Author: Bill Utsey

Principles and Axioms for Effective Coaching of Fitness and Conditioning

There are many basic principles to follow when teaching sports skills, strategies, and fitness for athletic competition. In this article I’m going to share a few of these basic principles. It’s a review of what must happen when you coach if you want your athletes to be able to perform effectively as individuals and as team members. Over the years, these principles have served successful coaches and athletes well and are effective in all sports programs. My experience is that many highly successful coaches employ them daily in their coaching without even thinking about them. Such coaches are so passionate about young people and their sport and are teaching with such high intensity, they never take the time to consider the actual principles that serve as the foundation for the way they teach.

The principles I want to focus on relate to getting the most out of your athletes in the area of conditioning and fitness training. These principles of coaching fitness training are presented to you with the hope that you can recognize the coaching concept more clearly. Newer coaches can then use them intentionally and coach more authentically. I’m also going to share key concepts in getting athletes more engaged in their training regimens.

One of the most important of all reasons why we have sports programs is to provide young people and adults with avenues to improve and maintain physical fitness. It’s not just for the sports they play but also for a lifetime of active living. Fitness conditioning involves three major principles: overload, progression and specificity. Any coach in any sport who conditions for fitness should be very aware of how all three of these principles work together to produce effective results. A warning to all coaches: it is critical that when conditioning young people in progressive resistance training (PRT) one should never employ one of these three principles without knowing about and implementing in concert the other two principles.

Promoting and Communicating Your Team Via a Team Website

When I started coaching I was told that a coach wears many different hats– teacher, counselor, administrator, role model, etc.  For today’s coaches, the world is demanding one more hat to wear–website manager/administrator.  People get their “news” in the palm of their hand (their smart phone or tablet).  Even television “news” is beginning to see the impact of social media.  In the “old days” the media would come to you and your school seeking information– to interview coaches, take pictures, get rosters, etc. Today, the local paper no longer comes to you.   The print media is a dying business and to stay afloat it’s fast becoming more electronic.  Because of this, coaches have to put on their own promoter hats and generate team news and information.  Put figuratively, a webpage is like your “front porch.” If kept attractive and clean– regularly updated and loaded with interesting news and information your athletes, parents, fans, and community will visit it often.  They’ll want to “sit on it” with their friends and have conversations with you and your coaches.

Almost two years ago, we contracted with a national website management company – National Amateur Sports – to create an athletic website for our large school district, and for each of our schools and each of their sports teams.  Why did we do this and what were the selling points in getting buy-in from our schools? I’m about to explain because my goal in this article is to convince you of the value of doing whatever it takes to establish and maintain a team webpage for your program and athletes.

For a good many years, our coaches and athletic directors had been constantly complaining about the lack of media coverage.  About twenty years ago, our local newspaper The Greenville News, was our state’s largest newspaper.  The coverage our high school sports teams received was phenomenal.  They reported on virtually all of our sports teams as well as football and basketball throughout the entire state.  They sponsored events such as district-wide track meets and coordinated and gave coverage to all-district teams in most sports.  Slowly, all of this disappeared.  The newspaper’s circulation dropped significantly, its staff shrunk in size, and our sports team’s media coverage became a trickle.  Most days, there is now not even a single item on high school sports in our local paper’s sports section. Although most coaches hardly noticed this subtle paradigm shift, shift it did and so must we! I’m guessing the above story is a familiar one in your own community because of the tidal wave of 24/7 news coverage via social media through smartphones, tablets, and smart TV’s.  These devices, in concert with the Internet are driving change. It’s happening in every community across the country and around the world.  Today, I get my newspaper delivered electronically and read it on my I-pad.  Everywhere you see people gathering, they are glued to their smartphones reading or sending tweets or texts, and getting news and sports updates, instagram’s, and instant messages from major news and sports media outlets. We can now follow games with live streaming and get live scoring via website links. It’s a whole new world and it is how people expect news and information to be shared with them.

Back to Basics Coaching and Teaching Physical Education

When our school district developed our “Injury Prevention Initiative” a little over two years ago (see November, 2011 article in pelinks4u, “An Injury Prevention Initiative Based Upon the Functional Movement Screen [FMS]”), little did we realize the impact it would make. We initiated this injury prevention program by mandating all athletic teams incorporate the recommendations into their warm-up routines. Since then, we have cut the number of surgeries resulting from athletic injuries by over 40%.

The results were so dramatic that I’m now hounding our district’s physical education specialists to begin using these functional movement exercises in all of our elementary and middle school physical education classes. My thinking is based upon the huge impact Gray Cook and Lee Burton have made with their Functional Movement Screen and the exercises designed to enhance FMS scores and athletic performance.

This fall, I came across an article and video, “Yes, kids are stars on the playing field, but can they do a push-up?” (Nancy Cambria, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 21, 2013). I was pleasantly surprised by what was in the article and attached video, and started looking at what’s happening in our society to our youth-their activity levels, outdoor time, and obesity levels. The focus of Cambria’s article was:

Improve Your Coaching Health: Developing a Structured Format for a Year-End Assessment

Imagine that your team has just finished a dismal season having shown few signs of progress. Or perhaps the feedback in your community has been overly negative about your program. Alternatively, maybe your program is winning but you want to take it to a higher level of performance. As coach, what can you do to initiate significant change in a positive direction? What would your plan for improvement and change look like?

Even if your program is currently successful, what follows below are a series of suggestions for coaches designed to improve programs and nurture coaching health. These suggestions offer a unique, structured and proactive approach that is coach initiated and will result in a self-generated improvement plan. Also attached to this article are four sample tools you can use to gather data. You can adapt these Excel formatted tools to suit your needs.

Common sense tells me that any good coach already has a general or formative idea of what makes his or her team good or bad, what caused every loss, and what led to every win. In this article I’m going to present you with a structured approach that will give you a summative program assessment with specific, supportive data as to why your team won or lost games.

Use Your School’s Physical Education Program as the Mother-Lode For Building Your Sports Programs

Interscholastic sports coaches all want to win. We all want to have the best team, the best players, and have our team compete for regional or state championship. One of the best ways to do this is to use your school’s physical education program to identify and recruit athletically talented students.


Over the years, in my role as athletic director for a very large school district with multiple schools, I’ve witnessed every level of athletic performance in all the sports we offer. Invariably, when I speak to those coaches with poor performance records they lament about the lack of talent in their school (e.g. “We are in a down cycle for athletes”), the “bad attitude” of their players, or the lack of desire among their students to play sports.” But when asked about what they are doing to get students out for their sports, these coaches give vague responses and rarely share with me any specific strategies they are using to find, recruit, or develop their talent base.