At a recent Wrestling Coach Clinic, I recently met Jake Varner. Jake has a most impressive resume: 2012 Olympic Champion, 2011 World Championship Bronze, 2x NCAA D1 National Champ, 4x NCAA D1 National Finalist.
Jake has the rare combination of athleticism, DRIVE and circumstances that turned him into an Olympic Champion. He is quite an impressive young man.
Jake presented on his journey to becoming an Olympic Champion at the clinic. The “buzz” after Jake’s presentation was that Jake doesn’t do any strength work in the weight room. Jake wrestles, period.
Shortly after he presented, I was talking to several coaches who were challenging me about the benefits of strength and conditioning in the weight room for wrestlers: Here was an Olympic Champion that never picks up a weight and yet is obviously amazingly strong, fast and agile, debunking any need for wrestlers to weight train.
I quickly clarified that it takes more than just getting stronger in the weight room to make an Olympic champion. If only it was that simple! So my question to the coaches was, “How many Jake Varners do you currently have in your program?”
Jake is a rare and special athlete that worked his tail off to get where he is today. Most programs (and coaches) never see an athlete that has the combination of natural talent, physical gifts, and work effort that Jake Varner possesses.
Absent such unique specimens, the seasonal challenge facing most High School coaches is to systematically coach and train “ordinary” male and female athletes to perform to the best of their ability, in the hope of turning the student athlete’s individual experience into a more “extraordinary” team experience that shapes them as future adults.
Successful coaches know that, in practice, getting the most out of high school athletes requires a disciplined plan and high attention to detail. They deliberately set goals, communicate expectations, give immediate feedback, track progress and adjust.
So why not apply the same year round attention to detail in the weight room, as well? What’s the downside? That your athletes are too strong?!
If strength training is worth doing, then it is worth doing with the same deliberate practice as the rest of your coaching: Set goals, communicate expectations, give immediate feedback track progress and adjust, as necessary.