Fixing High School Strength and Conditioning.

My name is Deerick Smith and I am the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Southside School District in Southside Arkansas.  I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA and am currently in the Masters of Exercise Science Program at Concordia Chicago. I am the owner of Smith Performance specializing in online training programs for schools and individual clients.  In my daily job, I work all the male and female athletes at the school 7-12th grade.  There are many programs throughout the country doing a fantastic job with strength and conditioning however there are also many programs unknowingly putting athletes at risk.  The three biggest problems I see with Strength and Conditioning at the High school level are:

1-Programs that are too far advanced in terms of the athlete’s abilities.

2-Lack of understanding of Olympic lift programming.

3-Overuse of brutality to create mental toughness.

I cannot count the amount of times I have heard an athlete or coach say “we are following the University of _________ Strength and Conditioning program”.  The problem with this is the fact that they have no understanding of the progressions that led up to the exercises in that program. Many of the exercises being used could have had three years of progressions leading up to them. They also do not have the athletes at their school that are using that program at whatever university it may be.   Any division 1 even division 2 school is full of the best athletes from various High Schools across the country. What can be done with them is far different than what can be done with most athletes at the High School level.  A quote from Strength Coach Dan John resonates with me in terms of programming for High School athletes “anything works but not everything works” If you stick to a simple program then you will see results. If you bounce around from different method to different method then you will not achieve the results you could.

There is also a lack of understanding of the programming of Olympic lifts into strength and conditioning programs. Clean and Snatch variations can have a huge impact on the development of the High School athlete if taught and programmed correctly, they can also put the athlete at an increased risk of injury if they are not taught or programmed correctly.  When programming Olympic lifts, I never program more than five reps per set and usually do no more than three reps per set.  This is because the Olympic are so dependent on proper form, all lifts require technical abilities but with the Olympic lifts and their variations this greatly increases.  The more reps programmed the more stress on the CNS and the more the athletes form breaks down. I simply live by if you cannot do or coach an Olympic movement yourself, then don’t have your athletes do it! There are many progressions that go into learning the Olympic lifts and their variations. You don’t just simply program cleans into your workout without taking your athletes through the process of learning the different aspects of the clean.   There are many ways to achieve the stimulus that Olympic movements provide without doing the Olympic movements.

Lastly and one of the biggest problems I see are coaches trying to create mental toughness through brutality in the weight room or in training sessions.  While many may not agree with it my thoughts are if an athlete shows up every day on time and gives his or her full effort on the task at hand then they are already mentally tough. This world is full of soft individuals who simply cannot show up and do what is expected so to do this they are already ahead of a lot of the population. It is not our place as coaches to grind kids into the ground through brutal workouts that leave them laying on the floor drenched in sweat gasping for air in the name of “mental toughness”.  Special forces, Marines, and the Army and Navy do a lot of these type workouts and are some of the baddest men and women on the planet but that’s the key, they are MEN and WOMEN, not Jr High and High School KIDS.  I look at it through the lens of do my kids respect me or do my kids fear me, while both will get your athletes to buy in the first is the key in truly developing your program.

Below is an example of what a structured day SHOULD look like:

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 7.12.07 PM

All of our programs at Smith Performance are designed around a pull, push, squat, dynamic movement and carry every single training day. This allows for variety within the program while still providing a consistent stimulus for growth.  Coaches are wearing many hats and stressed thin as it is, not all districts have the budget to have a certified strength and conditioning coach overseeing the programs. Smith performance provides the ability for all schools to have a program designed by a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  We also offer individual programs and professional development for school districts across the United States teaching coaches how to oversee the weight room and design a proper program. The weight room is the most dangerous place on campus, make sure your athletes are safe and your coaches are educated with Smith Performance.

If you are looking for an online training program for your school or individually let me work for you to design the best program to fit your equipment and abilities.  All programs are CUSTOM made to your goals and strengths. I work to develop the total athlete, mobility, injury risk reduction, increased speed/power and strength. All programs are delivered directly to your phone through the Teambuildr app.  You can contact me by cell at 870-613-0075, on twitter at @coachdeesmith or via E-Mail at Let me help maximize your teams yearly development.


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