It has come to my attention of late that many high schools are under-served in the strength and conditioning department. I recently went back to my old high school to observe how the football team is training, and what the coaches know (or don't know) about training. It wasn't pretty. As if I was walking into every college rec center in the nation, the first thing I see when I walk into the field house is the entire group of players benching. Not only are they benching...but they are maxing out! Are you kidding me?! The first kid I see bench almost lifts his entire body off the bench to get up the weight. Then he jumps for joy afterward because he believes it was a good lift. WRONG! I told him what he did wrong as he glared at me from the other side of the room. I then asked if they did lower-body the day before, with the response of "yeah, but we do full body each day, so we'll do squats after we're done benching". I'm thinking, "wait a minute", at this point. I explain to them why they should be squatting before they bench and tell them to meet me at the squat rack when they're done.
They already had 225lbs on the bar from whoever had used it last and didn't have the time to rack the weights. I was curious what would occur if I stripped the bar. I did and then waited. Not surprising to me, the first kid to come to the rack loaded two 45s on one side before I questioned him. "What are you doing? Did you warm-up yet? Oh, your first warm-up set IS 225lbs"? I explained to him that 1) he will benefit greatly from starting his warm-ups with lighter weight and 2) 225lbs is very close to his 'true' maximum, so starting with it isn't a good idea. He told me that his "max is 365lbs". This is where I couldn't help but laugh A LOT inside because this kid was no more than 145lbs soaking wet. I asked him to show me his squat with 135lbs on the bar...he pulled a box into the rack with him that allowed him to get to approximately 45-50 degrees knee flexion. Again, I laughed inside. I pulled out the box and told him to try and do a full squat. He didn't like this very much, but I explained that he would get a lot stronger if he did them this way and would save his knees in the process.
I said I laughed at these kids, and I did, but I really did expect to see what happened. The long overdue point is that many high schools around the country are in this situation and more of us need to step in and help where we can. This was my old high school, so I thought I might help out a little while I was home for a weekend. Many of you can do the same with your old stomping grounds. I don't blame the kids for what they were doing. I was doing the same thing when I was in that stage of my life. I don't even really blame the coaches. They could do a better job of educating themselves, but these are coaches that have other full-time jobs on top of coaching.
As professionals in strength and conditioning, I think many of us, myself included, need to do more to help our communities with knowledge about training. This could be as little as sending an informative e-mail with sources of good information to your local coaches, or actually making a visit and working with the young athletes. Either way it will be better than the alternative.