Going Pro? Stick With the Coach Who Knows You

Who is better equipped to prepare you for your pro day than the coach who got you ready to turn pro in the first place?

Can you smell that? It’s the smell of bridges burning.

If you are a college athlete wrapping up your last season at your university, and you feel you have a chance to take the next step as a professional, I have some things for you to consider.

Most guys coming out to try for the professional ranks will step away from their college strength coach for their combine/pro day prep. That’s absolutely crazy. It makes no sense to me, whatsoever. It’s like taking your team to the national championship game, and then right before kickoff, you bring in a brand new coaching staff to call the plays. Today I’m going to explain why you should think long and hard before leaving home for one of the factory prep places.

Father Knows (You) Best

The running joke here at Cal Poly is that I am Dad, and our head of sports medicine, Kristal Slover, is Mom. We both have the pulse of every single athlete here on campus, and we end up quickly becoming the surrogate parents of every kid who rolls through here. Perhaps it’s our personalities, our dedication to the person first and the athlete second, or continual contact with each of them that naturally evolves our rolls. Both of us would tell you we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Your strength coach knows your body. He has likely spent the last 4-5 years with you. They’ve stood by your side during every training session. They’ve helped nurse you back to health when you’ve been injured. They’ve made critical decisions for you and your teammates in program design to create the team that has taken the field. They’ve been in countless meetings, watched every practice and studied everything about you on game day. They know your athletic machine, inside and out.

Movement is our business. The dynamic nature of getting you guys to have the speed, agility and footwork to be successful on the field is like calculus. Any strength coach worth his salt knows that teaching proper 40 technique and running some shuttles is like 2nd grade multiplication. The nuances of a perfect 40, a pro shuttle, and the three-cone drill are directly in our wheelhouse. Considering that we know your strengths and weaknesses better than anybody on the planet, we can tailor all the drills specifically to you. Adapting the program to you, rather than asking you to adapt to the program, is where the magic lays. We’ve spent years bending and breaking all of the training rules to fit you, so trust me when I say, we can do it in this situation too.

Who’s Paying for This?

You are! That is, if you choose to step away from your coach to go to one of the big prep gyms. Look, I know it’s attractive. So-and-so from Alabama is going there, and what’s his name from Clemson is going to be training there. It’s easy to get enamored with the list of names. But none of it comes for free.

The prep gyms make their money by getting bodies in the door. And that money has to come from somewhere. Most likely, it’s going to come from you. Your agent typically writes into your contract with him that he will get reimbursed for your training. When he says he’s going to send you somewhere, that $5,000-10,000 fee the gym charges is a loan. Yeah, “He’s got this covered,” alright. But 9 times out of 10, you’re paying him back the second you sign your contract with your team.

If you’re a first round draft pick, $10k is a drop in the bucket. But if you are a late round pick or a free agent, you are looking at a fairly large bill before any cash hits your account. I’ve seen it time and time again: kids get lured away by a fast-talking agent, they get loans for training, housing, and food for a couple of months, and then reality hits. They get a late draft pick, a small signing bonus, and end up broke even though they have signed with a professional team.

Just because you signed doesn’t mean you have a job… yet. You have the opportunity to further audition for a job, and that small signing bonus may never see your hands.

If you chose to go away from your school to train, make sure you know all of the details about who’s paying for what. If you are going to be holding the bill, either right now or in the future, don’t do it. 

Who’s Going to Fix This?

Hear me. 100% of the time, when one of my guys has left the nest to train elsewhere, he has come back to campus at the end of that training time, in a panic, because they’ve been taught a technique for one of the tests that doesn’t fit them. Several times, I have received the horrible news that they sustained an injury during that training that will likely keep them from testing. For most guys, that’s a deal breaker.

Take the 40, for example. I go against a grain completely. I believe it’s reckless to “practice” the 40. Every guy I’ve ever trained for the combine/pro day will tell you, they are not allowed to run a 40 during our training. See, the 40 is a test of start and acceleration. That’s it. So we spend our time working on perfecting the start for their body, and only going out 10-15 yards. The second someone starts talking to you about “top end speed” and nonsense like that, walk away. They don’t understand the drill at all.

What we hear from those kids who leave is that they are being timed over and over, day after day. Once you get out past about 20 yards, the risk of hamstring injuries dramatically increases. One guy, in my 17 years of doing this, has pulled his hamstring under my watch. One. And guess what? He asked me if he could time a 40, I adamantly objected, he went out anyway on his own and… pop. He didn’t understand the workload that I was putting him under with the weights, and didn’t truly understand the enormous stress a legit 40 attempt puts on his body.

Training for these drills takes time. It’s a process. If you come back to me with a week until you test and need me to retool, you are probably screwed. I usually let the guys know the second they get home that I need them to continue to practice what they were taught “there” because we don’t have the time to make a large technique change. It’s not me being pissy, it’s me trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Your Agent Is Not a Coach

Agents exist to represent you; to be an intermediary in contract and salary negotiations. Many are lawyers, and are fluent in all of the jargon required to ensure that you (and them) get every cent they can from your prospective team. They are necessary, especially to those guys who are looking to make millions.

But agents are not coaches, physiologists, nutritionists, or sport scientists. The training rants many of them will have with you are exactly that: rants. They know as much about prepping you for the big showcase as you and I do about brain surgery. “Well, your brain is in your head, and that is a scalpel soooo…” Get my drift?

What you need to understand is that you are now their boss. You are paying for them; therefore, they work for you. You are not going to get out of giving them their money, so act like a CEO. Many of them are in bed with specific training sites, so they have an incentive to send you to a place that may have nothing to do with the quality of the training. Yes, because you are going to make them a ton of money, they want you to perform off the charts. But they know nothing about training. Don’t let them tell you any different.

All Your Strength Coach Wants Is for You To Succeed

Let me be clear: I get nothing from training you. At every school across the country, we strength guys have to build an additional couple of hours into our already packed schedules to train you and the other guys trying to make the leap to the pros. What I get from training you is the joy of watching you kill it on your big day.

You all are invited to Cal Poly’s pro day in 2017. What you’ll see will be me pacing like crazy person and nearly sick with excitement and nervousness as I watch all of my guys’ hard work on display.

I don’t want your money. I don’t need anything from you other than consistent, full effort. (Okay, I do ask each guy for one thing. After their mothers, I make them promise me to send me a signed jersey once they make the 53-man roster.)

I want to witness you living up to your dreams. I want to watch you win championships at the next level as bad as anyone. We have been together for a long time, and you are the priority. Think long and hard about going elsewhere.

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