Tag Archives: Training

Fundamental Differences

One of the joys of being an athlete and a coach is striving for perfection in the fundamental skills of a sport. Technical proficiency was necessary for me to have success in baseball, football, basketball, track & field, and especially in strength & conditioning. Fundamental skill development was a focus of everything I did as a coach and as a player. Getting better every day was at the core of what we did; it was the core of our program philosophy.

Over the years, I found good things happen to those who consistently work to fundamentally improve. These athletes get better while others stagnate; they enjoy more success, and experience more satisfaction in their sport.

What may have been my most embarrassing moment as a coach was not a bad loss or getting ejected from a game (yes, it happened), it came from a TV news spot a local station did on our football team in the second year we coached. The station was doing a piece on the resurgence of the program and they did a few interviews, plus shot some video.

Everyone was excited to watch the actual newscast and I felt a jolt of pride when the story came on the TV. Good interviews, good background info, everything going smooth, and then the bottom dropped out.

They showed our dynamic warm-up routine and the kid closest to the camera, a lineman (which made it hurt even worse) was performing his high-knee skips like he was in the park on a Saturday afternoon carrying a picnic basket and singing “Skip to My Lou”. His technique was horrid and it was right there, in 240 lbs. of offensive lineman glory, skipping like a kindergartener across the TV screen.

I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide. It was my own fault as a coach for allowing this lapse of technique to occur. I decided then and there I needed to up my coaching game and teach/demand more from ALL the kids in the program. Fundamental skill development became a challenge I was not going to fail at again.

Do you know why they call the basic skill a fundamental? Fundamental means the most important part of something’s basic structure or function. The fundamentals form the foundation of the skill one wishes to excel at. There are fundamental skills in sports, science, welding, teaching, coaching, electrician, etc. In practically any field, one must learn and master the fundamentals in order to succeed.

Why are fundamentals so important?

Let’s say we’re building a wall, a solid, brick wall. The first step in building our wall is to prepare the ground to give us a flat, stable surface. Maybe we’ll even pour a concrete footing to give our wall the strongest foundation possible. Once this basic foundation level is set, we can add the best bricks or stones to the foundation and bind them into the others to solidify our base.


The base foundation is stable. Our fundamentals of our wall are solid, so as we add bricks to create the vertical wall it becomes a marvel of strength and can endure an attack or force.

Let’s say you’re in a hurry to build your brick wall. The ground you start with is slightly inclined, with clumps of grass and weeds covering the soft layer of earth. And, you’re going to use those dirt clods and mud pies the kids made this morning as your foundation layer. Now build your brick wall on top of this makeshift foundation.

Which of these walls would you rather have if you’re wearing your bright red jumpsuit and staring down a charging bull just stung by a bee in the pasture on the opposite side of your new wall?

That’s what training is; it is building your best possible wall out of your own body. Mastering the fundamental and techniques of your chosen endeavors is absolutely vital to maximize performance. In sport, the physical movement skills, the combination of strength, speed (quickness) and agility, are the fundamentals one must work to master.

It’s that time of the year where we see a lot of photos, videos, etc. on social media from high school kids participating in powerlifting meets. Often, I see these and cringe. Especially, the young freshmen and sophomore athletes exhibiting technical flaws which make the “Skip to My Lou” high-knee skips look like ballet. These kids, besides risking injury, are not developing the proper fundamental movements skills, the foundation of their wall is shaky, and without intense correction, they may never reach their full potential.

Young lifters should never be given the green light for weighted lifts without showing proficiency in the proper technique. Technique work is the foundation for results. These athletes are wasting precious time with each repetition they perform improperly. Good things will happen in the future if you train by the mantra: “Movement first, then weight.”

A large part of coaching is the development of the talent in your program. In my opinion, it is also one of the most neglected facets of coaching. Player development must be a priority, especially at the high school level where the talent pool consists of the athletes who walk through your door every day.

Teenagers rarely will do this on their own. They need guidance, they need a plan, and sometimes, they need a kick in the rear.


A Plan.


These three things separate the good programs and coaches from the bad.

I would like to ask all athletes, young and old, to remember the importance of doing things right and with fundamental soundness. Focus on technique first and foremost. If you find yourself needing help with technical development, ask for help or contact me and we can find the help you need.

Be safe.

Be strong.

Be your best.

 Hard Work is the Magic


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Step By Step

Everybody wants to win.

It’s human nature.

What distinguishes success from failure if we all initially desire the same thing? In other words, how did we get to the results we got?

It’s the staircase philosophy.


Think of a long flight of stairs. My own visual staircase is an isolated utilitarian concrete set of stairs anchored to the ground in the middle of nowhere. Now visualize a shiny, rather gargantuan gold trophy at the top. This is the victory, the goal which is the pinnacle of your chosen endeavor. When you reach that top step, you’ll sit down next to that golden trophy and put your arm around it like it’s your best friend in the whole world. It’s Nirvana.

Here’s the problem that separates the “everybody wants to win” people from the winners. You have to start at the start. You have to start at the bottom of the stairs and work your way up one stair at a time.

The first step is not so bad. It’s usually just a simple hop up.

The second step is a little higher and it takes more skill to climb.

And so on and so on…

Until you get to those final few steps. These steps are the separators, these are the monster steps. Hard work is the magic on these steps. The prize is within reach, you can almost taste it.. One must decide on doing the work and making the sacrifices to make the next level or stay and give up.


Successful folks understand the staircase philosophy. Constant work builds upon a solid foundation each step of the way. There are no shortcuts. A lot of money is spent on magic bullets and pills and supplements trying to find a shortcut.

There are no shortcuts.

It’s like learning the alphabet. We didn’t learn “A” and jump right to “Z”. Too many people want to make a grab for the “Z” right off the bat. It doesn’t work that way.

It is a methodical learning curve, A to B to C to D…, one letter at a time, all the way to Z. It’s like Mrs. Hays is often (always) saying, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

A wonderful group of local Clay County people are starting a project to bring life back into our baseball field, Kelly Campbell Field. We are going to follow the staircase philosophy. We are going to work our way up to have a playable small town high school baseball field. We are going to follow a staircase philosophy while being extremely financially responsible and respectful.

(So, if you see folks working on Kelly Campbell Field, thank them for their effort. And, if you find yourself with an extra dollar in your pocket, I’m sure the Clay Center Parks & Recreation Committee can find a good use for each dollar designated to Campbell Field.)

Everybody wants to win. Winning is a way of doing business, a way of life.

The joy is in the journey. The joy is climbing one step at a time. The is earning your way to the next step.

Step by step.

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Roll With The Changes

“So, if you’re tired of the same old story, oh, turn some pages”

-Roll With The Changes, REO Speedwagon

The moment you accept you are good enough is the moment you begin to lose.

Getting better is a constant, no matter the endeavor you have chosen. Whether it is as an athlete, coach, writer, scientist, teacher, trashman, welder, librarian, etc., it doesn’t matter. If you want to get better you have to work at it on a consistent basis. We have to learn to break out of our shells of complacency to improve. We have to learn how to turn the pages if we are tired of the story.


Getting better also means accepting change. Change pushes and pulls improvement. A refusal to change stops improvement dead in its tracks. Why? Because change often comes with failure and this failure needs to fuel the desire to improve. We used to call this concept The Fail Cycle.

In a perfect world, we would fail, back up a couple steps, analyze the situation and then make the changes needed to overcome the failure. But, being human, we don’t always accept the need to change our tact and we too often stay on the path of complacency and acceptance in our stagnate situations.

I had two standard speeches for football and baseball athletes when I felt we were not doing the necessary adjustments to be successful. Things like using the same swing every at-bat in the midst of a 0-20 slump or falling for the same QB pump fake and losing contain rush time and time again.

  1. Running into the solid, brick wall at increasingly faster speeds will not get you through the wall, it just gets you more pissed off and feeling a lot of pain. Change your plan of attack, take two steps over, and walk right through the open doorway.
  2. Don’t hit yourself in the head with a hammer time and time again and wonder why it hurts. Quit hitting yourself in the head with a hammer!

To me, part of the great joy in life is working to get better at the things that you love doing and the things that make you happy. The only way to do this is to change and move forward.

So, get up and get to work. Whatever you choose to do if your life, do it with purpose, pride, and passion.

Turn the pages and enjoy your new story.


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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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We all sometimes need a healthy dose of “OUT”. To whatever you do, to whatever you are good at, add some “OUT” to it. Supercharge it, push it, take the leap off the high dive.

OUT work
OUT prepare
OUT plan
OUT perform
OUT hustle
OUT play
OUT coach
OUT run
OUT lift
OUT compete
OUT love
OUT study
OUT design
OUT write
OUT lead
OUT love
OUT participate
OUT read
OUT discover
OUT learn
OUT laugh
OUT recover
OUT forgive
OUT carry
OUT follow



Now, go OUT and do whatever you do with joy, passion, and intensity.

Never give up.
Get better every day.
Hard work is the magic.
Be OUTstanding!

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End of 2012 Recycled Post: One Final Act of Stupidity For 2010

For those who know me, my fits of stupidity will not be anything new to you.  But, I need to relate one final (I hope) Coach Hays stupid moment for 2010. Yesterday, I was running a mile on the treadmill as the weather was kind of nasty outdoors.  I was around the half mile mark when this Achilles’ tendon inflammation problem I have been fighting started flaring up.

It ticks me off, because I hate my “old man” afflictions.  Out of blind, stupid pride, I stop the treadmill and kick my socks and shoes off then hit “Start”.  I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS RUN.  Besides, it’s only a bit less than a half a mile to go.

Well it’s not so bad to run barefoot, a little loud on the treadmill, but nobody else is home, so it won’t bother anyone.  And you know those Kenyans run barefoot all the time, so it can’t be THAT bad.

With about a quarter mile left, there is a strange feeling beginning in the balls of my feet,  but I keep going.  There’s only a few more minutes to go, I can finish this.  I need to finish this.  So I tread on one step at a time.   Finally, I am done and hit stop with a great sense of accomplishment.

Then it starts, the burning pain in the balls of my feet increases exponentially.  I can feel the blisters forming on my feet.  Oh, boy!  I’ve done it this time.

Long story short, I am now a little smarter.  I learn some hard lessons with every painful step as my blisters subside.  I have learned the following.

  • Fat, old guys should not run barefoot.  Anywhere.  Anytime.
  • I need to be smarter about working out. Two days off of my feet was not worth the 1/4 mile I ran barefoot.
  • Finally, I am not a Kenyan marathoner

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!  Tomorrow we will start a new year and have a post on resolutions and the the start of the fitness new year on April 1, 2011.  Last year’s post on the subject is AQUI

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A Friday October Night Interrupted

You are lying on a bed of green grass on a crisp October night with stars swirling about your head. Muffled music from a high school marching band floats from somewhere near. You smell the Fall in the air; a mixture of fallen leaves with a hint of winter. For a millisecond, life is beautiful.

Then a whistle blows. Your full senses snap back and the reality drops on your chest like a 24 megaton bomb. You’ve just been physically beaten into the ground by your opponent. At this moment a singular thought invades every cell of your being,

“I wish I would have done the work in summer conditioning.”

Do the work. The clock is ticking.

Hard work is the magic.

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The Viking Laws

I don’t really know for sure who wrote the Viking Laws.  In fact, I cannot even recollect where I originally ran into them, but I am grateful to have found them. There almost has to be some fantastic legend that goes along with their origin. A great wisdom flows through, around and into the Viking Laws, no matter where their origin lies.

The Viking Laws work very well as a road map in a football strength & conditioning environment.  The attack mode and human weapon philosophy required to prepare one to physically, mentally and emotionally compete is mapped out in the Viking Laws.

Believe me, there is a lot to be learned in these 138 words.










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