Tag Archives: Strength and Conditioning

Feet Feat

In the previous football coaching post, I talked about the important concept of open and closed gates for an offensive and defensive lineman. The ability to use your lineman body type as a tool to your advantage in creating or protecting space on the football field. Football is a game of real estate; it is a fight for space. The offense wants to create space and gain real estate while the defense want to deny advancement. It’s the story of humanity in a simple and physical game, I want that space.

The gates concept relies on footwork. Of all the athletes on a football team, the casual fan would likely rank the lineman as a distant last in regard to who has or needs the best footwork. In reality, it’s the exact opposite. The big boys are the ones who need the best footwork. The lineman needs the footwork of a dancer to go along with the strength and mindset to be successful. 

Where the feet go, the body follows.

When I watch a sporting event, either live or on video, the first thing I’m drawn to is footwork. The feet can tell you volumes. Football, basketball, wrestling, track & field, baseball, volleyball, etc. all movement sports are built on the foundation of the feet. It’s so basic and so logical, coaches often overlook this fundamental factor in building great athletes enamored by speed and strength numbers. 

The football lineman must have good to great footwork to get their job done. Good footwork allows them to close gates to effectively create space or defend space. Don’t believe me yet? Then try this.

Stand straight, looking forward, and with feet shoulder length apart about an arm length and a half from a wall. Take a step with your wall-side foot and reach out and touch the wall with your near hand. Not hard right? As you stand there with your fingertips touching the wall, notice how balanced and strong your lower body feels. You feel strong and stable. You could push a hole in the wall if you felt it was necessary.

Now, stand back in your original position. Anchor your feet in place and reach out to touch the wall. Not so easy, right? Did you feel balanced and strong this time? Nope. You probably felt thankful that the wall was solid and sturdy or you’d be lying on your butt on the floor. 

That’s the importance of good footwork for an athlete. The ability to move with power, quickness, and speed AND retaining the power, quickness, and speed in your new position.

How do you develop good footwork, especially for the Bubba athletes?

For starters, movement skills emphasizing footwork must be a part of everyday training, 365 days a year. Foot ladder drills, agility drills, dot drills, etc. can easily be incorporated into the strength training routines or classes. With something so important to athletic success or failure, why a coach wouldn’t incorporate and emphasize footwork skill development is beyond me.

With the Bubbas, we use the T-board drills to develop the first three steps. The first step is a quick, short (6 inch) angle or stretch step just across the vertical board keeping the hips and shoulders square. It’s important to watch the athletes and make sure the hip follows the foot. Remember, where the foot goes, the body follows.

The second step brings the trail foot level with the lead foot keeping hips and shoulders square to the line of scrimmage then initiating contact with hands. The second step establishes the close gate and brings the lineman’s body to a favorable position with, importantly, the balance and power to get their job done.

Once contact is made the third step is used to establish hip leverage to seal the defender from the hole. The first three steps in a block are critical to an offensive lineman. The higher the level of football, the more important these technical bits become. 

The next steps are used to drive or seal the defender from the attack area of the play design. With our undersized, but athletic, lineman we had in our program, it was absolutely vital we had good footwork to put our bodies in a position of strength versus the defense. We use the board to establish good fundamentals or to re-establish good fundamentals on a daily basis. The teaching progression added bags and holders to the vertical board as an advanced drill. All repetitions are at full speed and each block finished to the coach’s whistle.

Where the feet go, the body follows.

Footwork development is an integral part of any athletic movement program. It takes focus and discipline and repetition. That’s not just what is required of the athlete. The coach must be more focused, more disciplined, and more attuned to the details as they watch each and every repetition. Nothing in this coaching business can be run on autopilot. There’s not a single aspect of sports coaching, especially in youth or high school, where the coach can put on the cruise control. 

Coaching is work.

Hard work.

And, if you’ve hung around here long enough you know…


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The Bubba Conundrum

I’m a big boy. A lineman for life. “Husky” was my Sears Toughskin categorization as a kid. I loved coaching the big boys of the offensive and defensive line in my football coaching days. Loved it.

We called ourselves the “Bubbas”. The running backs/defensive backs were called “Bullets”. The TE/linebacker-types were the “Bricks”. Everybody belonged to a group, everybody in each of those groups trained differently in our strength and conditioning program.

I almost blew a gasket recently when I heard of a coach telling a big boy lineman he wouldn’t be much use to the team next fall unless he got into better shape. First, I hate this approach, especially with a Bubba. It’s tough growing up a big boy in a skinny boy world. When one tells a big boy the above criticism, what he hears is something he’s probably heard over and over in his entire life—that he’s fat, lazy, and/or of little value— instead of hearing that he needs to be in better shape. Second, the above criticism from the coach is delivered with no plan of action.

The young athlete was knocked into a dark pit by someone he probably respects and not given any plan or tools for climbing out. Modern coaches and parents need to be more positive in these situations. Point out to the athletes they’d perform at a higher level if they were in better condition AND then give them a vision of how we’re going to accomplish this. (The WE part of the equation is very important.)

The conditioning requirements for high school football players are different for the Bubbas, the Bricks, and the Bullets. The specific work/recovery demands require specific considerations for each group of players. Even the casual high school football fan realizes the differences in physical demands between an offensive guard and a wide receiver on any given play. The lineman’s job and the wide receiver’s job both use the burst energy supplied by the anaerobic energy systems but in different ways. The lineman is using power over speed. The wide receiver uses the opposite, speed over power. Power/Speed vs. Speed/Power

A high school football play lasts only 5.6 +/- 2.0 seconds according to a study published in 2006. The NFHS play clock is 25 seconds. Adding the variable length of time it takes for the ball to be marked and set before the play clock is started, the total time between plays is about 45 seconds. I know what you’re saying, “This Hays guy is such a geek. I just want to play football and hit people. I don’t care about math or physiological energy systems. Where’s my dang helmet?”

My answer is this, you don’t have to care. Not really. But, as a strength and conditioning coach, I HAVE to care. I HAVE to design training regimens that give you the best chance to perform and “hit people” like a cannon shot each and every play of a four-quarter high school football game. I HAVE to consider these geeky physiological demands in order to give you the power you need.

5.6 +/- 2.0 seconds work followed by 40 seconds rest.

Why share these seemingly trivial numbers? No, I don’t give you these numbers so you know there’s about 40 seconds to run to get a bag of popcorn without missing any action. I emphasize these numbers because everything we need to do to prepare our Bullets, our Bricks, and our Bubbas to perform needs to revolve around this conditioning ratio. About 8 seconds of intense work, followed by 40 seconds rest.

Sprints, lifts, med ball slams, swings, pull-up, sled pulls/drives, agility drills, etc. all should follow fairly close to this timing 75-80% of total training time. The wide receiver’s plan would include a high percentage of the speed-building exercises. The offensive guard’s plan would include a high percentage of the power-building exercises. The remaining 20% or so would be developing general fitness in order to support the basic foundation.

These methodologies are usually sufficient for the high school athlete. If athletes move up to high levels, the college or professional level, the methodologies become even more personalized and intricate.

Bottom line, give your big kids a solid plan. Instead of straight up criticism, give them a goal. Give them the tools they need to attain the goal and give them the support they’ll need along the way. Every football team is built on the backs of the big boys. You better figure out how to deal with them and understand their needs if you want to be successful.

Respect your big boys! #BubbaForLife!




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2006 Summer Conditioning Theme: The Keys to Success

Keys to Success…

  •  Winners do the things losers will not do.
  •  Being successful often means working harder than the next guy.
  •  Having success builds success within the individual and the team.

 photo (2)

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Coach Hays Rant: Supplements

I am not a big fan of supplements for average high school athletes. I am in a minority. I’ve been jeered, deemed old-fashioned, and dismissed for many of my beliefs in regard to supplements. 95% of all athletes don’t need them. Many of the supplements you see advertised, as well of a huge chunk of the supporting data, are designed and tested for the upper level athlete. These are the top 5% college and pro athletes who work and train at such a high level, their diet cannot completely help them recover.

I wrote an article for Gridiron Strategies football coaching magazine ten years ago about the Performance Triangle philosophy we used in our rural high school football program. Since many of our athletes also participated in other sports throughout the year, my hope was that they would take these principles with them throughout the year.


The Performance Triangle consisted of the three prong approach of nutrition, hydration, and rest. After years of coaching high school male athletes, I came to realize the majority of these kids have poor nutrition, poor hydration, and don’t get a proper amount of rest. Which brings the million dollar question…if you don’t eat right, if you don’t drink enough water, and if you don’t get enough sleep, why are you (or probably your parents) spending hundreds of dollars on supplements?

Protein supplements, muscle milks, shakes, drinks, powders are a mega-dollar industry. Do you know the human body only absorbs about 15% of the protein ingested? The other 85% is eliminated by the kidneys in the urine. So, for every $100 you spend on protein supplements, one’s body eliminates 85 of those dollars down the toilet. Now, does that sound like a wise investment?

Former Kansas State University Strength and Conditioning Coach Rod Cole, one of the best in the business, used to tell his players to eat two peanut butter sandwiches with a glass of milk every morning and night to cover the athlete’s extra nutritional needs. The first place an athlete, their coaches, and their parents should look is at the athlete’s nutrition, hydration, and rest before even investigating supplements.

The folks who push these supplements on kids without education, prescribed need, and exploring basic nutritional options are, in my opinion, pushers. They sell a bottle, not belief. It is the greatest sin a youth coach or youth mentor can commit.

The pill begins to control the player. The mentality which comes with this perceived need is deadly to the success of an athlete. It is the protein shake, not the hours of hard work that become the reason for gains. Shortcuts make long journeys. In the case of supplements, these journeys wind through the lands of self-doubt and dependency, neither place fitting for the ideals and dreams of young athletes.


Looking for the edge over your opponent? I suggest looking in a mirror. What you will see there is your greatest asset. You will find in that reflection the number one, most effective tool you have in your arsenal…YOU.

Believe in yourself, not the chemical. You will soon discover the difference when you are asked to perform and the game is on the line. There will be no doubt in your mind, or your teammate’s minds, about whether or not you have what it takes to get the job done. Belief trumps bottles every single time.

Be the best you that you can be. Dedicate yourself to the person in the mirror. Give that person in the mirror the very best of your mind, body, and heart. Do the work. The shortcuts are filled with pitfalls and traps, as murky and dangerous as quicksand.

There is no magic bullet.

Hard work is the magic.

Believe in yourself.

Be the best you that you can be.


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“Bullets Are Better Than Bowling Balls”

I have been training and coaching strength and conditioning for many years. Some constants through the years has been the weird looks, the snickers and laughs, and the not-being-welcomed-back to a fancy-smancy gym. I do things different. Always have, always will. Our athletes, and even some coaches, have looked at me on more than one occasion as though I had grown two heads or something. The foundation I’ve built my training philosophy upon is that the body is one piece, an explosive athlete is one piece, and an explosive athlete is built from the ground up.

It’s not often that I have run across a similar philosophy. Former K-State Strength and Conditioning Coach Rod Cole was one I respected and admired for years. But I found a strength coach recently who also operates on that rarefied air. I was searching the world wide web looking for an article from the Oregon Duck football program about  something near and dear to my heart; timing the athletic conditioning to meet the timing of the athlete’s sport.

Being Oregon Duck football, and being the standard bearers of fast break, run as many offensive plays in a game as we can, spread offensive football, they worked conditioning to fit into their 10 second timing for a play, 15 seconds max rest, run another play timing. An average football timing is probably around 10 seconds for a play, 40 seconds rest, run another play. So, in order for Oregon to play as fast as they want they need to train their athletes to play within those fast parameters to be able to execute on the field.

Well, I could not find that article anywhere, but I did run across this video from the Oregon Strength and Conditioning Program about Coach Jim Radcliffe. Watch this video, it is a real treat. He hits the very essence of what training athletes is all about.  I think I would really get along with Coach Radcliffe. Listen to what the athletes say and listen to what Coach Radcliffe says, it is pure gold.

Especially the “…this guy’s crazy”.

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Green Standard Time

Back in the day, we did our summer conditioning at 6:30 AM. We chose 6:30 AM for three reasons. First, what the heck else were teenage boys doing at 6:30 AM? A few worked, but we were always understanding and appreciative of that. Second reason, it was when I could do it, be at work at a decent hour, and not get fired from my real job. Third reason, it was cool(er) than the oven of a Kansas afternoon/evening summer day.

Sure, it was early, but we worked hard and we worked fast. We wanted to make the dedicated effort of the boys to be there that early worth the effort of being there, so most of the time, I drove them like dogs. I think we made it well worth their while over the years. We worked hard, but we tried to make it fun. We blasted music, I dished out crap right and left, as necessary. We laughed, we cussed at each other and we grew as people.  I guess you would call it an intense, chaotic, comical, teenage boy atmosphere where everyone would go home, to convenience store, or to the doughnut shop, worn out and dragging.

One group of kids I always carried a tremendous amount of respect for over the years were the country kids from the outskirts of the county. Most of these were farm kids who made great sacrifices to drive 10-30 miles to get to town for workouts. But, no matter how much respect I had for their and their family’s  sacrifices, I could not, and did not, treat them any differently. They were expected to be there on time, ready to roll, just like everyone else was.

Which brings to mind Green Standard Time. There was a small contingent of kids who farmed north of the rural town of Green, Kansas. They would meet up every morning and carpool the 20+ miles to the high school. They were always 10 minutes late and they would always blame it on the senior-to-be of the group, who happened to be our star running back.  Every morning, we would start dynamic warm-ups at precisely 6:30 AM and sure enough, the Green crew would roll in about ten minutes late, the younger kid or two always behind the senior pointing at him and pleading at me with their wide, innocent eyes for mercy. Every day, I would rant for a minute then tell them to join the warm-up and get to work.

Eventually this ritual repeated itself so often, I knew it was time to honor it with a name.  One particular morning rant, I went off about how the other 45 young men, some of who lived WAY out in the sticks, found their way to be on time every day.  I continued to rant about how Green must be on a different time zone or something. Ding! There it was, the name. So from that day forward, from 2002 to 2012, these boys-turned-men live on Green Standard Time (GST).

Despite their tendency for tardiness, the men of the GST have turned into fine men, husbands, farmers, teachers, coaches and even fathers-to-be. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

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Hell Week: Thursday

If there was an easier day to Hell Week, it had to be Thursday.  Speed work, low volume/high intensity, following our motto of getting faster by running fast,  then finishing the workout with agility cone runs.  The team building activity of having a blindfolded returning letter man being guided by underclassmen teammates through an obstacle course was a thing of beauty.  If, of course, you are the kind of person who considers a blindfolded, 250 lbs. offensive lineman (with a somewhat nasty disposition) trying to climb steps under the guidance of several scared-to-death-sophomores a thing of beauty.

Hell Week 2005


Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing.  You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do the right thing once in a while; you do things right all the time.  Winning is a habit.”         -Vince Lombardi

6:30-6:40  Attitude and Self-Improvement

1. “I’ll do it” instead of “I’ll try”
2.  Overcome the urge to quit or to not even try at all.

Self Improvement –identify weaknesses and improve

6:40-6:45  Stretch Runs

6:45-7:00  Sprint Ladder
10-4, 20-4, 40-2, 100-2   

7:00-7:15 Cut Circuit:  4 groups/4 flat cones per drill
1. Down and Backs – 3x
2. U-Turns – 3x Right and 3x left
3. Zig zags – 3x
4. Cut Drill – 3x down and 3x back

7:15 Hold the Rope – Freshman Read
Blindfold relay race.
Returning letterman blindfolded with team partners talking them through course.

Friday at Unruh Stadium

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