I've been lucky enough to have had some great conversations with some successful head coaches over the past few weeks. The initial conversations always seem to center around sets and reps but, I quickly switch gears to how vs what. How you run your off season is much more important than what you do. Don't get me wrong, what you do matters, but the “how” is where culture is created and great programs are built.
The biggest point I try to make is that compliance and accountability are the two most important points. A summer or off season strength and conditioning program without accountability can actually be a negative culture creator. You might ask, “what's a negative culture creator?” A negative culture creator is something that moves your team culture in the wrong direction. If players come back weaker than they left or come back and fail your conditioning test there must be consequences. If there are no consequences then accountability is lost and team culture, moves in the wrong direction.
Even worse, if the players who fail to prepare are rewarded with playing time, starting positions etc. the message is quickly sent that the summer or off-season program is just lip service and, talent is all that really matters. You have to bring the hammer down on the kids that don't do the work. Spring teams like lacrosse, softball or baseball have an advantage because you have the fall to sit kids who haven't done the work in the offseason.
It's important to remind yourself that college kids are “path of least resistance animals”! I've repeatedly said that as strength and conditioning coaches we fight human nature for a living.
The key to success with college kids is not giving them choices. Just tell them “this is what we do here”. Players need to understand that testing standards are a non-negotiable expectation and that there are no free rides.
In order for your summer program to be a success, the first thing you need to find out is where the players intend to train in the summer. “I run on the beach” or “I lift in my garage” generally isn't a great plan. (Although last summer I saw some kick-ass garage gym setups). Ideally, encourage kids that can afford it to join a reputable training facility for the summer.
Note- if players are at a reputable facility it's OK for them to do that facilities program. Just make sure players understand what the testing expectations are when they return.
If you are the head sport coach, remind yourself that you are the culture creator and that success is about players doing the program. Accountability doesn't come from your strength and conditioning coach, it comes from you. Think about the basics. It's not enough to send programs, it's about where they plan to do the program, when they plan to do the program, and most importantly IF they plan do the program. Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you're disappointed in the fall, it's your fault as much as the players. Ask yourself, “did I properly define expectations”