Case Study: I am Here to Keep Your High School Athletes Safer

Discovery Canyon High School’s Sam Melendrez explains how experts in his profession are having a profound impact on youth in sports.

“You’d never want to see a high school swimming pool without a water safety instructor. Why would you have a high school weight room without a certified professional there?” asks NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) Sam Melendrez. “The ability to have a profound impact on high school-age youth is what lured me away from the collegiate setting.”

Melendrez is now in his tenth year as a full-time Strength and Conditioning Coach at Discovery Canyon High School in Colorado Springs. He also chairs the physical education department, instructs all strength and conditioning classes during the school day, and implements before- and after-school programs for all the school’s athletic teams.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA’s) rigorous program to earn a CSCS title is considered the industry’s gold standard. This background is why Melendrez’s presence helps put parents’ minds at ease. “I’ll do what’s needed to keep their kids safe. At this age, kids are more receptive to quality training, which is a necessary part of maintaining that safety. If kids experience repetitive-use injuries or non-contact injuries, then their careers may be cut short before they even have a chance to begin.”

Having a high school-level CSCS benefits youth

After 10 years of working on the high school level, Melendrez says it’s easy to see how having a CSCS on staff benefits the kids, parents and even other faculty members.

●       A CSCS can improve the performance of all athletes. “The biggest myth is that the weight room is just for football players. Some of my athletes from other sports are a little apprehensive about how it will complement or conflict with their training outside of the weight room. The answer is that it will improve their practices. It will improve their durability and ensure that their movements are safer. A CSCS has a tremendous foundation, and will know how to scale exercises to be more fitting to this age of development as well as an individual’s abilities.”

●       A CSCS may save parents money. “Some parents hire private strength coaches for their children. That’s not necessary if there’s a CSCS at their child’s high school. Plus, a CSCS faculty member is conveniently located, and will be part of developing and maintaining the school culture.”

●       A CSCS supports the sport coaches. “One of the biggest values of my being here at the school is that I know what the other coaches’ training loads are like so I can make appropriate adjustments. I know what the kids are doing outside of the weight room.”

●       A CSCS can improve the facility design. “High schools often need to be resourceful with limited funds. A CSCS is an expert in weight room facility design including equipment spacing and care standards. We can determine how to safely maximize use of the facility.”

●       A CSCS teaches kids about healthy choices. “High school-age athletes are prone to experimentation. We try to guide them into making smarter choices. To earn a CSCS, we have to be able to demonstrate competency through testing on safe dietary supplementation and the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. A CSCS also has significant background in healthy sports nutrition.”

●       A CSCS is here for parents as well as their kids. “A lot of times parents don’t care about how much I know until they know how much I care. A CSCS doesn’t coach another sport. The buck stops with me. I’m here to improve kids’ high school athletic experience. I’m not trying to protect my bottom line. I have no other agenda.”

An exciting time to be a high school CSCS

Melendrez says he is trying to create awareness about this field. “There are more people exploring this career, but the percentage is still low … especially for those working full time in the high schools. I want more high school and collegiate-level strength coaches to look at their careers and see that becoming a CSCS is a viable option.”

He adds that the CSCS credential is increasingly becoming a criterion for more public schools. As this happens, the benefits are becoming more well-known “You don’t want to be the last administrator to implement a high school CSCS,” he concludes.

Biography: Sam Melendrez, CSCS

Sam Melendrez is currently beginning his 10th year as a full-time Strength and Conditioning Coach at Discovery Canyon High School in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the physical education department chair and is in charge of instructing all strength and conditioning classes during the school day and also implements programs before and after school for all the school’s athletic teams.  Prior to coming to Discovery Canyon, Sam was a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of New Mexico, an intern at the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Olympic Training Center. He holds a B.S. in Exercise Science from CSU-Pueblo a M.S. in Sports Administration from UNM and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA.

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