Developing strong, powerful, fast, and athletic female athletes can open many doors when it comes to recruiting and collegiate athletics.
Here are some of the things I have learned from coaching hundreds of female athletes on a weekly basis. I have made many mistakes, but the following tips can help you create a culture that allows female athletes to thrive.
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1. Build A "Buy In" Culture
In order to get the most out of your female athletes, you must connect with them, engage them in the process, and create open communication in order to achieve great results.
The strength coach needs to create buy in from both coaches and athletes from day one. There is a saying “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” This applies when training female athletes.
Yelling and hollering doesn’t usually work well with groups of athletes. But once they understand you’re there to help them succeed, you will get their full attention and commitment.
Getting athletes to engage from the time they walk in the weight room is important to the overall success of the program. This starts from the moment they walk in the door by asking them about their day, their upcoming practice, their exams, etc.
It’s easy to have these conversations while the athletes are gathering, warming up, and doing activities such as foam rolling, stretching, and mobility/movement prep as a team. This often leads to questions, which is the perfect time to educate the team in the areas of fitness, nutrition, and training.
Through these consistent conversations, everyone can then be on the same page.
2. Reduce Injuries With Proactive Drills and Exercises
The number one goal of any strength and conditioning program at the high school level should be to reduce the severity and frequency of injuries. Young female athletes have a high incidence of ACLs, with 85% being noncontact.
Some simple but effective exercises to be done daily include:
- Mini hurdle hopping and landing skills (linear and lateral) both single and double leg
- Mini band walks (forward/backward/lateral)
- Squat patterns (single and double leg)
- Ham/glute/hinge patterns (single and double leg)
- Deceleration drills such as lunges and change of direction
Athletes involved in overhead sports such as volleyball, softball, tennis, and swimming should include additional exercises for the shoulder and core to reduce the repetitive stress that can lead to overuse injuries. These can include:
- External and internal rotation exercises for the shoulder
- Scapular retraction and stabilization exercises
- Vertical standing core exercises (lifts, chops, anti-rotational presses)
- Med ball throws (over, diagonal, and side tosses)
3. Be Brilliant At The Basics
Teaching basic skills for the core lifts should form the basis of any good strength and conditioning program.
It is important to educate young females that they will not gain muscle mass like their male counterparts. Be patient and consistent as many of these young athletes have never been exposed to strength training before.
When athletes enter the collegiate ranks, they will be in the weight room and be expected to perform in the weight room. Development of good skills and habits will help these athletes adapt and transition quickly.
It’s important to teach a wide variety of exercises since each collegiate program will emphasize different types of lifts and methodologies.
One of the great joys of being a high school strength coach is the ability to hand off athletes with exceptional skills to a college strength coach.
4. Create Team Training Times
Training as a team at scheduled times is especially beneficial for female athletes. This can often be an awkward and challenging age for young athletes, so being alongside teammates can make the experience more comfortable.
Sharing training space with male athletes can be distracting.
I have found that having girls train alongside each other creates a positive group dynamic and optimal training culture.
They will work harder and encourage each other more than if they were on their own.
5. Create well-rounded athletes
The strength and conditioning coach can play a big role in helping develop athleticism by including a wide variety of training and movement skills into the program, and not focusing on only sport-specific skills.
Including a wide array of drills and exercises will enhance overall athleticism. Programs should include:
- Change of direction
- Aerobic conditioning
6. Develop Both Physical And Mental Strength
The weight room is a perfect environment for building confident young women with positive self-esteem. These positive habits will carry over both on and off the athletic field.
Through goal setting and consistent hard work, athletes will see progress both on and off the field.
It comes as no surprise that I have seen the most improvement in testing with female teams that train consistently. Create an environment and culture that allows them to push to higher levels.
Helping your female athletes become successful on and off the field is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a high school strength coach.
When you your female athletes are lifting and training as good as or better than the boys, you have created the optimal training facility.