Coaching Youth and Growing A Successful Program

At Mash we are blessed to have some of the strongest and most athletic youth in all of the country. We just had three youth compete at the Youth Pan American Championships in Colombia, South America. We have at least one more youth that will make Team USA next year. Our Athletic Performance athletes are equally as impressive as we are coaching two rising freshmen in High School that are D1 prospects already. We have a very cool environment because I am able to coach our youth weightlifters alongside our youth athletic performance athletes. Both are of course athletes, but to make this article flow better we will call Olympic weightlifting athletes simply ‘weightlifters’ and the athletic performance athletes simply ‘athletes’.

In our area, my reputation has grown as someone that specializes in working with youth. That makes me super excited; as that is definitely a passion that God has put on my heart. I love working with my adults, and they know it. However, with training youth, I am able to develop them as athletes and future contributors to society. I am able to affect the future adult that is tucked away inside them. Yes, I want to help build the best athletes known to mankind, but I would prefer building the best human known to mankind. I am able to affect my older athletes as well, but it is much easier to make changes in my youth.

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I have a unique advantage over most coaches, as I am able to attract youth from around the country. We’ve now had three young athletes move to the Lewisville, NC from various parts of the country just to work with my team and me at Mash Elite. I also get a few of them part time like Nathan Clifton, our token CrossFit Games athlete. Thanks to social media, our online guys like Nathan, Kobe (he’s moving to North Carolina this weekend), and Jacob Hamby are like family even though they all live in Missouri. When we meet up at competitions, they are as much Team Mash as any of the onsite boys and girls.

Did I form this unique culture on purpose?  I wish, but the answer is no. Luckily, my athletes simply gravitate to each other via Instagram and Snapchat. They know what each other is going through, and they support each other over these social media channels. When we are together, we are one big family. Even the families are best of friends with each other. I have no idea how this happened, but I am tremendously excited to be a part of it.

Mash Culture

It’s this culture that attracts people to our gym. Our youth and junior weightlifters train at the same time as our youth and college age athletes. The two groups get along so well. They respect the abilities of each other. Today we had Cade Carney, starting running back for Wake Forest University, cleaning from blocks and performing seated box jumps with our weightlifters. They love each other, and they cheer for each other. Great athletes respect great athletic ability, so it simply works. Morgan McCullough enjoys watching Cade run over people on the football field, and Cade enjoys watching a 14-year-old Clean & Jerk 167kg. They are both extraordinary.

I know that a lot of you are either coaching youth as well or at least you want to. This article is designed to give you some ideas on how to grow your own program, and how to get the most out of your athletes. I am going to start by teaching you how to grow a solid program because it’s not easy. I am in the middle of nowhere, Lewisville, NC. It’s more like Mayberry, but we love it. The people are nice, but the streets aren’t filled with kids that love to train. Since we moved our gym to this location, our youth program has steadily increased. Here’s what we’ve done so far.

  1. Culture Conducive to Youth Athletes– we coach the fool out of our athletes. I challenge all of you to drop by Mash Elite on any day, and no matter what day you come in you will see coaches actually coaching. Sounds like an obvious one, but unfortunately, it’s not. Most of the time you walk into a gym with youth athletes, and you will have some coach simply watching the athletes train. It looks more like babysitting. That’s not us, and it shouldn’t be you. My motto is coaching every repetition of every set.

However, there is something that has to come first, or you will never have a group to coach. You have to create an atmosphere filled with fun. We laugh a lot. We celebrate victories. We learn from failure. I coach with positive reinforcement. Negativity doesn’t enter our walls. I don’t get mad at my athletes when they do poorly. I figure out why they did poorly, and then we correct it together. Hopefully for a lot of you, this only makes sense. If you are someone that verbally abuses your athletes, then don’t go crying when your athletes leave you and come to me.

Athletes thrive in an environment filled with:

  • Positivity
  • Fun
  • Family like community
  • Competition
  • Encouragement
  • Likeminded athletes
  1. Get Results- look you can crush your Facebook marketing and become a social media expert, but if you don’t get results for your athletes, your gym will soon be empty. I am talking about quantifiable results. If you are gifted a genetic freak, that doesn’t make you a great coach. If you get a genetic freak and make them quantifiably better, then you’re a great coach. Did you make them jump higher? Did you make them faster, stronger, and bigger? If so, word will spread quickly enough.
  2. Get Involved with the Community- this is the one that I am struggling with the most lately because I am much busier than I used to be. Luckily, I have partners at my gym, so we are working on this one together. However, this is how I built my business before. I went to the ballgames. I was a part of the local groups and clubs. My church has always been a main source of athletes because they trust me with their children.

These three things will grow your club. However, I recommend you listen closely to this next one.

  1. Be a Source of Information- this one is so key. Don’t be afraid to give away some information. People make me laugh so hard when they try to protect their ‘secret’ program. I give away 70% of the information that I produce with YouTube, podcasts, articles, seminars, and social media posts. I suggest picking one or more of these outlets, and start informing your community. This will give parents and athletes confidence in you as a coach. It’s a way of educating them about your services and capabilities. I recommend becoming the expert in your field for your community. If you want to coach weightlifters, then write article regarding weightlifting. If you want to be a great strength and conditioning coach, then write articles about speed training, improving vertical leaps, and getting athletes ready for the field. Whatever you end up doing, consistency is king. If you post an article once per week on Monday, you need to publish every Monday.
  2. Become a Social Media Expert- this is the quickest way to inform people in your community about your services. This is the best way to distribute the information that we talked about in #4. It’s also the best way to get in front of your potential clients on a regular basis. It’s a great way to put your current athletes on display showing your methods and results. We have highlights every day because our athletes are performing extraordinary feats on a daily basis. Once again, results are the best way to get more athletes. Our athletes get results, and there is no denying that.

Now we’ve given you some ideas on how to grow your numbers within your gym. However, what are the best practices for getting these athletes the best results?  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Coach every repetition of every set- whether it’s 14-year-old Morgan McCullough Clean & Jerking 170kg/374lb, or 14-year-old Tate Carney running a 4.7 second 40-yard dash and Cleaning 300lb for the first time, technique will always come first. You can’t load a dysfunctional movement pattern without either getting hurt or at best case not getting any stronger. The safest movement pattern will always be the strongest movement pattern.
  2. Get the most out of the least- by that I mean if an athlete can’t perform an air squat properly, there is no need to load them with a barbell. If an athlete is first learning to squat with a barbell, there is absolutely no need to add bands to the equation. I stick with the basics until the basics stop working. For the first two years of an athlete’s training age, the basics are more than enough to get results.

The same goes with all athletic performance coaching. If an athlete is learning proper mechanics, there is no need to use overspeed treadmills. You will simply encourage bad mechanics. If you focus on perfect technique in all you do and getting your athletes stronger, you will see a massive amount of results.

  1. Simple and Frequent– keep your programming simple. Complicated is not better. I suggest using the movements that get the most results on a frequent basis. If you are a weightlifter, we focus on the competition movement, versions of those movements, squats, pulls, presses, and rows. Funny enough, we use a similar approach for our field athletes because those movements produce the biggest results.

Here’s a sample for our younger field athletes:

Week 1-4
Day 1 Week 1
Back Squat with Belt ss 24″ Box Depth Jumps & Touch for Height 3 x 5 5RM (1st rep paused 5 sec), then -10% for 2×5 not paused
Clean Paused 2 inches off Ground  EMOMs Start at 70% 8 sets x 1 rep working up heavy but no misses
Bench Press Paused 3 sec 5RM (1st rep paused 5 sec), then -10% for 2×5 not paused
Upper Muscular Imbalance Work 1
1a. Weighted Push-Ups 8 reps x 3 sets
1b. Bentover Rows 8 reps x 3 sets
200M Lunges BW Only
Day 2
Front Squat with Belt 3RM(1st rep paused 3 sec), then -10% for 2×3 not paused
P. Clean from Blocks 3RM, then -10% for 2×3
Push Presses 5RM, then -10% for 2×5
Snatch Pulls 95% for 3×3 with a 6 sec eccentric
Core Muscular Imbalance 1
1a. OH Carries Axle For Timed Events when you can carry 45 seconds x 3 sets move up in weight
Day 3
OH Squat Variation Max Effort 1RM with 5 sec pause, then -20% for 3 reps not paused
Hang Clean 3RM, then -10% for 3
Bench Press Pause all Reps Start at 60% 8 sets x 3 rep working up heavy but no misses
Deadlift  Max Effort 5RM from Blocks with Bar at Knees
Upper Muscular Imbalance 2
1a. Chest to Bar Pullups Submaximal reps x 3 sets
1b. Dips 8 reps x 3 sets
1c. KB High Pulls 8 reps x 3 sets (lower slower than you pull up)
Day 4
Warm Up with OH Squat Variations Work up to 70% for 3 reps with 1st rep paused 5 sec
Front Squat with Belt 1RM with 50lb of Chain no pause
Snatch Max Effort P. Snatch 3RM, then -10% for 3
Strict Presses 5RM, then -10% for 2×5
Day 5
 Back Squat without Belt 1RM paused 3 sec, then -20% for 2×3 not paused
Clean Max Effort 1RM, then -20% for 3
Closegrip Bench 10RM, then -10% for 10+
Unilateral RDLs 3 x 8ea leg
Core Muscular Imbalance 2
1b. Unilateral Farmer’s Carry For Timed Events when you can carry 45 seconds x 3 sets move up in weight
Lunges 200m

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