Photo via USA Today High School Sports
Weight training and conditioning don't stop once football season begins. In this 12-part series brought to you by Volt Athletics – an online platform for teams and athletes that combines strength training and conditioning with cutting edge technology – top college and high school coaches discuss how in-season training helps them on the gridiron.
This second part of the series features Kevin Wright, head coach at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The Ascenders, who play one of the nation's most challenging schedules in 2018, rank third in the Max Preps Preseason Top 100.
Riding a 37-game winning streak, the No. 3 @IMGAFootball team will be tested all season long with three games lined up against Top 25 teams.— MaxPreps (@MaxPreps) August 10, 2018
Will the streak survive the brutal schedule? Only time will tell. ⏰#EarlyContenders pic.twitter.com/vFogGTfYOi
Wright came to IMG in 2015, following a five-year stint at Carmel High School (Indiana), where he led the Greyhounds to three state championship games and a title in 2011, when the team finished No. 8 in the USA Today Super 25. Also in Indiana at Warren Central High School in the mid-2000s, Wright's nationally-ranked teams won three straight state championships.
Wright was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Kentucky when the program transitioned to NCAA Division I. He also coached at prep powers Tulsa Union High School (Oklahoma) and Trinity High School (Louisville, Kentucky). He's the son of Larry "Bud" Wright, Indiana's all-time winningest high school football coach with 410 victories.
Here, Wright details how his team approaches strength training and conditioning:
Q: For your players who spread out across the country after the spring semester, what steps do you take to ensure they’re in shape and ready to go when they return?
A: As a boarding school, we have to employ a different approach than a traditional high school program, where students are within the community during the summer. We end our spring semester with strength testing, as well as “bod pod” testing for each athlete, so we have a profile of where they are before going home. Our nutritionist meets with select athletes who may need to lose body fat or gain muscle mass, and goes over a dietary plan for their time away from campus. They're emailed a detailed strength and conditioning manual that covers the seven weeks they're at home. We encourage our kids to take a week or two off and get away so they're fresh and in the right mental state before they start the prescribed summer program.
Q: How is your summer training program structured, for optimal results leading up to the season?
A: The summer program is structured to build strength, increase speed and agility, and allow the athlete to come back to campus in good cardio condition, so there's a progression to each component. With the health screenings we do, we can also tailor a specific athlete's workout around any muscular deficiencies, or in some cases, areas of specific need based on what they've shown during the spring semester.
Putting in the preseason work! 💪 pic.twitter.com/ts3PBZ93OZ— IMG Academy Football (@IMGAFootball) July 25, 2018
Q: From when practice begins through the end of the season, what are your strategies for continued strength and endurance improvement?
A: We implement our strength sessions right along with practice and meetings from the first day of camp. It’s a vital part of what we do, and the kids have to buy in. We normally lift two days a week. We break our lift into offensive and defensive groups, so on the days one group lifts, the other does specific stretching and regeneration exercises to supplement our weight room and on-field activity. We try to set things up so our heavy lifting day is right after our game, and follow that with a lighter day later in the week. We also monitor the daily workload of our athletes so we know where they are in regard to soreness and how they're feeling. During practice, we monitor both intensity and duration of the amount of running we do by position. We also do a weekly jump test to see how our athletes are recovering as we get closer to game day.
Q: Is there a delicate balance between maintaining and increasing gains while also keeping players fresh for the field during the season?
A: Definitely, especially the longer the season goes. One thing we do is progressively cut back on practice time and the days we're in full pads versus helmets. We're big believers in making sure our team is “game ready” on Friday night. As the season rolls on, focusing on nutrition, hydration and sleep becomes a very important part of the process. Most players in high school naturally make strength gains if they're consistent and focus on all the factors that contribute to muscular gains outside the weight room, even when you're only lifting two days per week.
Q: What dietary guidelines do you give players to follow during the season to maximize results and recovery?
A: Our players all take a nutrition class in the spring, then we follow that up when they get back with multiple “mini-nutrition sessions,” as reminders of what they need to do. We have a nutritionist help set up pre- and post-practice food options in our locker room, and provide players a snack at night before they go to bed. We also have fruit available in school during class periods for them to grab and go. We're consistently educating them on what they need to eat and drink to maximize all the hard work they put in throughout the year. We talk about how diet and rest are every bit as important as physical activities when it comes to maximizing your potential. We have a lot of resources, but it's ultimately the individual buy-in that determines each athlete's overall success.