Middle School Block Zero Coordinator Proposal
Eric Cash, MS, SCCC
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Dorman High School
In 2007 I started my career as a head strength coach at the collegiate level. After numerous conversations and a few visits with Coach Kenn and his staff, I realized that Block Zero was the foundation I would utilize for my young athletes. During my stint as a collegiate strength coach, I remember wishing that my young freshmen student athletes understood the basic principles of the athletic position, posture, setting their hips, jumping and landing mechanics. Now serving as a head strength coach at the high school level, I firmly believe there is no better place for Block Zero to have greater success. When we returned to school in January 2014, we started our Middle School Development Program. The following details the step toward creating that position.
When planning our summer schedule in May 2013, I was approached about middle school athletes lifting with varsity sports. I immediately saw an opportunity to have a middle school Block Zero program. The interest was there from baseball, lacrosse, football, and some softball middle school athletes. For just one day a week during the summer, I had a one hour Block Zero training session with 30 to 40 rising 7th and 8th graders. With a large group of inexperienced athletes, we used our basketball arena and I ENCOURAGED all parents with participating children to come and watch. I also took the time to talk to parents and explain the process and the end goals (turned out to be similar to a recruiting speech).
Another opportunity arose when the recreational director reached out to me seeking advice on planning summer agility sessions for youth league athletes. Working with youth league coaches in a positive way can have a direct impact on your strength and conditioning program.
Before the program started, I met with coaches and went over the goals of the agility sessions—to keep kids active and engaged. I stressed the importance that kids at this age need to enjoy what they are doing. I hoped to expose the young athletes to different types of drills they would experience over the next few years. We did not place an emphasis on “technique” so much as we did on learning the patterns. I attended the first few sessions, but let the youth league coaches organize and run the sessions. At the end of each session kids were encouraged to participate in “free play” of some sort.
At the high school level, parents and local community members can be your biggest supporters with school board members and administrators. Once those connections were established, I was visible at a few recreational and middle school athletic events throughout the fall illustrating a vested interest in the young athletes I would be training in years to come. Taking advantage of these opportunities laid the groundwork for my Block Zero Coordinator Proposal.
As the fall progressed, I began planning my spring semester schedule. Considering that I was still in the “honeymoon” phase, I decided to start mapping a plan that would be all inclusive and progressive from middle school through high school. To establish a new phase of the strength program, some things had to be considered:
* Coach involvement
My first course of action was to reach out to middle school coaches. My goal was for them to feel included in the process. We met in each middle school weight room (not really a weight room) and discussed how I could help their teams. I explained my vision and what my goals were for a middle school developmental program. Prior involvement with middle school athletes and visibility around events was an added bonus during these meetings.
The next step to put in place was the coverage piece. In most school districts, there is some type of “weight coach” supplement for after school or before school lifting. While I am a salaried strength coach, there had been supplement positions prior to my hire. My intentions were to use existing budgeted money for the Middle School Block Zero Coordinator position as opposed to creating a supplement.
The next part of coverage…How do you find someone for the Block Zero position? Again, previous opportunities and connections made will pay dividends. After meeting with middle school coaches, there may be someone that expresses interest. There may be a coach whose child who attended the summer Block Zero sessions or the youth league agility sessions. I was able to find a coach with an exercise physiology background that had a 5th grader in our school district. He had a vested interest in Block Zero in regards to the athletic development of his own child. There may also be a young energetic staff member who regularly participates in one of the many strength training disciplines or competitive sport. The goal is to find someone to help and you can teach them and train them to run your Block Zero program.
During my meetings with middle school coaches, I evaluated each space that I planned on utilizing. There is an obvious cost anytime there are changes made to facilities and equipment is added. When deciding what would go in a room at the middle school level, I based everything on Block Zero principles; therefore, I planned to have no racks or barbells.
With all information gathered and my plan prepared, the next step was to request a meeting with the “decision makers.” But the sell was easier than expected. As previously mentioned, parents and community members are huge supporters. Having laid the foundation during the summer and fall, my administration had heard of Block Zero and they listened with an open mind. Below is the plan that I presented and while it seems short and simple, it allowed me the latitude to explain things verbally and with passion as opposed to reading verbatim.
We have all attended strength and conditioning clinics where we have heard the best of the best explain how they train their teams at some of the most beautiful and extravagant facilities in the world. We have to remember that each situation is different and we can’t all do things the exact same way. I have a very supportive administration that has allowed me to put my vision to work. While you may be in a better or worse situation, it is my hope that this plan or some pieces of the process can help you better serve your young athletes.