Ronnie Jankovich is the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Roswell High School in Roswell, Georgia, and the Southeast Regional Director of the NHSSCA. Coach Jankovich desires to improve our industry and support the coaches around him; he wants every coach to feel empowered to do their job to the best of their ability.
Many coaches in high school S&C claim to be “simplistic” in their approach, but Coach Janko’s ability to produce athletes ready to execute at the level Roswell performs is second to none. Coach Jankovich plays a significant role in Roswell High School’s athletic success, drawing on the natural psychological tendencies of competitors by employing a simple program focused on violent execution and competition.
Freelap USA: In the industry as a whole, what is the biggest potential area of improvement for strength and conditioning?
Ronnie Jankovich: Our industry holds both an immense opportunity and responsibility at the same time. Our decisions related to athletic and character development and also simply the expectations we set have implications for the future of the athletes we interact with daily. We can positively or negatively impact the future of every kid we see each day.
With that said, the industry is moving in the right direction regarding the quality of coaching. You see fewer coaches conducting the programs they had in their playing days and, instead, being more forward-thinking with their programming. While the quality of coaching is improving, I believe there is still work that needs to be done. Getting qualified strength and conditioning professionals in the school is a fight we are still pushing for. Groups like the NHSSCA and its new certification help support this fight, but we must stay vigilant.
I see that athletics is having a trickle-down effect on which college is now professional, with NIL deals, photoshoots, and its approach to academics. High school is now the new college. We find ourselves in the middle of an arms race: a battle for better weight rooms, indoor facilities, field houses, and technology. This isn’t a bad thing, but are we simply doing it to “keep up with the Joneses” or to give our athletes a better competitive environment and attract talent to our schools?
The evolution of our facilities can be a tremendous opportunity for our industry and high school athletics. Still, we must be confident of our motivations and ability to use our equipment.
I know a high school program that purchased multiple units of a top-notch VBT system but doesn’t use it because they don’t know how to. While this is an excellent technology for the weight room, it’s going unused. Did this program purchase the equipment simply to say they “have” it to attract kids to the program? I don’t know. I’m sure they planned on using it. Still, we must ask ourselves what motivates our decision-making process: providing the best experience in our weight room or having nice things to attract better talent?
Freelap USA: What is one piece of advice you would give to your 25-year-old self?
Ronnie Jankovich: Strength and conditioning can be a lonely job, even though we spend most of our time with others. So much of our time is spent with youth and teens—yet, in our building, we are typically the only people who understand the struggles of motivating 14- to 17-year-olds to train. Our job description holds inevitable frustrations that our spouses, other teachers, and even other coaches don’t necessarily understand.I wish that earlier in my career, I would’ve invested in relationships with other strength coaches rather than supporting the stereotypical approach of just doing my thing, says @RonnieJankovich. Click To Tweet
I wish that earlier in my career, I would have invested in relationships with other strength coaches rather than supporting the stereotypical approach of just doing my thing. Our job description is, by nature, very selfless; we want to help build success in our athletes, the moral development of the next generation, and so on. The head coach gets the recognition, which is deserved. So we get into this business not for fame or recognition but for other people. Looking back, I should have been more intentional about building relationships with other coaches.
It took me a little too long to recognize that I needed to spend more time with my family. At the literal end of every day, I have a wife and two boys—a beautiful family that I get to go home to, who will be there for me regardless of our record on the field. I can’t spend as much time developing other people’s kids physically and emotionally and not pour into my family. Luckily, I realized the value of this before it was too late, but I know many coaches who did realize it too late or held winning so high that it didn’t matter.
Freelap USA: What are some tips to improve the high school level coach-admin relationship?
Ronnie Jankovich: As coaches, we will have various administrative relationships in our careers. We have relationships with the head sport coaches, the building assistant principals and principals, athletic directors, higher-level administration, and so on. The most effective relationship builder is communication. Communication builds transparency, which builds trust.
When administrators know that you intend to provide the best possible coaching for every individual who enters your program and you have the development of each individual at heart, the door to other conversations is open. When you can show the administration responsible use of allocated resources and find ways (for instance, social media) to provide examples of responsible use publicly, administrators love this. Be a problem solver, not a problem creator. When an issue arises, approach the conversation with a possible solution or a few solutions rather than just identifying a problem.Be a problem solver, not a problem creator. When an issue arises, approach the conversation with a possible solution or a few rather than just identifying the problem, says @RonnieJankovich. Click To Tweet
We love showing off the various ways we use our Dashr timing system. I’ve posted videos to Twitter—or X, whatever it’s called now—and our community sees it, and they inevitably see our admin or head coaches and always talk about what they see our kids doing. Social media can be a powerful tool to show admin and community what we do with our time.
Parents talk within communities, and word gets around about how people think we run our programs. When coaches, ADs, and principals hear how much fun and how much better athletes are getting, they will wonder why they keep hearing about our program. Communicate well, provide an excellent product, use social media appropriately, and have athlete holistic success at the heart of every decision, and the rest will take care of itself.
Freelap USA: S&C coaches often preach simplicity. What does your programming process look like when identifying what fat to trim?
Ronnie Jankovich: Every training decision we make as strength and conditioning professionals applies a stimulus to our athletes. We must be able to identify and prioritize the stimulus that athletes need at various times of the year. When I program a training block, I look back at it and ask myself, “Which of these movements or systems don’t specifically address a need at this point in their season?” If I can identify a movement or extra set that doesn’t need to be there, I cut it. I aim to meet the athletes’ needs with minimal exercises, volume, and intensity. When I meet the minimum, athletes are fresh for practices and games.I aim to meet the athletes’ needs with minimal exercises, volume, and intensity. When I meet the minimum, athletes are fresh for practices and games, says @RonnieJankovich. Click To Tweet
Even in the off-season, we aim to give the athletes what they need and then move on. When we meet just the needs of the athlete, they can come back the next day feeling fresh, and we aren’t taking anything from the next training day. When we stack this day over day, week over week, training cycle over training cycle, we produce athletes prepared to handle more on-field volume and still train throughout the entire calendar year. So, to circle back to my answer, I evaluate the athlete’s needs and meet them with as minimal exercises, volume, and intensity as possible and cut any extra “fluff.”
Freelap USA: How do you keep athletes engaged training block after training block while keeping it basic?
Ronnie Jankovich: While we remain simple in the weight room, we make everything a competition and draw on the natural psychological tendency of athletes to want to compete. We compete in everything we do, whether jumping, sprinting—anything we can measure, even something like rock, paper, scissors. Our goal is to make our training environment a competition. You’re always competing with those around you and, more importantly, with yourself.
Our athletes know their PR for every variation we test. Whether a 10-yard fly with a 5-yard lead-in, an approach vertical jump, or a roll-90 test, it doesn’t matter. They want to PR every time we set it up. This environment breeds competition for every individual, which is the most crucial aspect of raising the collective average of our athletic program. Every school has a stud athlete here and there, but the best teams have the best average; if we can find ways to compete with ourselves and each other every day, our “average” will be really good.As we address an athlete’s weakness, another weakness will always appear. There will always be something they can work on, says @RonnieJankovich. Click To Tweet
We also challenge athletes in terms of mobility. I love introducing them to challenging mobility protocols and then playing on the psychological aspect of wanting to be great at everything we do. Show a competitor something they’re not good at and then watch them work to be good at it. As we address an athlete’s weakness, another weakness will always appear. There will always be something they can work on, and it’s just about efficiently finding ways to assess their needs and then address them. If we can continuously push this process over four years, our athletes will be really good.
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