Tales From the Dark Side: 13 Stories of Woe

Here are some actual stories from actual strength coaches. All these stories have been substantiated by coaches that I know very well and trust. Not one of these coaches are acquaintances or someone I met during a seminar or on the phone. All are good friends of mine and have been FOR YEARS. Basically, what I’m saying is that all of these stories are true and have been told to me by people that I trust my life with. Also, some of these have happened to me. I did not include the names/schools of the guilty parties. So sit back and realize that this stuff REALLY happens.

1. For several years, a college strength coach let all of his athletes ½ squat. A new assistant came into the weight room and began making all of the players squat to parallel or below. Of course, all of the weights dropped when they began performing the exercise correctly and safely. When it came time to test for the squat, obviously many of the numbers dropped. The head strength coach couldn’t tell the head football coach why this happened. The head football coach would no doubt ask why the players weren’t doing the squats correctly the entire time. In one instance, a player was almost 100lbs. lower than his max. The coach demanded that the athlete cut all of his squats and wrap his knees. The player told the coach that he was not going to do an exercise that was dangerous just to make him happy. The coach was furious and made the athlete extremely mad. The coach wouldn’t let the athlete out of the weight room until he got a new max. So the athlete got 3 players to spot him and all 4 people “lifted” a new max. The coach responded with a “That’s how it’s supposed to be done!” and stormed out of the weight room. College: Div 1-A; major conference

2. One strength coach makes all of his athletes ¼ squat. This is because, in his wisdom, an athlete never goes below this position on the field. College Div 1-AA

3. A freshman football player comes into training camp very, very out of shape. Not only is he out of shape, but he is carrying a huge amount of body fat (well over 30%). This athlete is so out of shape that, according to a coach that I respect and admire, walking around the football field and on the treadmill would be a starting point for his conditioning. But the head strength and conditioning coach says NO and makes him squat and clean the very first day. The athlete can barely squat his own bodyweight and is so out shape that a set of 5 bodyweight squat leaves him gassed and on the floor. The head strength and conditioning coach will not deviate from his precious program enough to allow for this recruit to catch up and he even makes the athlete “run” 300 yard shuttles. College: Div. 1-A; major conference.

4. An assistant head strength coach is overheard telling an athlete that the reason why anti-oxidants are so good is that they help form free-radicals. College: Div. 1-A; major conference

5. One assistant told me that he likes to make up fictitious training ideas and terms and ask the other coaches if they liked them. For example, he would start talking (with much bravado) about “the trans-micro elocudial phase for squatting” and the other strength coaches would nod their heads in agreement and act/respond as if this concept wasn’t new to them. College: Div 1-A; major conference

6. Many head football coaches require that the strength coach give them a printed read-out of all of the player’s maxes and testing results (body fat %, 40, etc.). At one university, the strength coach would always lie on this paper, making the players much stronger than they were. Unfortunately, if a player is a 4 or 5 year player, the maxes get increased so much over this time period that they began getting obnoxious. An assistant overheard one strength coach say to the other (and this is serious), “We can’t lie about this forever.” The sad thing about this is that many of the position coaches would congratulate the players on having a great performance and the player, with a confused look, would correct the coach and tell him the truth. This would lead to a lot of questions, but like most things at this particular university, it was swept under the rug and forgotten about. This is par for the course and is no wonder why this program is full of losers. College: Div 1-A; major conference

7. At one university, the 300 yard shuttle run is used to test a players conditioning. A player will run 2 300 yard shuttles with a 5 minute break between each shuttle. Each position has to average a certain time in order to pass. 2-3 weeks before the dreaded conditioning test, the strength coach decides to run a mock test with the athletes. Only a handful passed. Instead of opting for integrity and standing up like a man, the strength coach moves the test to an unmarked part of the practice field (devoid of any yard markings) and physically measures off the desired distance using his stride as a guide. The distance is clearly shorter than the 30 yards that is needed (it was later measured at 27 yards by a football player). So during the tests, the players run times that they only dreamed of. If you add up the distance that is run, it actually turns out to be one whole length shorter (30 yards). The football coaches know nothing of this phenomenon and our pleased with the outstanding conditioning level of the athletes. Eyebrows are raised though when players that passed the test legitimately several weeks before are upset as their efforts are, in the eyes of the coaches, as reputable as the players that had little work ethic in the summer off-season. College: Div 1-A; major conference

8. A year after the fact, an assistant strength coach is talking to a mentor and is told that during his time at a university, the head strength coach told the mentor to NEVER contact or call the assistant coach. The assistant had wanted to contact this mentor in regards to how he (the mentor) designs programs for a more advanced athlete. He did not want the assistant to learn anything new or associate himself with anyone that was not part of the university. College: Div 1-A; major conference

9. A graduate assistant, working for peanut shells (not even peanuts), is later told that though there was a policy at the university for health insurance for him, the head strength coach felt it necessary to hide this from him because of some paperwork. College: Div 1-A; major conference

10. A strength coach is told by the head of Olympic sports that Mel Siff writes “nothing more than cookie cutter programs.” College: Div 1-A; major conference

11. The same strength coach as above abrasively criticizes the box squat and the very next day has her athletes perform them. Unfortunately, these box squats are done on an 18” box, with a 4” foam riser with the OVERHEAD SQUAT on athletes that have little weight room experience. College: Div 1-A; major conference

12. For those of you that believe that research and references are of the utmost importance – a strength and conditioning coach reports that at his university another colleague of his is studying to get his masters and has to perform a research project. The research project, which was published in an NSCA journal, dealt with different training and its effects towards speed development. The group used was a Division I-A baseball program. One group used free weights, the other a select group of machines and speed devices. To make a long story short, those that used free weights had such awful form and rarely did anything unless the coach was actually watching every set and every rep. So to those that put much stock in these “studies”. Way to go! Way to be average!

13. The over-speed treadmill. Probably one of the greatest forms of entertainment in the weight room. Beats any kind of Sick of Your Gym story or scenario;

• Some French sounding company comes to the university spouting off bits of data and has pie charts and impressive binders containing research and references. The knob they send to answer questions is busy posturing and being very proud of his company. When asked if anyone has ever gotten hurt using this, the answer, according to him, is no. Not an hour later, as the rep is showing the coaches the finer points of the treadmill, one coach severely sprains an ankle and gets a huge turf burn from running on this piece of equipment. Unbelievable.

• The strength coach that buys into this over-speed treadmill crap is so retarded that she has the golfers running (sprinting, actually) on this thing.

• One athlete, set at a speed and angle that is so over her current training level, is being yelled at by Ms. Frenchy to “Push it!” All the while, Frenchy is violently pushing (physically, by the way) the athlete up the treadmill. I should point out that the athlete is a softball player. We all know that softball players reach top speed during their sport. Anyway, the player falls off of the treadmill and suffers a sprained ankle. Thanks Coach!

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About the Author

Jim was employed as a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Kentucky, where he worked with several different teams including football and baseball. He played football and graduated from the University of Arizona where he earned three letters. Jim’s best lifts include a 1000 lbs squat, a 675 lbs bench press, 700 lbs deadlift, and a 2375 total in the 275 lbs class. View Jim’s Training Log HERE