by Detric Smith, CSCS, USAW, ACSM-HFI

If you’re reading this, you probably have a good understanding of why strength and conditioning is important. However, I’d like to reach the coaches, athletic directors, and lazy athletes who will never reach their potential because of a lack of education. I’m amazed to find some high schools and even colleges without strength and conditioning programs in place. If you fall into the category of those who need to be educated about strength and conditioning, read on and think about investing the time and money necessary to build up a successful program. If you already have an understanding of the concepts, pass this on to someone who doesn’t.

Injury prevention: Injury prevention is the most important reason to have a strength and conditioning program in place, though the majority of coaches don’t realize how or why it’s important. An athlete who follows a well-designed program will prevent or eliminate muscle imbalances as well as strengthen tendons and ligaments, which will lead to fewer injuries. A good program will also address flexibility issues, which will decrease injuries. Following sound nutritional advice will help prevent ailments that can have a major effect on an athlete’s performance.

If you coach a sport long enough, you’ll probably ask yourself, what would happen if my star player couldn’t play in the big game? Or what would have happened if my star player had made five more carries (blocks, hits, etc.)? Or what if my players were playing at 100% instead of 65% the entire game/year?

The athlete may have made that first down, or basket, or extra hit. The team might have won that crucial game. The team may have been champions. You can have natural athletes on your team, but if they can’t play, it means nothing. The team who wins is usually the team who wants it more. If you play any sport and your team is doing nothing or slacking in the off-season, you deserve to lose and probably will.

Programs for improved performance: A well-designed program doesn’t always include programs from your favorite bodybuilding magazine, or from a friend who’s a natural athlete, or from some guy who has more drugs in his body than a pharmacy. A well-designed program addresses the individual, his or her muscle imbalances, and the sport the individual plays as well as many other factors.

Stronger athletes: Every sport involves the application of force. This includes just about every skill involved in sports such as hitting harder, throwing, blocking, and spiking. Most people don’t realize that getting an athlete’s legs stronger through exercises such as squats and lunges is the quickest way to make an athlete faster. There are many athletes who can cycle their legs as fast as a top level sprinter, but they’re not applying as much force to the ground as some of the fastest athletes in the world.

Faster athletes: Making an athlete faster is a simple but complex process. I’ve never seen an athlete who can run correctly without first being taught how to do it. Most coaches think that running an athlete until he or she throws up breakfast, lunch, and dinner is the best way to make an athlete faster. However, I view running an athlete in the same way that I view swinging a golf club. Sprinting is very technical and requires hard work to make improvements. The program should address conditioning and agility work so that the athlete’s newly developed speed transfers to the field.

Powerful athletes: An example of a powerful athlete is one who can jump high and accelerate faster than other athletes. A well-designed strength and conditioning program will make an athlete more powerful by utilizing the correct exercises and implementing plyometrics the right way.

Confident athletes: An athlete who works hard and follows a strength and conditioning program will display more confidence on the field because of his or her improved performance. The hard work and discipline it takes to do things in life that you don’t like doing or the things that are tough make you a better person and athlete.