Adam Vogel serves as a Physical Education teacher, PE/CTE Division Chair, Head Strength Coach, and Assistant Football Coach at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in Illinois. He is a former collegiate football player and has a B.S. in Psychology and a master’s degree in teaching. Coach Vogel holds UASW-1 and NASM-YES certifications and is the Illinois State Director for the National High School Strength Coaches Association (NHSSCA).
Freelap USA: High school strength and conditioning is evolving faster than ever. What good and bad changes have you seen over the last few years?
Adam Vogel: It can be exciting to be in the thick of evolutionary changes, while also understanding we were not the first, but the ones tasked to make high school strength and conditioning a mainstay. Some posts on social media make proper training convoluted. It’s important to remember that we are at the beginning stages of the athletes’ training age; we need to base our principles around general adaptations to build a solid foundation. It is essential to establish sprint mechanics and functional movement while progressing strength, as this will make developing power more exponential.
There is some irony in the fact that many of our practices are similar to mid-20th-century physical education, modernized with better equipment and facilities. However, back then a coach did not know what other coaches were doing, whereas now, with the networking creation of the NHSSCA and special interest groups, it is much easier to learn from others. The challenge is sorting out the misinformation our athletes or parents may receive about the profession, as we are entrusted to present the profession in a positive light.When athletes are brought into the decision-making and allowed to see their data, they stop feeling like a guinea pig and start to feel like Tony Stark, Iron Man, says @BBCHSAPT. Click To Tweet
The ability for the high school market to partake in performance technology brings a more informative insight into the program we run. Previously, many of the sports performance companies offered their services to only professional or high-level organizations, but now through companies like SimpliFaster, this technology is available at the high school level as well. The ability to utilize technology to better train and inform our athletes has been of value. Today’s athletes thrive on relevant feedback and solutions that can relate to their sport. When the athletes are brought into the decision-making and allowed to see their data, they stop feeling like a guinea pig and start to feel like Tony Stark, Iron Man. Ultimately, that is what we want, right? Superheroes!
Freelap USA: High school team coaches sometimes have a tactical and technical view of training and may not be familiar with the physiology and mechanical loading of training. How do you use GPS to not only manage practices and games, but communicate how their team is developing?
Adam Vogel: Our key performance indicators, or increased strength and speed, are inconsequential when they are not expressed during competition. Though it is exciting to test and see my athletes do great under a bar or crossing timing gates, the realization needs to transfer to their sport. I found that GPS has been the bridge for our sport coaches and me. Practice and strength training add load to the athlete and, because of that, compile stress. Stress is needed for adaptation, but time must be allowed for the adaptation to occur.
Analyzing what happens on the field provides me and our coaches with more clarity to communicate and devise better strategies. The coach and athlete apply information from practices, games, video, and stats. Internal and external loads provide another layer of insight for better decision-making. Many times, this confirms the sport coach’s intuition. Instead of compartmentalizing the stresses our athletes endure, we can prioritize the coach’s plan. We can specify how much tactical and technical work the team or certain players need, taking into account the physical demands for those needs. Let’s say speeds are declining. We can comprehensively analyze whether we need more max velocity or whether we are over-training our athletes.
From a holistic approach, we learned that our soccer team was expending higher loads in warm-ups than they were in the first half of games. This can become very problematic when high school teams frequently play 3-4 games in a 7-day span, or as many as 5 games in 10 days. When we combine the intensity of the warm-ups, we could essentially play 2.5 additional games in that 7- to 10-day frame.
Individualizing, we may see a running back in American football creating high loads through acceleration-deceleration and not hitting max velocity in any of the practices leading up to a game. The conversation with our sport coach ensures we get some top end speed into practice to maintain and improve those qualities through exposure. A simple solution would be to add 2-4 sprints to a warm-up. However, if the running back could contextualize the exposure running to the end zone after the whistle, when he would have been tackled during a team period, then the athlete would reach max velocity while accumulating the high-speed reps needed. This would blend the tactical and physical needs, making the exposures more game-like.
Freelap USA: Neck strength is talked about as a way to reduce traumatic brain injury. Can you tell us how you prepare the neck and how different sport cultures have unique challenges?
Adam Vogel: We used to do manual neck training twice a week through each plane sagittally, frontally, and transversely for concussion mitigation (concussion reduction). In males, studies show that neck size and strength cut down on the occurrence of concussions. While this was a start, it is just a fragment of the solution for a multifaceted problem. We are extremely fortunate to have two athletic trainers on staff to handle sports injury and rehabilitation.
Most often, when our athletes in soccer, water polo, and volleyball received an impact to the head, they did not see it coming or were not expecting the impact. Though neck strength is an important piece of the puzzle, we must also consider neck stiffness and peripheral awareness as safety pieces to be included with neck strength. After learning this, we started to adjust our neck training protocols.Though neck strength is an important piece of the puzzle, we must also consider neck stiffness and peripheral awareness as safety pieces to be included with neck strength, says @BBCHSAPT. Click To Tweet
We still train the neck twice a week; however, we do it differently. To work on neck stiffness, our athletes start the exercise standing and isometrically push an exercise ball into a wall from different directions to work on creating stiffness. On the alternate day, we still do traditional manual neck training. Our next stages will be to add Iron Necks for efficiency and more constant resistance to replace the manual neck training. We still need to add a component for peripheral awareness—we discussed having the athlete focus on a partner’s shirt while said partner alternates tossing two tennis balls just outside the athlete’s shoulders.
Freelap USA: Cleaning the weight room is going to be a topic of choice when schools open their doors again. How do you anticipate things changing with gyms being so congested and difficult to maintain?
Adam Vogel: Shout out to Anita, Darryl, and Lisa (the custodians who help with our weight room) and the amazing job they do—every morning I am privileged to walk into an immaculate facility. On average at our school, more than 600 athletes train each day. Cleaning and sanitation should not be left to the custodians alone; it is a responsibility to have a cleaning regimen and to also log the frequency that the facility is cleaned.
Taking a page from Legacy by James Kerr and “Sweep the sheds,” we have training wipes at all four corners of the weight room. When each session is complete, the athletes wipe down their racks, as “rack checkers” ensure they have all finished the cleaning and put away equipment. Student assistants (athletes during their study hall), who we call Ath-Leaders, and interns from a nearby university also spray and clean the vinyl benches, water fountains, and all equipment at least once throughout the day with Virex, a more potent compound. It will be interesting to see if racks and individual stations/equipment get outfitted with specific cleaning supplies in the future, or if more gym towels are readily available in commercial facilities.
Freelap USA: Parents are sometimes cautious about weight training and may not know who to listen to. What do you send or recommend to parents to educate them on the safety and value of strength training?
Adam Vogel: We are implementing plans to involve our parents on a deeper level. There are so many things we can do better through collaboration to assist in their children’s athletic development. Coach Kohl, our athletic director, and our administration are crucial advocates for our program. Our parents first hear about the importance through them.
Currently, I speak at most of our sports teams’ parent meetings. Consistency is important, and that is where we explain the concepts that we use with our athletes, such as #BrickxBrick. Their child’s ceiling can only be as high as the walls (capacity) we build, and those walls need to be built on a solid foundation of physical qualities. We have compiled evidence-based data to reinforce the importance of performance training.
Our athletic trainers have charted that 75% of injuries are attributed to athletes who are not consistent with their training and have less than 80% attendance in our performance training program. The likelihood of a reinjury is 66%. Those who have had 90% attendance optimize their performance, seeing the same increases in their metrics as others who have 100% attendance.Posting on social media allows parents to look through our windows. One of my goals this year is to let them through our doors, says @BBCHSAPT. Click To Tweet
Posting on social media allows them to look through the windows. One of my goals this year is to let them through the door. We are planning events that will be more inclusive for parents, such as a family workout night. We would also like to create a parent panel that is similar to an advisory board to get more of the parents’ input. It would also be beneficial to have educational sessions on our programming progressions, performance metrics and monitoring, recovery modalities, etc. for those who would like to know more.
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