High school administrator discusses the considerations for athletes, non-athletes, faculty and the school budget.
There's no question that more high schools across the country are opting to hire an NSCA-Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS®) to enhance their athletic programs. These professionals play a pivotal role in reducing injuries and improving long-term athletic development as well as improving performance and confidence. What's behind this trend and is it a good move for all high schools?
Educator and former high school football coach Gary McChalicher has a unique perspective on this topic. The Southeastern School District assistant principal and director of athletics is also a certified CSCS. "The NSCA’s strength and conditioning model for scholastic athletics focuses on students’ physical and mental preparation. It benefits athletes and non-athletes. As an administrator, I'm fortunate to be able to build the CSCS role into our physical education program."
In addition to his administrative duties, McChalicher is currently responsible for all components of an athletic program serving 900 athletes in grades 7 through 12, as well as a staff of 80. This includes managing the operations associated with 25 athletic programs. Under his leadership, the district offers traditional sports performance training and general physical education.
A CSCS applies scientific knowledge to train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance. But a CSCS is much more than that, especially at the high school level. "One hallmark of the CSCS model is a strong focus on creating well-rounded students. Unlike the older physical education models, we're increasing their measurables and embedding them into our entire physical education program. We're teaching students to move better and to avoid injuries. We're also improving their metabolic conditioning and increasing their knowledge of nutrition."
The data, he says, are very powerful. "We know how well these kids are performing. We're seeing better body mass indexes and healthier practices. They are learning how to take care of their bodies. We're giving them lifetime skills they'll use even after high school. There's so much information on the internet, in social media. We're teaching students how to discern what's good and bad. When they're done with our program, they know what they should do and how to do it right."
He emphasizes, "As an assistant principal, I'm looking for data not just to maintain a program but to build a program. I want to measure value not just in the number of squats a student can do and lack of sports-related injuries among student-athletes, but also I want to see improvements among all students in their psycho-social skills. We see a lot of improvements with our students, especially the non-athletes. Initially, many don't believe in themselves and all they could achieve. But they become so confident! They are proud and excited to talk about what they are accomplishing. That confidence extends to other areas of their lives."
There is no one-size-fits all way of incorporating a CSCS into a school's physical education department. To advocate for a CSCS program, McChalicher says you've got to show need and value. "Consider what data you can collect quickly to validate your program. Data help to galvanize all stakeholders, including administrators, parents, teachers and kids. You'll need to put some hard numbers to this, showing that the benefits are for all students, not just student-athletes. But if you consider the average cost of an athletic program – about 2.2 percent of the school district's total budget – the most important consideration is that a CSCS is impacting the long-term future of a lot of kids for very little investment."
Having been a teacher, sport coach, and strength and conditioning coach, McChalicher offers these additional insights:
Additional information on high school strength and conditioning can be found at www.nsca.com/whatsmissing
Gary McChalicher is Director of Athletics and Assistant Principal for Southeastern School District in Fawn Grove, PA. He is responsible for all components of the program serving 900 athletes and 80 staff for an athletic department serving grades 7-12. This includes hiring and evaluation of all staff, leadership and mentoring of all staff, and all scheduling and operations associated with each of the 25 athletic programs. This also encompasses compliance with PIAA and SESD student-athlete policies, evaluation and compliance with all legal and risk management concerns regarding facilities and student-athlete participation, development of relationships with community and business stakeholder groups, and complete control of a $1.2 million operating budget.