3 Ways to Develop the Football Intangibles

The weightroom’s a place your players can put on size, increase strength and gain a step. If used correctly, it’s also a place that can develop the intangibles they may need to win.  In so many cases over the years, we’ve witnessed championships won by the programs that demonstrate well-coached physical development and a high degree of mental toughness.


Is one more important than the other?

It seems, even some of the teams that aren’t as gifted physically are extremely competitive because of what’s between their ears.  We’ve all watched games where a less skilled team has the opportunity to win because they’re executing whatever the Coordinator is calling, having minimal penalties, always hustling and being discipline under pressure.

That’s probably what most people see while watching these type of games.

I’m wired to draw realistic correlations between success on the field and weightroom performance.  As a Strength and Conditioning Coach, this is how I see the same game:

I bet the players are on time to the weightroom, they work out consistently, they follow instructions, they show respect, they’re flowing through the workout in the order/pace they were taught, they’re still focused and goal oriented while under intense physical strain.

Just because I see it that way, doesn’t mean it’s true or that’s how the lifts play out. It’s definitely worth exploring though.

The past decade, sport psychologists have done their best to determine a working definition for mental toughness.  Most definitions include things like staying focused, following instructions, being confident, knowing what’s important and being goal oriented under pressure.

Here’s a list of coaching practices that you can easily implement into your strength and conditioning program. I’ll explain later how they’ll aid in their development physically and mentally.

1. Choose a training split that can be used by multi-sport athletes all year round

This should allow your best players, who are usually multi-sport athletes, to train year round. Putting an entire year of consistent training together will yield incredible results. Imagine what putting four progressive years together could look like.

2. Teach and Coach exercise progressions

Teach the players how to choose their weights for all exercises. They should know when to increase weight, stay the same and possibly decrease. As long as you teach them, you can then implement a degree of accountability. Expect haphazard results if they’re haphazardly choosing their weights.

3. Choose a few core exercises that are relatively safe, efficient to over-load and measurable.

Most weightrooms have resources for exercises like bench pressing, chin-ups and a multi-joint lower body pressing movement. Pay special attention to the progressions with exercises like these, as you should be able to accurately measure the strength gains.benching

Notice how I didn’t list a bunch of “blow the doors off the weightroom” workouts or a long list of rules that the athletes need to follow. Those 3 points are practical ways of putting your players in situations where they’ll have to make the right decisions.

Look at it this way….

If you teach and implement a year round training split for multi-sport athletes, they should have to train consistently. If you implement exercise progressions, they’ll have to use specific weights, know their sets and reps and pay attention to details.  If you have a few good core lifts that you can measure, they’ll act as an accountability mechanism if the player isn’t getting stronger. All f this will promote being goal oriented.

This is the time of the year where I get to hear about all of the new “sports specific” exercises we need to implement for carryover onto the field. I don’t know if there will ever be an exercise that directly correlates to a football skill, but I’ll always see the intangibles carryover in the tough times.

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