The Significant Change Quietly Taking Place in High School Athletics

Strength and Conditioning Coaches who are NSCA-Certified are preparing youth for training, using proven strategies that improve their safety and competitiveness

When Houstonian Jeff Kipp reports to work as Strake Jesuit College Preparatory’s Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, his job isn’t to prepare student athletes for their next game. Rather Kipp says, “My role is to prepare them for practice, so that they can work at a level that will make them more competitive in their games.”

Kipp is among a small but growing number of NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS) working in high schools around the country to ensure student athletes are training safely and in accordance with well-researched methods, so that they are better equipped to reach their athletic goals. “In Europe and other countries, they refer to what we do as ‘physical preparation coaches’. We teach the kids how to load their bodies safely and effectively … to move well … to avoid a hit or take a hit if they need to … to prepare their bodies for the various game requirements by spending time in the weight room, training.”

It’s a need Kipp recognizes from personal experience. “Every time you decelerate and change direction, you are loading your lower body with multiple forces. Each time you change directions, you load one leg to move one way or another. That’s how I ruptured my ACL at Texas A&M. It was a non-contact injury while running a pass pattern in practice. Looking back, I didn’t have anyone at the high school level to prepare me to load my body, teach me to change directions safely or train my body to handle the physical stress of athletics at a higher level.”

Making a big impact on young lives

Kipp joined the Strake Jesuit faculty after spending 15 years as a collegiate-level strength and conditioning coach. “I was drawn to the high school level because I was regularly seeing college freshmen coming into the program who were under-developed and unbalanced as athletes. They were just surviving on their natural abilities. And they were getting hurt. I thought, there’s got to be someone at the high school level to guide these kids, to prepare them for the physical stress that goes with the expectations of being a collegiate athlete!”

While sport coaches have specific game-related training goals in mind, it’s the certified Strength and Conditioning Coach who guides those coaches and the kids to ensure the training is done safely. Kipp cites baseball as one example. “Kids can develop elbow and shoulder issues because they spend so much time just throwing the ball, especially in games. They don’t have the experience to know when they need to back off. This is an important issue. There’s a need to prepare the body for those movements, rather than those movements always occurring in competition.”

The result is that student athletes are better prepared, physically and mentally, to play their sport and contribute to their team. “Before they set foot on the field, they must train through the off-season and preseason,” adds Kipp. “They need someone to help them find their limitations and guide them in training their weaknesses to become better, safer and more productive athletes.”

“My entire reason for doing this job is to see these kids succeed. I want them to make their first touchdowns … to have a new personal best time … I want to help them improve their performance and get more playing time. I want to help them become the best version of themselves. Their successes are why I do this job.”

How a high school-level CSCS influences a youth’s athletic future

Kipp describes how strength and conditioning training may impact a student athlete’s future in sports. “You can look online and find the percentage of high school athletes who go on to play in college, and of college athletes who go on to the professional level. The percentages are not high and the odds are not in their favor. Getting there takes talent, but it also takes grit and hard work. Athletes ages 14 to 18 don’t know their own potential, nor do they understand what it takes to reach their potential. They need the guidance of someone who has been there, of someone who can say, “Let’s work on this area to make you a more complete athlete and add to what you’re already good at doing to make you even greater. Then, college coaches may want to take a closer look at you.”

He adds, “The advantage of my being a NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist on the high school level is that in my position I’m not tied to one specific sport. I get to see all the kids. Sometimes, that means talking with kids’ about their strengths firsthand and I can work with them on developing those strengths in ways they might not have considered. For example, a kid playing football may be really fast but perhaps he’s having trouble changing directions quickly. Maybe working with him on his change of direction and body control will help him reach his goals. Or maybe there’s an opportunity for him to be a standout on the track team.”

Kipp explains that even naturally gifted athletes need to do preparatory work, and do so properly. “Regardless of our talent level, none of us ever really reach our full potential. Those who come closest are the ones who have had the guidance to work with their talent. In that respect, my role becomes almost like a counselor. I can’t tell you the number of times kids have told me that they want to quit a sport because they feel the coach is being too hard on them. They didn’t realize it would be that much work. Often, it is a talented kid who thought it would be easy.”

Which high schools have a CSCS on staff?

Kipp notes that in Texas, the private sector is leading the trend in hiring NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists. “A lot of times, it comes down to how the position is funded. Often in the public sector, the only way to fit in a position is if the person is also certified to teach. But it’s difficult for a CSCS to be effective before and after school as a coach, while also teaching four to five classes during each day.”

Biography: Jeff Kipp, MS, CSCS, RSCC*D

Jeff Kipp is Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Houston’s Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Kipp has more than 20 years of experience in speed development, strength training, conditioning, mobility and rehabilitation for athletes. He is also recognized as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach with Distinction by the NSCA.

Prior to Strake Jesuit, Kipp was an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the University of Kansas. He also served for 10 years at the United States Air Force Academy working with hockey, football, lacrosse, track and field, cross country and soccer.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association has recognized Kipp for his specialization in speed development. He has been an invited presenter at numerous conferences and authored book chapters for the NSCA on this subject.

Kipp has experience in performance training for more than 20 sports at the Division I and Division II level. He has trained athletes of all skill levels from youth and developmental to elite athletes. While living in Colorado, he performed private performance training for professional basketball, football, track and field and other elite and Olympic athletes. He has had the privilege of training NFL hopefuls for the annual NFL Pro Timing Day at the Air Force Academy. His career achievements include winning a combined 11 conference championships at Air Force, developing a World Champion, National Champion and a two-time National Runner-Up.

Kipp earned a Master’s of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Northern Colorado and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a specialization in Sport Management from Texas A&M University.

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