For college football programs, summer months focus on weight lifting, conditioning, summer school, and the oft-mentioned 7 on 7 drills. Player-position coach interaction is mostly off-limits as UK’s High Performance Staff is tasked to prepare the team for fall camp. Players are counted on to organize and lead on the field activities. Just what does this mean? Let’s take a peek.
First, I have to explain a theory I have about the two different types of team leaders: Clowns and Captains.
Clowns – Typical goof off guy with intent to skirt the system and do as little as possible to maintain their status as college football players. This classification tends to love being a football player more so than loving the game of football. Result is less subsidence and more flair.
Captains – Leaders by nature, these players provide a responsible example to impressionable rookies and veterans alike. Jerry Claiborne defined integrity as how one acts in the absence of observation and supervision. Captains are the epitome of integrity. This high character group loves the game of football and enjoys the process as much as the result. Coachable is another applicable term.
Clowns and Captains are usually evenly divided, 10% for each. Whichever group (Clowns or Captains) is stronger will pull the majority (80%) along its path and greatly influence a team’s personality. In an un-supervised environment such as the summer months, having a majority with captain influence is paramount. If Clowns rule the off-season locker room then summer activities are a waste of time. Now back to the summer grind.
7 on 7
You’ve probably heard the term, now let me explain. This competition is a mock-game scenario featuring 7 offensive players vs. 7 defensive players. A simpler description would be to imagine a two hand touch football game without the OL and DL on the field. Offensive and defensive plays are called by the participants, not coaches. This develops continuity and increases basic scheme familiarity. Organically led, the usual process is for the QB and a defensive rep (a LB or DB) to solicit participation, assign a time/location, and perform mundane logistical support such as providing footballs or other equipment needs. At times, this drill can become heated and a source of locker room bragging rights. If properly executed, 7 on 7 or Pass Skeleton, can be a useful tool in player development. Remember, attendance is not mandatory and effort is not scrutinized by coaches. A sloppy or ill-fated 7 on 7 can do more damage than good. Effective layer leadership and accountability are essentials.
Kentucky’s weight training is directed by Corey Edmond and his staff. This group is vitally influential during the off-season as they are the only coaches allowed to have daily player interaction. Dismiss any pre-conception you may have about pumping iron. Today’s strength and conditioning coaches are more like scientists than high sock wearing yell-aholics as depicted in bad football movies. Each position and player for that fact have a specialized weight lifting routine. For example, offensive guards require brute upper body strength and lower body explosion where receivers are trained for speed and quick change of direction. Their work-out plans are designed for those distinct needs. Summer months are commonly used to maximize strength gain. During-season lifting sessions are purposed for maintenance. Freshmen tend to make the most gains as their first summer is at times their introduction to a nutrition plan and dedicated weight room instruction.
Same as weight training, conditioning is directed by Coach Edmond. Modern-day football conditioning leans more towards a scientific formula than merely requiring athletes to run laps or wind-sprints. This is a developing field with new techniques surfacing on an annual basis. Pre-season training camp used to be the time of whipping players into shape, today’s athlete is asked to be year-round game ready. Both strength and conditioning training work in concert with UK’s High Performance Program. Led by Erik Korem, his staff is considered revolutionaries in their field and offers the best consolidation of resources in program history. In addition to strength and condition; Korem focuses on nutrition, sports science, and sports psychology to meet a wide variety of student athlete needs. Validation of this all-encompassing program can be seen through player development and the fact that seniors are now staying in Lexington to train for their NFL futures.
Summer work-outs are a necessary grind. With NCAA time restrictions, practice sessions do not have time allotted for strength and conditioning. Summer time dedication is mandatory. High Performance advancements are critical in the arena of player safety. Developing bigger-stronger-faster athletes is the ultimate goal but molding a healthier and more durable player is also important. Times have drastically changed since my playing days as our nutrition plan was pizza buffets and lifting routine emphasized curls and bench pressing maximum weight in one repetition. However, one constant remains. The Captain and Clown theory remains timeless and generationally constant. Summer time is more about developing and identifying leaders than bench presses and sprints. Mark Stoops desperately needs his Captains not the Clowns leading his team into 2015.