Freelap Friday Five with Scott Meier
Scott Meier is currently in his 21st year at Farmington High School (MN) where he is the Strength and Conditioning Coach. He is also a physical education teacher at FHS and teaches Weight Training, Human Performance, and ninth-grade Fitness for Life classes. He coached Farmington’s competitive weightlifting for nine years, and in that time the Tigers earned four state team titles, more than 40 individual state champions, and multiple state records. Prior to that he was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Lakeville (MN) High School and worked as a personal trainer for six years.
Coach Meier continues to compete in track and field at the master’s level, where he is a nationally ranked sprinter and holds several state age-group records. He is the current Minnesota State Director of the National High School Strength Coaches Association.
Freelap USA: The idea of having a high school strength coach is gaining momentum. Can you share the benefits of having a faculty-style coach rather than a sports coach as a strength professional?
Scott Meier: Continuity between strength and conditioning and the physical education department is key for any high school program. What happens during the school day and what happens before and after school with athletes should mirror each other. When the two are separated and don’t support each other, students often get mixed messages about training, which only causes problems. Having strength coaches who are also P.E. teachers with weight training classes during the day ensures everything is seamless.Continuity between strength & conditioning and the physical education department is key for any high school program, says @FarmingtonPower. Click To Tweet
Our classes are open to all students, so they are a mix of athletes and non-athletes, but a lot of our coaches push for their athletes to register for a lifting class during the day. That way the coaches don’t have to take practice time or extend practice in order to get into the weight room and lift, and their players get longer workout times and more lifting days if they take a class as well.
For P.E. teachers, that benefits us because the enrollment in our classes stays high. Our weight rooms are busy all day long during the school day. And, for S&C coaches, it helps to alleviate the number of athletes who lift after school, so it’s a win-win. With that continuity, the transition from one sport season to the next, one class to the next, or any crossover between sport and class, is extremely easy. The only thing that changes is the time of day that the individual students train.
There are a couple of issues that I have seen with sport coaches running the strength program. One is the question of who runs the strength program when that coach is in-season. You can’t do both at the same time. That might leave somebody who isn’t qualified in charge of the weight room for a full season.
Second, there can be the perception—especially if it happens to be football—that the coach only cares about their own team and focuses on them more than the other teams. Good coaches know that’s not the case, but that’s how the myth that the weight room is just for football still lingers.
And lastly, and I really feel this is true for both S&C coaches and sport coaches, is that it is really important to be a teacher and be in the same building during the day as your athletes. Coaches who are not teachers don’t really understand how schools work, and they don’t have a feel for the school dynamic when they just come in outside of the school day. I’ve been on both sides of this and being a coach who is also a teacher has a tremendous upside. You gain a lot by being in your school all day, for both teaching and coaching.
Freelap USA: Winters get ugly up north, and you do a lot of training in the weight room and gym. With not much space for movement, how do you periodize athletic development based on the season?
Scott Meier: Weather is a huge limiting factor for us in Minnesota. It’s a given in the winter, but it also determines how late in the fall we can continue training and when we can start in the spring. It’s kind of crazy, but schools in the upper Midwest don’t have turfed indoor practice facilities like they do in the South, so we are stuck trying to use what little space is available.
A lot of times that ends up being hallways for speed and agility training, if you can call it that. We try to get into one of our gyms on days that there are basketball games, before they need to start setting up. That’s a little better, but not like being outside on a field or the track. In general, and I know most schools up here are in the same boat, you just have to be creative and try to make the best use out of whatever space you happen to have.I really look at the winter as a reset time and the time for quality, focused work in the weight room to prepare us for the rest of the year and what lies ahead, says @FarmingtonPower. Click To Tweet
So, because of the limitations we have for quality athletic development in the winter, strength has really become our primary focus that time of year. Winter also happens to be the longest sports season, so for our off-season lifters it is a good length of time to really develop that base of strength, getting both high volumes early and high intensities later, which sets us up to shift over to more power-based training in the spring and speed-focused training in the summer. I really look at the winter as the reset time and the time for quality, focused work in the weight room to prepare us for the rest of the year and what lies ahead.
Freelap USA: You train a huge number of athletes, as you run classes all day. How do you plan training without spending all day on a laptop? Coaches want to write better workouts but only have so much time. What is your secret?
Scott Meier: One of the first big mistakes I made as a coach was writing separate programs for each sport. My first real experience in the field was as an intern at the University of Minnesota, and every sport there had its own programs, so I brought that with me to my first high school job. Huge mistake! Besides all the time it took to write these programs, it was just chaos in the room. I was constantly explaining things and teaching new lifts.
Keeping track of what exercises everyone was supposed to be doing—much less the sets, reps, and intensities—was pretty much impossible because they were all doing different things. So, when I started here at Farmington a few years later, I switched to a unified approach to programming. All high school athletes, regardless of sport, basically need the same things in the weight room: improved strength, improved power, and improved movement technique and efficiency. If we all need the same things, we can all train the same way.
Therefore, in the off-season all athletes do our off-season program, and they do the same lifts on the same day. This is basically the same program that my P.E. classes also use. I do make different programs for in-season teams because their lifting and game schedules are all different, I try to keep them as similar as possible, at least on a weekly basis, but I usually plan to have teams that lift on the same day do the same workout. From a programming point of view, that has simplified things for me and made it much more manageable.
For me as a coach, though, the biggest timesaver has been TrainHeroic. Once I have my workouts programmed in it, it’s really easy to copy individual workouts or entire programs to different teams, classes, or groups. A full training cycle for us is about 12 weeks, and every workout is different. I always tweak things for the next cycle, so it’s possible our athletes will never do the same exact workout twice.
TrainHeroic makes it incredibly simple to make those adjustments and apply them for the next time around. I can also change things for different teams or individual athletes. This technology has probably saved me a couple hundred hours of computer work in the four years we’ve used it. And it’s certainly better for my athletes as well, compared to my old printed Excel sheets or whiteboard workouts.
Freelap USA: You are a big fan of Gopher Performance and use their equipment religiously. With coaches having limited budgets, can you explain why high school coaches need to balance price and product quality carefully when shopping? Many coaches tend to buy based on price and get burned later when they have to replace equipment.
Scott Meier: I’m going through that price versus quality situation with our bumper plates right now. We had to get 10 sets a few years ago, and because of the quantity, I went with the cheapest “high quality” ones I could find that were from a well-known brand. Big mistake. We had numerous issues just within the first year, and I regret the decision to go with the cheapest. We should have waited a little longer and gotten something that I knew would last for the long-term.
When purchasing new equipment, you really have to consider how it will be used and how much use it will get. There is a lot of wear and tear in a high school setting, and high school coaches don’t have the budgets that big colleges and pro teams have. With important equipment that gets used all the time, it really is better to spend a little more money upfront because it will save you money in the long run not having to replace it as often.With important equipment that you use all the time, it really is better to spend a little more money upfront because it saves you money in the long run not having to replace it as often. Click To Tweet
Quality does matter. That’s why we decided to go with Gopher Performance for the equipment in our new room. They provide a great balance between high quality and price. And they have been an outstanding company to work with. I think it’s important to develop a relationship with equipment companies that you can trust and who will stand behind their equipment so that you don’t get burned later.
Freelap USA: You are a veteran coach and are entering another year of coaching. What stokes your passion and keeps you excited to train? How can a young coach learn to sustain excellence while trying to get better every day? What is a good way to coach hard without burning out?
Scott Meier: I’m a competitive person, and while injury has kept me from racing on the track the past few seasons, I find other ways to compete against myself and still really enjoy pushing myself. As I get older, though, I find myself competing against Father Time a little more, and the health benefits of regular exercise have become a little more important. I am also kind of a self-experimenter and don’t mind trying some different or even crazy things from an exercise standpoint, and I always like to try new things before I prescribe them to my students and athletes. I think it’s very hard to teach or coach a new exercise if you don’t truly know what it feels like yourself.
My very first coaching job was coaching sprints and relays at a local high school my final year in college, and one thing that has always stuck with me was how the head coach constantly looked for anything he could do that would make a difference in performance. This included any little thing that could possibly shave .01 off a time or add .5” to a jump or throw, because you never know when that could affect an outcome. That’s something that I’ve continued to do my whole career, constantly searching for any extra edge.
The internet has really helped in that quest and so has social media, even more so. The networking and sharing of information between coaches and sports scientists now is outstanding, and it is incredibly beneficial. There’s no excuse not to keep evolving as a coach. It’s that quest for any new little training edge that’s exciting for me.
That being said, the demands of the job can be, and usually are, very high. Work days are long, and it can be hard to draw the line at what is just too much. To prevent burnout, there has to be a balance between family and work. As teachers and coaches, I think it’s in our nature to always want to do what we can to help other people, but you have to come to the realization that it’s okay to say “no.” Failure to achieve that manageable balance between work and home life will not work out very well for either your coaching career or your family.As teachers and coaches, I think it’s in our nature to always want to do what we can to help other people, but you have to realize that it’s okay to say “no,” says @FarmingtonPower. Click To Tweet
The one thing that I really enjoy the most, and that helps keep me going, is seeing the big improvements that high school kids can make. Seeing what seniors can accomplish by the time they leave after four years of training is very rewarding. And every fall we get a new batch of incoming ninth graders with untapped potential who we get to help take on the high school athletic journey and see how far they can get. Every year is different from the last and, while there are always ups and downs, being a high school strength coach is a pretty awesome gig.
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