High School

The Reset Button: Starting Anew at the High School Level

Discover the unique insights of high school strength and conditioning with Kyle Jacksic. From setting expectations to long-term success, gain practical advice and inspiration for making a positive impact in your coaching journey.
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  • Before you get started: where have they been, who are you people, what can you install from afar
  • The first month: be seen, start slow, take it step to step, BE REAL, BE YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS
  • The long run: lean on community while you create your own…if a campus tour walks in, what do they see? What do they feel?…how will people describe you, how will they view what you do?…how do you continue to create excitement?
  • Good lines: the foot can always come off the gas pedal, it’s hard to put it back on…OWNERSHIP IS THE BEST POLICY…look in the mirror before you ever point a finger at somebody else…you can paint the picture without an easel

The Reset Button: Starting Anew at the High School Level

The beautiful thing about high school strength and conditioning is that there is no one place just like another. You have private vs. public schools. In-school vs. after school. Coaches and athletes who ‘get it’ vs. those who do not. But what is beautiful can also be scary. 

The fear that set in when I became the new Director of Athletic Performance at Charlotte Christian School was very real. I went from the largest public high school in the state of North Carolina, responsible for 800+ student-athletes basically at the same time, to CCS where the ‘most’ athletes at one time for the high school is around 300. That should sound like a breath of fresh air…

It wasn’t. It still isn’t. But that is ok. 

A new school required new expectations, new relationships, new training systems, new weight room flow, and all that comes with that. Nowhere at the high school level is there a ‘plug and play’ kind of system, but there are some coaches and schools that have done it better than others. Here is what I’ve learned from the last few transitions:

Before You Start

My last two position changes were mid-year transitions, which is probably some conversations for a different blog post, so there was time to prepare with proper notice. There was time to find the answer to these questions: 

  1. Where have they been?
  2. Who are your people and how can you uplift them?

Whether the program you are taking over was proper or not, or if the high school has even had a program before, puts you on a fine line between building off of what had happened in the past and where you, as the new coach, are trying to take them. The ability to connect with the previous coach can be beneficial to understand where their beliefs may have lived and where that system was trying to go towards. The quality of those answers will give you a great starting point in building the base within your new community. 

Hopefully during initial research and the interview process, you were able to grab a sense of some of the people you will be working with. But what about those that you did not meet? Or those that may have gotten drowned out on a panel? Those ‘smaller’ sports could be some of your best groups that will also help spread the wealth of your program. Teenagers will naturally want to do what their friends are doing/involved in, so what makes the weight room different? Giving those sports a voice will help you build everything from the bottom, raising the floor before you even get there. 

The Start of Something New 

Finally, that day comes. All the lines have your signature on them and you’re ready to go. The first group comes in and there is a mutual look between you and the students wondering if there is anyone who is lost. 

It is time to paint the picture. But you may have no idea where the easel is. 

No matter how you start, whether you want to start right away with a training session or have sit down time with the student-athletes to go over expectations, policies, and procedures. You could very well have no idea where you may end up, but you can definitely start to pave the path in how you all are going to get there. 

When it comes to setting expectations, it is easier to take the foot off the gas pedal than it is to ever slam it back down. The student-athletes need to understand the reasons behind why you are setting the expectations the way that you are. You do not need to scare them, but they do need to respect you. How do you go about building respect to those that could be less than half your age, while creating excitement around your program and its future?

That’s where the art of coaching will come into play. But these main things have helped me build these programs: 

Be seen. It should not be a mystery of ‘who the ___ is,’ even if you are new. Go to practice. Go to the cafeteria. Walk around the halls. Meet the people and meet the community you are becoming a part of and trying to impact. 

Be real. Imposter syndrome will be the greatest downfall to a coaching career. Even if you are dealing with teenagers, they will see right through it. No matter who you are, they will appreciate realness. Let your guard down, open up insight into your life, and build those relationships before you ever expect to get your expectations met. 

Start slow. Even if you are hired in the middle of the year, it is important to take your time and take everything step by step. There is no ‘right time’ or ‘perfect time’ to any of this. You will need to say a lot of the same things over and over again before they are remembered and second nature to the athletes and coaches. The finish line is not pre-set for you; it is up for you to decide where it may lie. 

Finally, and the most important one: be your own expectations. You want your people to show up on time? Eat well? Sleep well? Dress right? Communicate properly? You better be holding up your end of the bargain. Better yet, if you put in writing, it better mean something. Do not just slap words on the back of a t-shirt or a sign somewhere just to toss those words out into your program because that’s what everyone talks about. Live what you expect, don’t point to what you expect. 

The Long Run

It doesn’t take a whole lot of conversations and research to realize that there are less and less people staying in their coaching jobs than ever before; so what can you do to make sure your program is growing and upholding those standards on a year after year basis?

Look at yourself before you ever point a finger at somebody else. Much like above, ownership is the best policy. This is also one of the hardest things to do as a coach at the high school level because you are usually the only one doing your job. Having coaches and a network to reach out is important for all of us. 

The number one thing that has helped me is a daily assessment of what went well, what did not, what needs work, etc. Write it down somewhere. The mind may forget but the paper will always remember. 

To wrap up, I leave you with this: if a tour of influential people walks into your space tomorrow, what do they see? How do they feel? And if they stop someone in that room to ask what they think of the program, what would they say? New or not, you should be striving to make a difference in everyone who enters your room lives–that’s why you coach, right? 

Find your answer. Know those answers. Adapt to it. Learn from it. Build it, and they will come. 

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