this year is create a more positive environment. While it is necessary to maintain safety, technique and proper intensity under the bar, we are not allowing ourselves (as a coaching staff) to bring the environment down with negative screaming and yelling. If behavioral correction needs to be made, it's done off to the side.

We have emphasized two lifting sessions a week that are scheduled at 8:30-9:30 PM Mon and Wed night where we play loud music and encourage the athletes as they lift.

We do a heavy full-body lift on each day to maintain our strength.  Coaches attend, as well, especially the football staff, so the athletes see their position coaches and vice-versa. We try to go a little over the top with praising them for being there and creating a fun environment for their voluntary time in the weight room. The days for boot camp style training will come, but summer is not the time because they simply won't come back until 2-a-days.

I am finding that 85-95% attendance in a more positive slightly easier atmosphere is better for our program than 40% attendance of grueling "kill you" workouts.

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About The Author

A self-proclaimed “gym rat,” Jay’s disciplined commitment to fitness serves him well in building a start-up with the TrainHeroic team. Jay joined TrainHeroic in early 2013 and is responsible for business operations. After building high performing technology sales teams at MCI, PlaceWare (sold to Microsoft) and most recently at EnergyConnect (sold to JCI), he leads the office "push up break" at 10 a.m.