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Original Research

Strength and Conditioning Practices of United States High School Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Duehring, Michael D1; Feldmann, Christina R2; Ebben, William P2

Author Information
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: November 2009 - Volume 23 - Issue 8 - p 2188-2203
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bac62d
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Abstract

Introduction

Surveys of strength and conditioning practices offer comprehensive information about the nature of professional practices. Thus, coaches have access to a convenient source of the collective ideas of others that they can use to compare with, and potentially incorporate into, their own practices. The strength and conditioning practices of college and professional strength and conditioning coaches have been previously described in the literature, serving as a source of information most applicable to those who work in similar positions. At present, no similar source of information exists for strength and conditioning at the high school level.

A variety of surveys of the practices of college strength and conditioning coaches have been conducted evaluating the core exercises used (1), demographics, education and specific strength training procedures (2), football strength and conditioning programs (7), weight room injuries (16), and trends in strength and conditioning at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I (Division I) schools (14). In addition to the studies of college strength and conditioning practices, surveys have been used to examine the strength and conditioning practices used in a variety of professional sports (3-5,12). Ebben and Blackard (3) created and validated a survey of strength and conditioning practices based, in part, on the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) 1988 Role Delineation Study, which identified several categories of responsibilities for strength and conditioning coaches (9). This survey was used to study the practices of National Football League (NFL) strength and conditioning coaches (3) and eventually was applied to study the strength and conditioning practices of coaches from other professional sports including those in the National Hockey League (NHL) (4), Major League Baseball (MLB) (5), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) (12).

As a result of the work in this area, the strength and conditioning practices at the college and professional level have been described in the literature. Surveys of high school strength and conditioning (HS S&C) practices appear to be limited to those assessing the sport nutrition supplement practices of high school football players (13). Despite the fact that there are most likely many more HS S&C programs than college or professional programs, little is known about the practices of coaches at the high school level and how these practices compare with those of college and professional strength and conditioning coaches.

Therefore, the purpose of this study was to survey HS S&C coaches to comprehensively describe the common as well as unique practices to create a source of professional practice knowledge for those working at this level of strength and conditioning. This study also allows for comparison of HS S&C practices with those used at the college and professional level.

Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

This study was designed to provide comprehensive descriptive information about the practices of HS S&C coaches. The research hypothesis was that the coaches responding to the survey would comprehensively describe their practices, which would be similar to strength and conditioning practices of previously surveyed professional sports teams with respect to their understanding and use of commonly accepted scientifically based principles of strength and conditioning.

Subjects

Inclusion criteria was defined as membership in the NSCA, a listing in the NSCA membership directory for high school coaches, identifying a high school as their primary employer, working as a HS S&C coach, posting on the HS S&C special interest group, and having an e-mail address. One hundred eighty-three HS S&C coaches met those criteria and were surveyed. Of those surveyed, 55 surveys were returned as undeliverable, presumably as a result of problems with the e-mail delivery system or an address change. Thus, 128 HS S&C coaches received a survey, and 38 of those coaches responded. No coach or team name was associated with any responses to protect the confidentiality of the strength and conditioning coaches. This study was approved by the institutions' human subjects review board.

Survey

The survey, “Strength and Conditioning Practices of High School Strength and Conditioning Coaches,” was modified from that of Ebben and Blackard (3) for this application. The original survey was pilot tested with an advisory group of approximately 25 strength and conditioning coaches and exercise scientists. The survey was divided into 9 sections including background information, physical testing, flexibility development, speed development, agility development, plyometrics, strength/power development, miscellaneous aspects of the strength and conditioning program, and comments. The modified survey was similarly pilot tested with an advisory group of approximately 20 strength and conditioning coaches and exercise scientists to insure its validity for use with this population. As a result of the pilot testing, the survey was slightly modified including clarifying and improving the wording of a small number of questions and administered to the sample to be studied.

Data Collection

An introductory letter describing the project and survey was sent via e-mail to all the HS S&C coaches in the sample. The purpose of the introductory letter was to again explain the survey, the expected time commitment, and the confidentiality of information. A second e-mail and copy of the survey were sent to the HS S&C coaches who did not respond to the first mailing. Data for the survey were collected in 2007. After completion of data collection, a report of survey findings was mailed to all HS S&C coaches participated in the survey.

Statistical Analysis

The survey contained fixed response and open-ended questions. Answers to open-ended questions were content analyzed according to methods described by Patton (10) and previous related studies (3-5,12). The actual responses of study participants are defined as raw data. Higher-order themes represent the main ideas that emanate from the raw data and are created by the researchers. During data analysis, 2 researchers each independently evaluated all the raw data and generated higher-order themes via inductive content analysis for each open-ended research question. These independently generated higher-order themes were then compared until researchers agreed on the specific wording of each theme and that it best represented the raw data making up the theme. At the point of development of higher-order themes, deductive analysis was used to confirm that all raw data themes were represented. In most cases, each participant's raw data contributed to the formation of 1 higher-order theme. In some cases, the participants provided greater depth of information that represented more than 1 concept and their responses contributed to more than 1 higher-order theme. Researchers were trained and experienced with content analysis and qualitative methods sports science research.

Results

Background Information

Thirty-eight of 128 HS S&C coaches responded to the e-mail survey resulting in a response rate of 29.7%. Coaches reported the length of time in their present position resulting in an average of 6.63 years, with an average of 14.78 years in the profession. Coaches reported possessing a variety of certifications with the most common being the NSCA's certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) (n = 29); USA. Weightlifting (USAW) certification (n = 12); teaching certification (n = 5); NSCA-certified personal trainer (n = 3); CSCS, recertified with distinction (n = 2); and the USA. Track and Field certification (n = 2). The education level of the coaches included at least a bachelor's degree, with 20 of 38 coaches possessing a master's degree. The most common degrees were in the fields of physical education (n = 20), education (n = 5), exercise science (n = 4), kinesiology (n = 3), biomechanics (n = 2), and biology (n = 2).

Physical Testing

Thirty-six of 38 (94.7%) HS S&C coaches reported testing athletes. Coaches were asked what times of the year variables of athlete fitness were tested (Figure 1), what parameters of fitness were tested (Figure 2), who conducted or assisted with the testing (Figure 3), and what specific tests were used. Coaches reported performing physical testing an average of 3.86 times a year and testing an average of 5.83 parameters of fitness, with an average of 8.51 specific tests. Regarding which variables of physical fitness were measured and what specific tests were used, 36 coaches reported measuring muscular power, 12 coaches reported using the “vertical jump,” 8 coaches tested the “clean,” and 4 coaches tested the “standing long jump.” Other muscular power tests used included the “clean and jerk” and “MB,” used by 1 coach each.

F1-3
Figure 1:
Times when variables of athlete fitness are formally measured.
F2-3
Figure 2:
Personnel who conduct or assist with the testing of athletes.
F3-3
Figure 3:
Times when athletes are encouraged to perform flexibility exercises.

Thirty-three HS S&C coaches reported measuring muscular strength. Methods included a “bench press,” reported by 11 coaches; a “squat test,” reported by 9 coaches; a “clean test,” reported by 3 coaches; “1 repetition maximum (RM) bench/squat/deadlift,” reported by 2 coaches; and 1 coach each reported testing the “3RM squat/bench,” “1RM,” and “multi-RM.”

Thirty-one HS S&C coaches reported testing speed. Twelve coaches reported testing the 40-yd dash. Other coaches reported various tests of 10- to 60-yd sprints. Twenty-five coaches stated measuring agility, with 8 coaches specifically using a pro-agility test. Other tests included a “t-test” and “3-cone test,” each reported by 2 coaches, and a “30-yd shuttle test” reported by 1 coach. Fifteen coaches reported measuring acceleration. Two coaches used a 10- or 20-yd dash test. Other methods included a 40-yd dash as well as various other testing distances.

Fifteen HS S&C coaches reported measuring muscular endurance. Methods of measuring muscular endurance included “RM pull-up test,” “sit-up test,” and “push-up test,” each reported by 2 coaches. Other tests for muscular endurance included “prone holds,” “bench RM,” and “repetition tests,” each reported by 1 coach.

Twelve HS S&C coaches reported testing anaerobic capacity. Five of those coaches indicated testing anaerobic capacity using a 300-yd shuttle test. Other testing methods included a “beep test” and an “800-m run,” each used by 1 coach.

Twelve HS S&C coaches also reported measuring body composition. Four coaches reported measuring body composition with “skin calipers” or “skin folds.” Other coaches' responses included testing body composition with electrical impedance.

The HS S&C coaches tested a variety of other variables. For example, 9 coaches measured flexibility, with methods such as the “sit and reach test,” reported by 3 coaches, as well as tests measured with the use of a goniometer. Eight coaches reported measuring cardiovascular endurance using 1-mile run or a 12-minute run. Five coaches reported taking anthropometric measurements on their athletes. All coaches who reported taking anthropometric measurements used “height and weight” tests. Two coaches reported measuring other variables of physical fitness. This variable was reported as the “Rockport 1-mile walk” test.

Flexibility Development

Thirty-seven of 38 (97.4%) HS S&C coaches reported that their teams performed some type of flexibility training. Thirty-five coaches indicated that their teams performed dynamic flexibility exercises. Twenty-four coaches reported that they use static stretching, while 10 coaches employed proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching exercises. Only 3 coaches reported using ballistic flexibility exercises. Coaches were asked to indicate when athletes were encouraged or required to perform flexibility exercises (Figure 4), the duration of the typical flexibility session (Figure 5), and the duration that athletes were encouraged to hold a static stretch (Figure 6). Coaches were also asked to identify if they used flexibility tools or devices with their athletes. Eleven coaches provided bands to their athletes for assistance during exercises, while other tools used by 3 or fewer coaches included devices such as hurdles, ropes, straps, foam rolls, tubes, tennis balls, towels, and shirts.

F4-3
Figure 4:
Length (minutes) of flexibility development session.
F5-3
Figure 5:
Amount of time (seconds) athletes are encouraged to hold a static stretch.
F6-3
Figure 6:
Speed development products used.

Speed Development

All 38 (100%) HS S&C coaches reported incorporating some form of speed development training into their program. Figure 7 describes the types of speed development strategies used by the coaches. All coaches used mechanics instruction and form running drills such as pawing, arm swings, butt kicks, high knees, and bounding to increase speed. Thirty-two coaches reported using resisted running such as sled training. Twenty-eight coaches indicated using speed endurance workouts such as interval training. Twenty-one coaches reported using overspeed running such as downhill running to train their athletes. Three coaches responded to the “other” section, indicating that they use “boxes,” “cones,” and the “vertimax” to train athletes.

F7-3
Figure 7:
Types of plyometric training used.

Coaches reported training for speed development, an average of 2.17 days per week. The times of the year when this type of training occurred were also assessed. Results indicate that 16 coaches performed speed development training year around, while 23 and 17 coaches reported that they used this type of training in the off-season and preseason, respectively. Only 4 coaches used speed development training during the season. Many speed development products were used and are described in Figure 8.

F8-3
Figure 8:
When plyometric training is incorporated.

Agility Development

All but one HS S&C coaches responded to these questions. Thus, 37 of 37 (100%) coaches reported using agility training with their athletes, training approximately 2.32 days a week. Twenty-five coaches implemented year-round agility training, while 12 coaches used agility training in the off-season. Eight coaches implement agility training during preseason training, while 3 used it in-season. Many characteristics of agility are trained such as change of direction (n = 35), footwork (n = 34), quickness (n = 31), reaction (n = 30), and deceleration (n = 26). Furthermore, many tools are used by coaches for agility development including ladders (n = 26), cones (n = 13), reaction balls (n = 12), and mini hurdles (n = 7), dots (n = 4), balls (n = 3), agility bags (n = 3), boxes (n = 1), ropes (n = 1), reaction belts (n = 1), star wheels (n = 1), and domes (n = 1).

Plyometrics

All 37 (100%) of HS S&C coaches who responded to this question reported using plyometrics. One coach did not respond. Figures 9-11 describe how and when plyometrics are used and how they are incorporated with strength training, respectively. Figure 12 describes the types of plyometric exercises used. Coaches who use plyometric training were also asked how they determine when their athletes are ready for plyometrics. All the coaches indicated that they instruct athletes on proper jump mechanics. Nineteen coaches used training age to determine an athlete's readiness. Seventeen coaches used strength-to-body weight ratios, while another 8 coaches each used chronological age and body weight to determine an athlete's readiness to train plyometrics. Only 1 coach based readiness on gender. Seven coaches identified no criteria for an athlete's readiness for plyometrics. Other responses included statements that plyometric readiness was based on progression of intensity, joint stability, coordination level, and coordination/balance.

F9-3
Figure 9:
Method of integration of plyometric training and weight training.
F10-3
Figure 10:
Plyometric exercises regularly employed.
F11-3
Figure 11:
Method of integration of plyometric training and weight training.
F12-3
Figure 12:
Plyometric exercises regularly employed.

Strength/Power Development

The first question in this section was asked to determine the number of days per week that athletes participate in an off-season strength/power development program. The average of all the HS S&C coaches' responses was 3.51 days of weight training per week. The second question in this section of the survey assessed the average length of these off-season resistance training workouts. Twenty-two coaches reported that workouts were 45-60 minutes long, 11 coaches reported that workouts lasted 30-45 minutes, and 5 coaches reported that workouts were 60 minutes or longer. The third question in this section asked coaches how many days of the week their athletes participate in in-season strength/power development activities. Although 1 coach did not respond, the average among the other coaches was 2.64 days of weight training per week of in-season training. The fourth question evaluated the average duration of these in-season weight training workouts. Twenty-two coaches reported that workouts were 45-60 minutes long, 7 coaches reported that workouts lasted 30-45 minutes, and 8 coaches reported that workouts were 15-30 minutes long.

The fifth question in the strength/power section of the survey asked HS S&C coaches if they developed sport-specific workouts for each sport. Thirty coaches responded that they do use sport-specific workouts in their training. Eleven coaches reported that they do not use sport-specific workouts for each sport. Three of these coaches answered both “yes” and “no” to this question. Question 6 asked the coaches about strength and conditioning programs at the different team levels (i.e., varsity and junior varsity) or by year in school. Twelve coaches create programs based on team level, and another 12 coaches set up programs based on both team level and year in school. Four coaches based workouts on the year the athletes are in school, and 9 coaches did not base workouts on either team level or year in school.

Questions 7-9 asked about the incorporation of Olympic-style weightlifting, core training, and the use of machines in training programs. Thirty-seven HS S&C coaches used Olympic-style lifting in their programs. Thirty-eight coaches responded that they incorporate core training that utilizes multi-plane movement, employing this type of training 3.42 days per week on average. Twenty coaches reported using machines to train their athletes. Some responses include “only in rehab,” “primarily as rehab,” and “not very often.” The most commonly used machines include Hammer Strength, used by 8 of the coaches. Machines from a variety of other manufacturers were used by 1 coach each.

The 10th question in the strength/power development asked HS S&C coaches to identify, in order of importance, the 5 resistance training exercises that are most important in their program. Thirty-three coaches responded to this question. Based on these responses, 14 coaches reported the “squat” or “squat variations” as the most important exercises. Nine coaches reported that the clean was most important, whereas 6 coaches said that the hang clean was the most important. Four other coaches each reported that other exercises were most important.

For the second most important exercise, 13 HS S&C coaches identified “variations of the squat.” Eleven coaches indicated that the clean was the second most important exercise. Three coaches reported that the bench press was the second most important exercise. Seven other coaches each identified 7 different exercises as the second most important in their program.

For the third most important exercise, 6 HS S&C coaches indicated that the bench press was the third most important exercise in their program. Four coaches each indicated that the snatch and the clean were the third most important exercises. Three coaches each stated that the squat and pull-up were the third most important exercises. Two coaches each said that the jerk, “RDL,” and deadlift were the third most important exercises. Seven other coaches each identified 7 different exercises as the third most important in their programs.

The fourth most important exercise according to the HS S&C coaches included bench press, as indicated by 6 coaches, and RDL, indicated by 3 coaches. Two coaches each answered that the pull-up, deadlift, squat variations, jerk, military press, lunge variations, and dumbbell bench were the fourth most important exercises. Ten other coaches each identified 10 different exercises as the fourth most important in their programs.

The fifth most important exercise according to HS S&C coaches included bench press variations such as the bench press, incline bench, and dumbbell bench, as reported by 7 coaches. Three coaches commented that the pull-up is the fifth most important exercise. Two coaches endorsed each of the following exercises including the push press, row, incline bench, and glute-ham raise. Ten other coaches each identified 10 different exercises as the fifth most important in their programs.

The 11th question in this section assessed the HS S&C coaches' conceptualization of training, specifically inquiring about the use of a periodization model (PM), training phases, and cycles. Responses were content analyzed into 2 categories including a PM and nonperiodization model. Thirty-six of 38 (94.7%) coaches reported conceptualizing training according to a PM, whereas 3 of 38 (7.9%) coaches responded that they did not. One coach answered both yes and no to implementing a PM. Coaches were also asked to describe the name of the training cycle, time of the year the training cycle is used, and the length of the training cycle. These data are described in Tables 1-3. Coaches were also asked to explain how they incorporate periodization into the high school sports season with multisport athletes (Table 4).

T1-3
Table 1:
Name of training cycle
T2-3
Table 2:
Time of year that training cycles are used
T3-3
Table 3:
Length of training cycles
T4-3
Table 4:
Incorporation of periodization into the sport season with multisport athletes

Question 12 in this section inquired how coaches determined training loads. Thirty-one of 36 (86.1%) HS S&C coaches assign the training loads for their athletes, while 5 coaches do not assign workloads to their athletes. Two coaches did not respond to this question, and 1 coach commented that he does not assign workloads but tells the athletes the intensity wanted. Table 5 summarizes the coaches' responses to this question.

T5-3
Table 5:
Determination of training loads for coaches who assign loads (N = 31)*

Questions 13 and 14 in this section of the survey evaluated the number of sets and reps used in the off-season and in-season programs, respectively. Responses to these questions are described in Tables 6 and 7.

T6-3
Table 6:
Sets and reps used during the off-season program
T7-3
Table 7:
Sets and reps used during the in-season program

Miscellaneous Aspects of the Program

The last section of the survey focused on miscellaneous aspects of the HS S&C programs. The first question evaluated when their athletes perform their workouts, with some coaches indicating that groups of athletes were potentially trained at more than 1 time of the day. Twenty-eight coaches responded that athletes perform workouts during the school day. Twenty-six coaches have their athletes workout after school, and 12 coaches have their athletes workout before school. Only 1 coach encourages athletes to do workouts on their own at another location.

The second question asked if the HS S&C coaches' school had a physical education or health course where resistance training principles are taught and where resistance training is performed. Twenty-nine coaches responded that their school has such a course. Nine coaches responded that they do not have a course like this at their school. Coaches were also asked about the role this course plays in their overall strength and conditioning program. Responses to this question are described in Table 8.

T8-3
Table 8:
The role of physical education or health course in the strength and conditioning program for schools that have such a course (N = 29)

The third question addressed the HS S&C coach's role in promoting good nutritional practices among athletes. Twenty-nine coaches supplied handouts on nutritional information to their athletes. Twenty-five coaches gave lectures to their athletes regarding nutritional topics. Twenty-four coaches held a question/answer session for their athletes, and 23 coaches provided information about proper hydration to their athletes. Twenty coaches educated the team's coach on nutritional topics. Nine coaches sent mailings to the athletes' parents regarding nutritional topics, and 4 coaches used some other form such as preseason meetings and conversations to provide information to their athletes. The fourth question asked coaches about their athletes' nutritional supplements. Thirty-two coaches did not provide or sell any nutritional products or supplements to their athletes. Six coaches provided or sold nutritional products or supplements to their athletes.

The fifth question in this section inquired about the frequency of injuries annually during the performance of a variety of strength and conditioning activities. High school strength and conditioning coaches report average annual injuries of 1.27 during resistance training, 0.67 during speed training, 0.61 during plyometrics, 0.60 during agility drills, 0.47 during conditioning, and 0.07 during flexibility drills.

The last question in this section addressed the role of team coaches in the strength and conditioning program. Twenty-two coaches responded that the team coaches play an active role in the strength and conditioning program, whereas 14 coaches responded that the team coaches do not play an active role in the program. Two coaches responded “somewhat” to this question. Coaches were then asked how they get the team coaches to be supportive and involved in the strength and conditioning program. Responses to this question are described in Table 9.

T9-3
Table 9:
How to increase involvement of sport coaches in strength and conditioning programs*

Comments

This last section of the survey was designed to provide the coaches an opportunity to make comments. Twelve coaches offered a variety of comments. These responses are described in Table 10.

T10-3
Table 10:
Comments (N = 12)*

Discussion

This is the first comprehensive survey of HS S&C practices. The survey response of 38 of 128 (29.7%) HS S&C coaches is lower than the response rates associated with surveys of college and professional strength and conditioning coaches, which ranged between 42.7 and 87% (2-5,12). The lower response rate of the present survey was because of the use of an e-mail survey vs. conventional mail surveys that have been previously used with college and professional sports (2-5,12). Evidence indicates that e-mail survey response rates range between 3 and 30% (11,15), in part because of e-mail systems' delivery failures and invalid or changes in e-mail addresses (11). Thus, the present survey results are at the high end of the typical response rate of e-mail surveys, potentially indicating the value the coaches placed on sharing this type of information. E-mail surveys offer the advantage of producing greater depth of information to open-ended questions (15), which was part of the rationale for using this medium. Of the 56 questions in the present survey, 34 were open ended, yielding approximately 350 pages of raw data from the survey participants.

The coaches who responded to this survey averaged 14.78 years in the profession and 6.63 years in their present position compared with those from professional sports whose experience in their position ranged from 5.14 to 9.55 years (3-5,12). The percentage of HS S&C coaches with the CSCS certification (82%) exceeds that of similarly certified coaches at Division I universities (75%) (2). Additionally, 32% of the HS S&C coaches were certified by USAW, whereas only 23% of the Division I coaches held that certification (2). Thus, the HS S&C coaches appear to be at least as experienced and qualified based on education, certification, and years of experience as their counterparts at higher levels of athletics.

High school strength and conditioning coaches tested athlete fitness an average of 3.86 times per year, with an average of 5.83 parameters and 8.51 specific tests per testing session. Previous surveys of professional strength and conditioning practices yielded a range of 3.6-7.4 parameters tested with 3.7-10.0 specific tests (3-5,12), suggesting that the HS S&C coaches' testing practices are in a similar range with respect to these measures. Unlike previous surveys of professional practices, the HS S&C coaches prioritized testing power more than strength, and a greater percentage of coaches reported testing speed and agility (3-5,12). Many of the coaches responding to the present surveys worked with a variety of sports, which may have resulted in greater variety of tests used. Interestingly, their relative emphasis on power, speed, and agility testing was greater than reported by the professional sports coaches previously surveyed even though those coaches worked exclusively with sports such as football, basketball, baseball, and hockey (3-5,12).

Ninety-five percent of the HS S&C coaches used dynamic stretching, whereas 65% used static stretching. This finding contrasts with surveys of professional football, hockey, and baseball, which each demonstrated greater use of static than dynamic stretching (3-5). The practice of greater use of dynamic stretching is consistent with recent research demonstrating the benefits of dynamic compared with static stretching and may represent an evolution toward dynamic stretching (8).

All HS S&C coaches trained their athletes for speed development. A greater percentage of these coaches used running mechanics and form training as well as resisted and overspeed training methods than were used by coaches in any of the professional sports previously assessed (3-5,12). The HS S&C coaches more frequent use of running mechanics and form training may be a result of working with younger and less experienced high school athletes. The HS S&C coaches were also comprehensive in their agility training methods, with the majority using a variety of strategies.

All HS S&C coaches used plyometric training with their athletes. This finding is similar to the practices of the NBA (12) but represents slightly greater use of plyometrics than was demonstrated in previous surveys of college and professional sports including MLB (95.2%), NHL (91.3%), and Division I (90%) (3-5). Previous research determined that only 73.1% of NFL strength and conditioning coaches used plyometrics. This value was likely lower than those found in the present survey and other surveys of professional sports strength and conditioning practices because some of the NFL coaches reported that they subscribed to a “high-intensity training” philosophy (2).

The average frequency of the HS S&C coaches' off-season and in-season resistance training programs was 3.51 and 2.64 days a week, respectively. This finding is similar to most Division I and professional sports coaches who typically train approximately 4 days a week in the off-season and 2 days a week in-season (2-5,12). Approximately 94.7% of the HS S&C coaches used a PM of training compared with 91.3% in the NHL, 85.7% in the MLB, 85% in the NBA (85%), and 69% in the NFL (3-5,12). The comprehensive use of periodization by the HS S&C coaches is remarkable considering most work with multiple sports unlike the professional coaches previously surveyed. In the present study, neither of the 2 coaches who did not use periodization indicated the use of high-intensity training, suggesting an evolution away from this philosophy that some coaches endorsed in an earlier survey (3) but has not been demonstrated in a number of surveys since (4,5,12).

Approximately 97% of the HS S&C coaches used Olympic-style weightlifting, which is slightly less than the 100% who do in the NHL but is greater in contrast to 95% in the NBA, 88% in the NFL, 85% in Division I, and 24% in the MLB (2-5,12). In fact, variations of weightlifting exercises and squats are reported as the most important exercises according to the HS S&C coaches, consistent with what has been previously reported with professional athletes (3-5,12).

The HS S&C coaches use a variety of strategies to provide information about nutrition and supplements and in some cases provide or sell nutritional supplements. The specific supplements used were not analyzed as this has been done with this population (13). Previous studies of professional sports strength and conditioning practices did not specifically assess this topic. This information was sought in the present survey because the use of nutrition supplements was believed to be an increasingly common practice among athletes.

The HS S&C coaches reported infrequent injuries during a variety of strength and conditioning activities, including an average of only 1.27 injuries annually during weight training. While this result is limited, in that it does not consider the number of injury per athlete exposure or contact hours, and may represent the subjective assessment of coaches because the survey did not assess if the coaches kept formal records of injury rates, it suggests that injuries rates are low. This finding is consistent with the low injury rates demonstrated by Hamill (6) who found weight training and weightlifting injury rates of 3 and 2 injuries per 100 participant hours and Zemper (16) who reported weight room injury rates of 0.35 injuries per 100 hours of participation.

The present study used the survey instrument previously employed in studies of professional sports strength and conditioning practices, allowing for comparison of practices between these groups of coaches. The HS S&C coaches who responded to this survey have education, experience, and certifications and create programs that are comparable to and in some cases exceed that of college and professional strength and conditioning coaches, according to the variables assessed in these surveys. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that the HS S&C coaches would be similar in their practices to those at other levels of athletics. Membership in and certification through the NSCA may explain this finding to some degree. Previous studies of other sports used coaches' contact information that came from sources other than an NSCA list, and thus, some respondents to those surveys may not have been NSCA members.

Practical Applications

This article serves as a comprehensive source of data describing HS S&C practices. High school strength and conditioning coaches can use these data as a review of strength and conditioning practices and as a potential source of new ideas for their programs. Comparisons can also be made between the practices of HS S&C coaches and of coaches from college and professional sports.

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank each of the HS S&C coaches who participated in this study.

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Keywords:

survey; program design; resistance training; periodization; youth

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