by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Elton Crochran II, CSCS
Coaching Podcast July 2022
Learn about middle school and high school strength and conditioning from 2022 NSCA Coaches Conference presenter Elton Crochran. Coach “Croc” shares hi...
Learn about middle school and high school strength and conditioning from 2022 NSCA Coaches Conference presenter Elton Crochran. Coach “Croc” shares his story about transitioning from collegiate strength and conditioning to his work as the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at Randolph Field School District in San Antonio, TX. Crochran is currently the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Veterans Memorial High School. He talks about his hands-on coaching session from Coaches Conference, as well as developmental milestones across key stages of long-term athlete development. Find “Coach Croc” on Instagram: @ecrock2 or Twitter: @TheCrocShow| Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs
Learn about middle school and high school strength and conditioning from 2022 NSCA Coaches Conference presenter Elton Crochran. Coach “Croc” shares his story about transitioning from collegiate strength and conditioning to his work as the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at Randolph Field School District in San Antonio, TX. Crochran is currently the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Veterans Memorial High School. He talks about his hands-on coaching session from Coaches Conference, as well as developmental milestones across key stages of long-term athlete development.
“There has to be a certain element of education, as well as a certain level of just having fun. Because at the end of the day, you want to help develop those middle school athletes to develop a love for the game, but more importantly, develop a love for the process.” 12:20
“Not everybody's going to play in college, not everybody's going to play professionally. But strength and conditioning from a health standpoint, there's so much value to it and you're instilling that not just at the high school level but at the middle school level.” 20:32
“When you add a tennis ball to a drill, just the kids get mind blown and they're like oh my gosh, this drill just got harder just by holding on to this tennis ball. So now, I learn a lot of these things from PE just working on hand eye coordination and things like that. So now I'm integrating things that we do in PE, crossed over to strength and conditioning, and now we're combining the two.” 30:30
“I think one of the biggest growth is I always tell people as a strength coach, you should carry yourself as an exercise scientist, because there is a science to what we do.” 34:18
[00:00:04.34] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast season six, episode seven.
[00:00:09.77] There has to be a certain element of education as well as a certain level of just having fun, because at the end of the day, you want to help develop those middle school athletes to develop a love for the game, but more importantly, develop a love for the process.
[00:00:26.85] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know, but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.
[00:00:37.71] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today, we're joined by Elton Crochran, the strength and conditioning coordinator for Randolph Field School District in San Antonio, Texas. Coach Croc, welcome.
[00:00:51.50] Thank you, thank you for having me.
[00:00:53.67] Yeah, we got a chance to connect at the 2022 NSCA Coaches Conference a few weeks back in San Antonio, Texas. Enjoyed your hands on session, leading our attendees through some movement. And we'll get to talking about that a little bit, but I want to let you kick things off. Just tell us your story in the profession, how did you get into strength and conditioning?
[00:01:16.79] Yes, so thank you for having me. I got started in strength conditioning back in 2014. I played college football at Abilene Christian University, and I was a physical therapy major. That's what I majored in and I knew I wanted to work with either athletes or just people, something hands-on. And got to my senior year of college with my 3.0 GPA and realized I wasn't getting into physical therapy school, so I had to kind of pivot into another direction.
[00:01:46.29] And so I went to grad school at Texas State University, and while there I'll never forget I shot an email to the strength and conditioning staff at Texas State in I think it was about September, 2013. And like a lot of people, I didn't hear anything back. And then I got a random email in December from Coach Livingston, basically saying, hey come by the weight room. We'd love to meet you.
[00:02:10.58] And I went over there and met with Coach Livingston and Coach Cundiff, the head strength coach there at the time. And they basically told me hey, look, if you want to become an intern you can work as many hours as you would like. We'd love to have you. You played college football, the guys would love you.
[00:02:25.37] And so in January 2014 I started off as a strength and conditioning intern for Texas State football. And when I got started there, I started learning the ropes as far as what strength and conditioning was from a coaching perspective. Because as a player, you just kind of play ball, right. And then as a coach you start to learn that, hey, there's strength conditioning certifications and there's conferences and things like that.
[00:02:50.34] And so I was fortunate that the paid intern that was there was like hey, I'm going down to San Antonio to get my USAW weightlifting certification if you want to come. So I went with him and got that certification, and I worked at Texas State for about eight months. And like a lot of people, I was in grad school, between school, coaching, and a little bit of partying here and there I decided I needed to take some time off of school.
[00:03:16.01] So I moved back to San Antonio and I started working at or interning at UT San Antonio, and that was my first opportunity to work with women's sports. So I started working with women's basketball, softball, women's tennis. I also helped with men's golf and other Olympic sports, and that really kind of lit the fire even more for me, because I realized that there's more than football strength and conditioning out there.
[00:03:44.07] And so I was fortunate to be at UTSA from the fall of 2014 until the spring of 2015, and that's when I really started learning about graduate assistant positions and things like that, and the importance of continuing my education, specifically in strength and conditioning. And so I was fortunate to get a graduate assistant position back in Abilene at Hardin Simmons University, and I was there for two years getting my master's degree in kinesiology. And after my first year at Hardin Simmons I went and did a summer internship at IMG Academy.
[00:04:15.68] So I drove from Abilene to San Antonio, home for a couple of weeks, and then I drove from San Antonio all the way out to Bradenton, Florida. And spent the summer there and learned a lot and worked with a lot of different levels of athletes, whether it was the National Football team that they had at the time to campers that were 10 years old. And again, these were all firsts for me.
[00:04:39.14] And so after that in the summer of 2016 I went back to Hardin Simmons, finished my last year of school there. And then like a lot of people, had a master's degree, had my NSCA CSCS, and no job. So I was fortunate that IMG was like, hey, you want to come back here, you can come back here. We might have some opportunities in the fall, but at the very least you can come here in the summer.
[00:05:06.06] And I was young, I was 26 years old, so I was like hey, look, I enjoyed living in Florida. So I moved back to Florida, and I was sleeping on a friend's air mattress working at IMG Academy from pretty much end of May up until July. And then I got my first job at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. And so I moved from beautiful Bradenton, Florida, beach was 10 minutes away, to Huntington, West Virginia, where the first week of October we had like 8 to 10 inches of snow, and I realized this wasn't for me. And so I was at Marshall University from the fall of 2017 until May of 2018.
[00:05:48.66] Probably the best and worst decision I made, I quit the job and moved back to San Antonio without any opportunities and was very fortunate to find a assistant position at University Incarnate Word in San Antonio, assisting with football, working with men's and women's golf which I had already worked with at Marshall. So I just strolled into that role, living at home, working at University Incarnate Word. And I was there from July of 2018 until January of 2020, where I was able to get my first head job as the head strength and conditioning coach at Tex A&M University in Kingsville, which is a Division II school about 45 minutes south of Corpus Christi here in Texas.
[00:06:30.01] And so I took that job. I was there for a little over a year, staff changes and everything, and I was one of the ones to get cut. And so I tell people that's probably one of the best things that happened because that forced me to look at other opportunities and other avenues. And so I went and got my emergency teacher certification in the state of Texas, got certified, and that was right before the pandemic happened in 2020.
[00:06:58.53] And so that was kind of one of the silver linings of the pandemic for me was that everything was shortened as far as the requirements and everything and observation hours, so I knocked out my emergency teachers cert in like two and 1/2 months, took my test, got my observation hours in, everything. And so me and my fiancée found out we were having a baby, and so we were basically able to leverage moving back to San Antonio where I'm from to get me a job at her school district. So I was able to get my emergency teacher cert within two and 1/2 months, and then four months later get my first full time teaching job.
[00:07:36.40] And so then I took that job. I was teaching middle school PE. I was the head girls powerlifting coach, and then with my knowledge and experience I helped to coordinate strength and conditioning for different teams. And then we knew after that year, with our son turning one, that we were wanting to move back to San Antonio.
[00:07:54.78] And then I was on Twitter one day, saw that Randolph Field ISV was hiring a middle school PE coach and a PE teacher. And I applied for the job, and within a week I was offered it. And basically, went into the interview and told them my goal is to become a head high school strength and conditioning coach. And they told me well, you definitely-- it's possible here. And I was like, all right, I was sold.
[00:08:20.80] And so I took that job at Randolph back in-- I accepted the job last year in May, and I started working there in July. And I'm very fortunate that my athletic director, Coach Ortiz, was like hey, look, you have a lot of knowledge, experience, in strength and conditioning. If I gave you strength and conditioning program for our pre-athletics, which we just started last year with our sixth graders and our middle school athletic period and high school boys and girls, what would you do?
[00:08:49.56] And I just learned over the years to always stay ready, and so I already had a plan in mind. So I was like hey, look, I'll be right back. Let me go to my office and get my plan. And I printed it out for him and showed him this is what I would do day one, and this is what we would hope to achieve by the end of the semester. And he was like, looks good, it's your show, you're running it.
[00:09:08.26] And so now, I've essentially created the head strength and conditioning or the strength and conditioning coordinator position at Randolph and will be getting paid for that. And so I teach one PE class a day, 7/8 grade PE, and then I'm in four athletic periods from my first period is sixth grade pre-athletics, and then fourth period is middle school boys athletics, fifth period is high school boys athletics, sixth period is middle school girls athletics, and then seventh period is high school girls athletics.
[00:09:40.11] So I was able to create that position, and next year I'll be getting paid for it and that'll be my sole position is basically coordinating strength and conditioning for every athlete from sixth grade through 12. So I'm very fortunate to be back in San Antonio where I'm from, and very fortunate to have all the knowledge and experience to kind of help me create this position that I'll be sliding into officially this summer.
[00:10:09.96] That's outstanding. It sounds like you've really carved out a great position for yourself in that school district. And I think we can all connect on the fact that there's a lot of resources that are poured into high school sports in the state of Texas. And it's a hotbed for obviously football, but we do see a lot of growth in high school strength and conditioning in that area.
[00:10:35.85] And I think what you shared really connects us with the path of maybe how that can happen. You came in, you had a lot of college experience, and now you get to really apply that to the middle school and high school population that maybe you never thought you were going to work with. Talk about that from a programming standpoint, and what you learned just being involved with physical education. Speak to the developmental process to really onboard student athletes into strength and conditioning, and share your thoughts on that.
[00:11:15.07] Yeah, so I'm very fortunate that my athletic director is very pro strength and conditioning. He's also very humble and very understanding of, hey, look, I'm not the expert in strength and conditioning, you are. So I am probably one of the few coaches in the state of Texas whose athletic director is basically saying what Coach Croc says goes in the weight room. And so I don't have any conflict with coaches wanting to do different things, so it definitely makes the job easier from that standpoint.
[00:11:44.07] We basically have a policy where in-season teams lift twice a week, off season teams lift three times a week. So every day somebody is in the weight room, and I'm the one coordinating that. So that's definitely been a huge blessing, because I don't have to worry about scheduling teams and convincing boys basketball to come lift or volleyball to come lift. It's just coming from the top, from the athletic director that no, you're going to lift on these days. And so that's made that transition easier.
[00:12:12.43] And then this is the first year that they implemented pre-athletics. So we have our sixth graders who are in a pre-athletics class that is basically designed to expose them to the different things that they'll be getting when they get into seventh grade. And so one thing that I took away from PE is that there has to be a certain element of education, as well as a certain level of just having fun.
[00:12:36.48] Because at the end of the day, you want to help develop those middle school athletes to develop a love for the game, but more importantly, develop a love for the process. Because I think a lot of people skip out on falling in love with the process. Everybody just wants to show up on game day and play, but there's days and weeks and even months that lead up to that season starting. And so working as a PE teacher definitely assisted me in creating just different fun activities and things like that.
[00:13:07.15] And I never forget with my pre-athletics, when I was teaching them just how to jump and land, 35 boys in my class, I said, hey, by a show of hands who's ever been taught how to jump? And out of 35 boys, I maybe had three or four raise their hands. So then that really put it into perspective that nobody is teaching these kids how to function in their sport. Nobody's teaching them how to run, nobody is teaching them how to jump, nobody's teaching them how to land.
[00:13:34.63] And so if you're 11 or 12 years old you've never been taught how to jump, well, you're going to become 13 or 14, 15, and then you're going to be that 16, 17-year-old athlete who every time they jump they have severe knee valgus, or every time they land and it's like, well, nobody's ever taken the time to teach them how to jump and how to land. And so from a programming standpoint, I tell people all the time, programming for high school, especially middle school athletes, is the easiest thing in the world, because they don't need much. They just need the fundamentals.
[00:14:07.89] And for me, from a programming standpoint I'm grounded in we're going to squat, we're going to hinge, we're going to push, we're going to pull. We do those four things, we're going to get better. And we're talking about athletes with almost a negative two year training age, because they may have been playing basketball since they were in third grade, but nobody's taught them how to jump. It's just jump and get the rebound, and that's it.
[00:14:32.32] So a lot of the kids have a zero training age. And I just bring them in and say hey, we're just going to work on jumping. And the kids might get bored with it, but then you kind of take the carrot and dangle it in front of them and say, hey, when we master how to jump, then we'll transition to other drills. And then the PE element comes into effect where it's like, OK, we're teaching you how to jump and then we're going to turn it into a game. Who can broad jump the furthest?
[00:14:59.64] And then you just make it loud, you make it fun, make it competitive. OK, you five jumped the furthest, OK, now you five are going to compete against each other. And with kids, nobody likes coming in last, everybody wants to be first or be the best. So it's just simplifying it for that age group, especially for the sixth graders, where hey, look, we're going to come, we're going to work. I'm going to teach you these skills, but at the end, we're going to play a game.
[00:15:25.53] So they're not necessarily rushing through the fundamentals and stuff because they know hey, if we don't master these fundamentals in this 40 minute period, then we're not going to play the game. So now they're a little more in tune with the coaching and everything. And then as a coach, you just have to know your audience. You're dealing with sixth graders.
[00:15:46.11] A lot of the sixth graders are more like elementary school kids than they are like seventh and eighth graders as far as just maturing, grabbing, touching each other. You got to police that, but they're raw, and that's what makes the job fun. Because I look at my sixth graders and I told them, you guys are going to be the best athletes that come through here because you're getting strength conditioning in sixth, seventh, eighth grade, on top of summer strength and conditioning camp.
[00:16:12.75] And then you're going to become a freshman where now, you're growing, you're getting bigger, you're putting on muscle, you're getting faster. You're seeing the results from the training, and now you're going to look up as a 17 going on 18-year-old with five years of strength and conditioning and you're going to be probably the best group of athletes that we've had come through this school, compared to, I told the sophomores and juniors, hey, you're only going to get one or two years with me because you're going to graduate high school. It's just the reality of it.
[00:16:43.74] So it's kind of similar to college in that you go to college, you redshirt, you play four years. You're in college for four and 1/2 years, getting four years off season and summer conditioning. So my sixth graders essentially are like my redshirt freshman, where by the time they're juniors going into their senior year, they're going to be some pretty great and efficient movers.
[00:17:05.85] And some of them get that, they can see the bigger picture. And those are the ones that participate in sports outside of school. And some of them are kind of just young, immature, and they're learning, and as time goes on, they'll either get that concept or they won't.
[00:17:20.13] But at the end of the day, we try to educate them on hey, look, I know you're bored doing snap downs and counter movement jumps, but have you ever done this before? No. Do you think you're great at it? Oh, I'm OK. OK, well let's work on it until we get great, and then like I said we incorporate different games and things like that.
[00:17:39.49] So it's been a blast just programming, because the programming is the easiest for the middle school kids because they don't need much. And the programming has been easy at the high school level because they might have done things a certain way, but like my AD said, he was like, you brought a level of credibility where hey, this guy has done this at the collegiate level, this guy has been a head strength coach before. And any time you tell kids oh, I played college ball, they're instantly eating up every word that you say.
[00:18:09.96] So from a strength and conditioning standpoint, when the kids hear oh, I've been-- and I work at Randolph where 80% of our kids are military kids. So we have a lot of kids that come from all over the country, even all over the world, Germany, Korea, wherever the case may be. So when kids hear I worked at IMG Academy, oh, I lived in Florida. They can kind of relate to those things. Or I worked up in Huntington, West Virginia. Oh, I lived in Virginia, that's close.
[00:18:36.36] And so like my AD said, just bringing a level of credibility to the program that we're building and then the kids just when they hear oh, you played college, it doesn't matter where you played. You played college ball, I'm all ears, because I want to play college football. Or I want to play in seventh grade or eighth grade, or I want to play varsity ball, or whatever the case may be.
[00:18:56.97] And even from the girl sports they understand OK, this coach has played beyond high school. So they understand the process and the grind. And I tell them, hey, these are things that I did in college. And they're like oh, man, we're getting college level training. And it's nothing special, but just the organization and everything for them, they just instantly kind of buy in.
[00:19:23.07] So it's been a great transition and I've had a lot of success and a lot of buy in with everybody from, like I said, from sixth grade all the way up to my high school seniors that are like man, how come you couldn't have gotten here two or three years ago? And I'm like I was chasing that tail of college football and college strength and conditioning, but I'm here now, so let's make the most of it.
[00:19:45.60] Yeah you really have the opportunity to impact lives in this role from a young age that strength and conditioning coaches, by and large, haven't had the opportunity to work with. And I really like the comparisons with physical education because I think we all know the struggles of physical education across the United States and how that has changed over the years. And strength and conditioning really is an avenue that provides support to physically educating our youth and our kids to live a more fulfilling life that includes activity, whether that includes elite sport or not.
[00:20:32.25] Not everybody's going to play in college, not everybody's going to play professionally. But strength and conditioning from a health standpoint, there's so much value to it and you're instilling that not just at the high school level but at the middle school level. And I just think it's so cool what you're doing and how you really get to emphasize fundamental movement patterns, basic movement skills that sometimes we take too for granted in this field, that really are the foundation of what we do.
[00:21:01.51] This is related to what you talked about in San Antonio at our coaches conference. If you would, take us through that session for anyone that didn't make it and share your experience. How did you like the conference?
[00:21:15.82] Yeah, so the conference is great. I love just representing my school, representing my city of San Antonio. The title of my presentation was called Rhythm and Flow, and really it's just a catchy name because you talk about rhythm, repeated movement pattern, or coordinated repeated movement patterns. That's strength and conditioning, right?
[00:21:35.41] You talk about flow, just being able to take your warm up and translate it to the workout. Translating what you're doing in the weight room to drills that you're doing on the field, taking the drills that you're doing on the field and translating them to your sport, that's where the name rhythm and flow. But if I called it balancing coordination for sport, a lot of people would kind of be like eh, I don't know about that. So just calling it Rhythm and Flow people are a little more intrigued by it.
[00:22:01.22] And so I started off by going over our warm up, which at our school, and this just goes back to building that program, we don't call it a warm up, we call it an activation. And part of the reason why we call it an activation is because I feel like warming up has taken a negative meaning in terms of ask a 15 to 16-year-old kid, or even a college kid, hey, go warm up, and just watch what they do. You'll be lucky if they spend five minutes doing something. A lot of them they'll go hit a couple cross-body arm stretches, some toe touches, maybe some bodyweight squats and some push-ups if you're lucky. Coach, I'm ready to go. And you're like well, we're hitting five triples at 80%, I don't think that's going to do it.
[00:22:46.70] And so what we do at Randolph is hey, we got to get our activation in. And it's nothing special. It's just a heart rate warm up, doing some type of quick feet drills, get that blood pumping. And then we go into our ground based stuff with our active straight leg raises and our glute bridges for the glutes and hamstrings, and then we flip over get our shoulder taps, get our core, shoulder mobility and everything in. And then we work on movement patterns like our push-ups and like our squats.
[00:23:13.69] I mean, being at the college level, there's college kids that struggle with push-ups and struggle with just bodyweight squats. So if your college kids are struggling with it, then there's definitely a need for it at the middle school and high school level. So every day that our kids come to train, they're doing their activation, they're getting in some type of hip hinge, they're getting some type of push-up, they're getting some type of squat movement, movement pattern, and we're working on that every single day. And that's one of those nuances where yeah, it's boring, it's not flashy. But if you're learning to squat and you're working on your squat movement every single day, you're going to see some success sooner than later.
[00:23:55.70] And so I started by teaching how we do our activation. And being that I'm at the high school, middle school level, we have 50 minute periods. We have to give them about six, seven minutes to get dressed, and then we have to give about six, seven minutes to get dressed for their next class. So you're talking about out of a 50 minute period, you only have about 38 to 36 minutes to train.
[00:24:18.52] College level, hey, your lift is from 1:00 to 2:00, you've got a full hour. And if you go over, as long as they don't have class, no harm, no foul. So you're talking about how can you maximize a 36 minute training session for a novice athlete or an athlete with a zero training age.
[00:24:35.92] And so I developed an activation, it takes four minutes max. And one thing I like about it is coaches love the mental toughness and discipline and things like that. Well, with our activation we emphasize hey, when we say everybody's down on their back, it's a race to be the first person down on your back. Anything slower than that, hey, stand back up. We'll do it again until we get it right. But if everything is done correctly, it's a three and 1/2, three minute 45 second warm up that allows us to then train for 32 minutes, maybe 33 minutes.
[00:25:14.23] And so I started with the activation. From there, I talked about our snap-downs and everything. Because again, I mean, I'm looking at my sixth graders, out of 35 you're talking about three or four out of 35 of them have been taught to jump. Well, if they don't learn to jump in sixth grade, they're not going to learn it in seventh grade, eighth grade.
[00:25:30.55] So our high schoolers were taught snap-downs, double leg snap-downs, single leg snap-downs, and then from there we transition into our vertical jumps. And just teaching them just different weight room cues, land in that athletic position, right. That snap-down position is an athletic position. Chest, shoulders slightly over the toes, slight bend in the knees, pushing the hips back, hands drawn back, elbows bent. That position you can change directions in, you can jump in, you can land in, so just teaching those foundational movements and getting that what I call weight room terminology in and embedded into everything we do will then transfer into the weight room.
[00:26:10.26] So once we teach the activation and the snap-downs we go into the weight room. So now if we're doing our dead drops or even if we're just setting up to do our clean pools, you need to be in that athletic position. Because that athletic position isn't shoulder width apart. It's probably hip width apart or slightly wider than hip width, and if you talk about biomechanics and maximizing vertical jump, well, if your feet are too wide or too narrow you're not going to be able to jump as high.
[00:26:36.84] So just teaching them the snap-down, jumping and landing mechanics, and then transitioning into the weight room, hey, you need to be in that athletic position when we're doing our RDLs, when we're doing our clean pulls. Hey, you need to be in that athletic position when you're doing your bent over row. So everything that we're doing in the weight room has symmetry from the activation to the snap-downs, to our plyometrics that we do, to our landing mechanics, to our exercises.
[00:27:02.73] And then we take it a step further, and that's that flow where now we're going to go outside and maybe we're doing our change of direction where we're doing the grid, which I got from Kyle Keese up at Denton Guyer. And now, we're working on just 45 degree cuts, which at the time the kids aren't thinking about it in terms of sport performance, but it's like hey, if you're dribbling a basketball, you plant that right leg, cross over to the left, it's no different than if you're doing a 45 degree cut where that right foot is forward, chest and shoulders come slightly forward, knee for a split second maybe goes over the toe, and then boom you're loading up that outside foot, pushing off, changing direction going to your left. That's just like a crossover in basketball. That's just like a jump cut or cutting in football. That's just like in soccer passing the ball from the right leg to the left leg and changing direction.
[00:27:58.09] So now, we go from what I call field work, which is just speed training, change of direction, agility, and all that, now we're taking those drills and we're hammering them home. And for the kids, and especially the younger kids, hey, what does this look like? Does this look like I'm dribbling the ball in my right hand, and then boom, I'm crossing over to the left? Oh yeah, it does look like that.
[00:28:19.98] OK, so now we're in the grid, working basic 45 degree cuts, emphasizing loading up that front leg, cutting off that outside foot. And now the kids are able to see OK, what we're doing drill wise translates directly to the sport that I play. Oh, you play baseball? OK, cool, well when you're trying to steal from first to second you've got to load that outside leg, and you got to drive, open up that hip, turn and run.
[00:28:49.62] Well, it's no different than when we're doing our grid, and maybe we're sprinting forward, and then we're lateral shuffle to our right. It's the same thing. And now the kids are like, oh, it's like the light bulb clicks for them. They're like OK, these drills are the same movements that we use in sports.
[00:29:07.47] And so I don't call it a sports specific lift or a sports specific exercise, it's a sport specific movement. And so once we start teaching those foundational movements and incorporating them into the drills that we do, that's when you really see that buy in go up and those kids all of a sudden are thinking OK, what we're doing from an activation standpoint, to a snap-down plyometrics standpoint, to a weight room standpoint, to a field work standpoint all adds up to help make me a better insert sport here.
[00:29:43.75] And so that's pretty much what rhythm and flow is about, and it was another way that I presented to my AD. Like hey, what are we doing here? Well, this is our activation, this is why we do it. All right, cool, check the box there.
[00:29:56.73] What are we doing for our snap-downs plyometrics? OK, cool, check the box there. What are we doing from a weight room standpoint? OK, cool, check the box there. What are we doing when we do our drills outside? OK, cool, check the box there.
[00:30:07.78] So now, from an athletic director standpoint it's like OK, Coach Croc knows what he's doing. He has a reason, and he has his why. And so he just sits back and lets me do my thing. And then it also helps safeguard me and that hey, look, everything that we're doing has a bigger purpose, which ultimately is sport performance.
[00:30:26.86] And so I did a bunch of drills that I do with my athletes. And then another thing I've learned, too, is just when you add a tennis ball to a drill, just the kids get mind blown and they're like oh my gosh, this drill just got harder just by holding on to this tennis ball. So now, I learn a lot of these things from PE just working on hand eye coordination and things like that. So now I'm integrating things that we do in PE, crossed over to strength and conditioning, and now we're combining the two. And now, kids are seeing OK, we're doing this drill, and it's getting easy for me because I'm mastering the movement, and then now we're adding a tennis ball, and now I'm being humbled and going back down to level one because now I'm worrying about this upper body stimulus so much that I'm minimizing what I'm doing with my lower body.
[00:31:17.15] So we talk about I like doing the skiers, so we'll snap down to a single leg, and then we'll do our skiers jumping to our snap down on the left leg, jump to our right, jump to our left. Well, the kids get good at that where instead of doing a single response where they jump left to right and they hold it, I blow one whistle, they jump left to right, right back to left and hold it. Well, once they master that I toss them a tennis ball, and now you've got to pass the tennis ball in the direction that you're going.
[00:31:44.92] Now you get that automatic feedback as far as hey, are you jumping the same distance every time with that tennis ball? If you're not, that means we're not maximizing what we're doing with our lower body because we're worried about the stimulus that our upper body is now giving us. So that ties back to that sport performance. If you're on the basketball court you can be the fastest person baseline to baseline, but if you're dribbling a ball and now you're the third fastest person, well, how do we work on speeding you up so that way you can be the fastest person on the court whether you're dribbling, whether you're defending somebody, or whether you're just sprinting down the court?
[00:32:25.90] So it's just little things like that I've learned to incorporate so that way again, hey, what do we need tennis balls for? My AD asks me, what do we need tennis balls for? I was like, well, there's different hand-eye coordination things I like to do. I like to add the tennis balls into the agility and the things that we do. And I got a great AD, he gets on Amazon and now I have 100 tennis balls in a big old bag, and a big old laundry bag that I can use. And so just doing different things like that and just tying it all together, that's where the rhythm and flow comes from.
[00:32:58.81] I like that concept of reinforcing sport performance cues in the weight room and in drills. That really connects what you're doing on the training side to what's happening on the field at practice or during games. I really like how you key in on the language of what you're doing. I think that relates to quality teaching, and there was a time when all strength coaches go back to the early days were PE teachers, and that's not always the case anymore.
[00:33:29.95] But as the pendulum swings and education changes, we often focus, as we should, on strength and power. But we have to be careful not to do it at the expense of coordination, balance, footwork, quality movement. And I just really like how you bring all that together. I thought it was a great session you gave us at the conference, really appreciate you being a part of it.
[00:33:59.65] And you spoke to just the accountability of strength coaches within a department, with your athletic director. I want to ask you, what are the biggest areas of growth you see in the profession of strength and conditioning right now? And also, what are some of the biggest challenges you see?
[00:34:18.61] I think one of the biggest growth is I always tell people as a strength coach, you should carry yourself as an exercise scientist, because there is a science to what we do. And I think when you start to get away from that, I think that's when outsiders kind of creep in and start to throw stones as far as well, why are we doing this? This doesn't make sense.
[00:34:41.99] So I think that one of the biggest growth is I've seen, whether it be via Twitter and the content people put out, or whether it be just interacting and talking with other coaches, people are really breaking down the science and the why, and having that why to whatever it is they do. And I think that kind of safeguards us as strength coaches when it comes to hey, why are we doing this. Well, we're doing this because I feel like this is an important key to athletic success.
[00:35:11.39] And I think oftentimes when you present it to a sport coach or an athletic director or whoever that you're training, I think it makes it difficult for them to say, no, we're not doing that. We're going to go old school. And I think that when you look at conditioning especially, I mean, I remember when I was in college it was the 16 1-10s was the go to for conditioning.
[00:35:35.62] And then I got to Incarnate Word and it was like, hey, we're going to do tempo runs. I'm like tempo runs? Yeah, we're going to mimic the energy system that we use in football. Football play lasts six to eight seconds, the time from the play ends to the next play is about 30, 35 seconds, so now we're going to work that same energy system that is utilized in football. And then it's like, OK, so we're going to have extensive tempo runs on one day, and intensive tempo runs on another day.
[00:36:06.16] And you get away from the this is how we've always done things, and you get into this is the science behind what it is that we're doing. I think as we grow as a profession, I think one thing that we have a challenge of is just getting people to see and understand the knowledge and the experience that we have, and why we do what we do. Because I've experienced in my job where coaches were just accustomed to the weight room is where we grind. And just educating that look, if we grind these kids every single time they're in the weight room, I use the analogy we're going to push them up the hill, but we don't want to push them off the cliff.
[00:36:50.95] So yeah, we're going to push them up that hill, push them up that mountain. But then once they get to the edge, it's up to us to make sure that they don't fall off. And so I think one of the uphill battles we have is just getting coaches and those involved outside of strength and conditioning to understand that there is a science to it, there is a rhyme and a reason to what we do.
[00:37:12.91] And that some days you might be in the weight room or you might be outside for a conditioning session or maybe a change of direction, and it might look easy, and that's OK. You might go a full week where man, the kids they barely broke a sweat, nobody's-- they're over here doing extra stuff after because they're not tired from their training session. And it's like well, yeah, because the intent of what we were doing wasn't meant to quote unquote, "crush them."
[00:37:43.84] And so I think that we still have ways to go in just bringing everybody in to see our perspective from a strength and conditioning coach, because I think a lot of coaches look at the extremes of hey, it's the fourth quarter and we got to be the most mentally tough team. We've got to be the most conditioned team, and the only way we're going to get that is if we bring them in the weight room or take them outside and we crush them, because that's when it's going to show. And it's like yeah, but you can get there with a little bit of finesse. You can get there with those deload weeks or those deload training days, and you can accomplish that.
[00:38:25.28] And so I think that that's an uphill battle that we all will continue to fight, but I think that when we carry ourselves like an exercise scientist and we educate the coaches around us and we have that why, I think we can kind of close that gap. Because ultimately, it's about the kids. I mean, we can sit up here as strength coaches and say my program's the best, and the sport coach can say I'm the greatest coach ever. But if the kids don't believe in themselves and they're not confident in their abilities, my opinion doesn't matter, the sport coaches opinion doesn't matter, because we're not getting the best out of that athlete.
[00:39:02.68] So I would say those are probably things that as time goes on, more education is put out there, more coaches have those conversations, and then like I said, with my athletic director coaches that are like, hey, I'm not an expert in this, you are. Educate me. I think obviously with my knowledge and experience, I tell people all the time, I wouldn't have the success that I'm having right now at my school if this job was offered to me three years ago, maybe even two years ago, just because I'm able to see hey, they don't need a lot to be successful. And we don't always need to grind to get better.
[00:39:48.35] So I think just having the sport coaches, and I know there's a trend now especially in professional football, where we're trying to get those 33, 34-year-old coordinators to come be the head coaches. Those are the ones that are my age that maybe went through those grind sessions that are kind of like yeah, that training didn't really help me. And then you get another strength coach and they're like yeah, our training is if you want to call it modern, it's modern. We're combining the analytics and the science with the training, and I think as we merge those two together and some of the old school mentality coaches start to phase out, I think that we'll be able to bridge that gap.
[00:40:35.55] Oh, man, that's awesome. Love that perspective. Appreciate you being with us today. If there's anyone listening in who wants to reach out, get connected, learn more from you, what's the best way to do that?
[00:40:47.94] Twitter, I try to be active on Twitter. Sometimes I get on my little Twitter rant and just that's one way I connect to people. I mean, I've had people that I don't even know, never even met, and they DM me and they say, hey what's your opinion on this, or what do you think about that? And I've had several people reach out to me. I've made some friends. I've met people that I've had Zoom calls with that are like, hey, I just want to talk to you about programming.
[00:41:14.56] And I think as a strength coach, we're all in this together. And I think that when we can share knowledge and experiences then we can help make each other's lives easier. So on Twitter, it's TheCrocShow on Twitter, and that's probably the best way to follow me and things that I put out.
[00:41:34.89] Sometimes I see videos of something, and it just sparks an idea or something that I can start a conversation with, and I just put it out there. And sometimes it takes off, and I get hundreds of people reacting to it or a couple of people messaging me about it. And for me, it's like, hey, if I can help one coach with one tweet, then I feel like I'm helping make the profession better just because nowadays, we don't have to go to the library to get strength and conditioning books. I mean, you can get PDFs, and you can get on YouTube channels. You can listen to podcasts and things like that.
[00:42:14.26] So I think that's probably the best way to connect to with me. And sometimes I don't have the answers or may not have enough knowledge about an opinion somebody ask me, and I'll say like hey, look, I don't know. Check this guy out if you want. And so I would say Twitter is probably the best way to get a hold of me.
[00:42:35.13] That's Elton Crochran, strength and conditioning coordinator at Randolph Field School District, San Antonio, Texas. Thanks for being with us. Thanks, everybody for tuning in today. We'd also like to thank Sore Necks exercise equipment. We appreciate their support.
[00:42:51.00] Hey everyone, this is strength and conditioning Coach Scott Caulfield. You just listened to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, one of the best sources of information about the strength and conditioning profession. If you're new to this podcast and you want to learn more, subscribe now to always get the latest episodes delivered right to you.
[00:43:08.57] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.
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