New Episodes Released Every Tuesday!
March 22, 2022

How a Centralized Strength Program Combats The Mental Health Crisis | Nick Cook

How a Centralized Strength Program Combats The Mental Health Crisis | Nick Cook

#33.  Currently the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach and Head Football Coach  at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Northeast Ohio, Nick Cook has experience as a teacher, coach, and school principal.  As a football coach he has been a head coach at three high schools, including starting a high school program from scratch.  As a strength & conditioning coach, he has spent time developing and implementing training programs in private training facilities, at the high school level, and at all three levels of the NCAA.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, Cook won three NCAA Division III National Championships as a member of the Mount Union football team. Cook went on to win a fourth National Championship as part of the strength & conditioning staff with the Ohio State University football team (2002) and to serve as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach with Ohio Dominican University football, before embarking on a career in K-12 education. Coach Cook is a member of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, the National High School Strength Coaches Association, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Resources from this episode:

Articles on anxiety crisis among current teens:

Articles on anti-anxiety effects of resistance (strength) training:

Articles on academic performance effects of resistance training:

Articles on motivational effects of goal setting & informational feedback w/students:


To sign up for weekly notes from each episode, CLICK HERE.


Review The "I" in Win on
Apple Podcast or my website to let me know what you think of the show.  Follow me on Twi

Transcript

Nick:

We particularly would maybe integrate this into the curriculum within a PE department, that work can absolutely help increase the academic performance of those kids in every single class that they're in. Why? Because their brain is functioning better.

Luke:

Welcome to The "I" in Win the show that focuses on why coaches should embrace the journey of impacting lives. I'm your host, Luke Mertens. And I'm excited to introduce today's guest Nick cook, who was head football, coach and strength and conditioning coordinator at Cuyahoga valley Christian academy. Located in Cuyahoga falls, Ohio. In this episode, Nick is going to share what he learned, winning multiple national champions at the powerhouse, the University of Mount Union and how those experience prepared him for a career as a teacher and a coach today, we're also going to discuss the benefits to a centralized school-wide strength and conditioning program, which is a growing trend in high schools across this country today. Coach, thanks for being honest morning,

Nick:

thanks for having me.

Luke:

let's start with your experiences at Mount Union. You won multiple national championships. Was it, did you win for you when, whenever you.

Nick:

Uh, now it was three. So our group, it was three. We lost in the national semi-finals our sophomore year. So came just short, but get three in the four years.

Luke:

Okay. So three out of four years, what were your biggest takeaways that you learned from playing in such a legendary program like Mt. Union?

Nick:

Uh, that's a huge question. yeah, I guess know, just to summarize number one is this kind of consistency within the program. Coach Kehres, I'd say that's one of the things that's, um, everyone that was there under his leadership could attest to was just, you know, everyone talks about culture now that's kind of the buzz word. Coach Kehres was a master of that before, culture was the buzzword. Everyone was very clear what our mission was. And then I always I'll tell you, man, this, even as a coach, the thing I always point back to is this lessons in poise, just being able to have poise in competitive situations. And the role that I at least feel like that had within our teams, you know, I was, uh, I was an average player at best at Mount union. so a lot of this was just soaking things up, like a sponge for me. As I got into coaching, I know even other guys and we would, you know, have opportunities to speak with them about our own coaching. Coach Kehres You know, he was always quick to emphasize like, look, this isn't like stamp and go type of thing, right? You're not going to be able to go anywhere you coach and just, try to stamp the Mt. Union Way and was very careful to kind of explain like, you know, the Mount union way was developed. It had a lot to do with the nature that university and, you know, the players that were there, you know, his famous phrase or description of coaching, right. As far as having like an outline, his players, formations plays like it all starts with the players that you're working with not somebody else's, and starting there with your coaching. Um, just the relationships there, you realize how central that is to the success there but then even beyond there, some of those relationships, you know, we always talk about Coach Kehres, but, Don Montgomery was the defensive coordinator there when we were there. He played at Mount coach there for years by the time we'd gotten there. And, you know, he was a very important piece of that as well. But I, you know, I'd say particularly from him just learning the value of the relationship process, amidst, trying to win championships, you know, and I don't think what happened at Mount union happens, you know, without the type of relationships that were built.

Luke:

And after leaving Mount union. Opportunity to learn at another legendary program, Ohio state university, working as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. So what did you learn from that experience at Ohio?

Nick:

yeah, well, be in strength conditioning, I had the good fortune, I would say of, you know, I worked with in strength and conditioning and there was a staff right in place in that regard. But then also had the opportunity then all the, you know, it was with football specifically. And so, you know, with all the duties and responsibilities and just the hustle of doing strength and conditioning. Uh, when it came football time, right? I mean, it's, we're at practices, opportunities to sit in on meetings and you'll appreciate this. I mean, the opportunity to sit in on football meetings where like, I didn't have responsibilities, I'm there as part of strength and conditioning and our piece of it. But then to get to absorb, the football side of things, uh, it was Tressel's second year. And so I always point back to the, you know, it was an interesting compare and contrast experience of having just come out of Mount union and everything that took place there. And then to be at Ohio State for me, the importance of Ohio state, wasn't just that it was a higher state is that I get to be there as Tressel was getting all of that started, you know, and obviously he was a legend in that's what he did and Youngstown. We were very aware of Youngstown state even while we were playing at Mount union. Right. So yeah, so just, even from a coaching standpoint, to get to, experience Mount union's program and then get to experience what Tressel is doing, got the F you know, really quickly figure out what were some transferable concepts, So it's like, what are, what are some things that these two legendary coaches are doing the same. But then also getting to see, you know, personality differences. I remember that being really freeing for me as a young coach to see okay. Some of the same exact things that we were doing at Mount union, the same things were being done at Ohio state, but maybe with a different personality to. So that important lesson of realizing the difference between principles and personality, right? It's like in principle, we're doing the same thing. We were doing that Mount and it's just got a different, flavor to it, different feel because of the people involved. And, uh, that was an important lesson for me. So, yeah, so that, back to back piece of that for me, I still look back on and this feels so fortunate. I mean, I really got lucky To be able to kind of have those stacked against each other, if you will pretty quickly and learn a lot. And then not to mention, like I said, coach Al Johnson was the head strength, conditioning coach and his staff, and the strength conditioning side of that, you know, besides the obvious what was going on with speed and strength training, getting to glean from him and all his years of experiences as a leader, as a coach was just, invaluable for me.

Luke:

Well, since you mentioned coach Tressel, I have to take the shameless plug and mentioned that we had coach Tressel on the podcast. I don't know if you had an opportunity to listen to that episode, if you haven't just lie to me. and say today, I feel good about myself, but, if not check it out, coach Tressel won one of the best and definitely jealous. You had the opportunity to learn from him.

Nick:

Yeah, no coach. I'm actually staring at my copy of the, uh, the actual winner's manual from that 2002, uh, national championship. So that's obviously where I was introduced to the winner's manual. And then I've used his book, like the actual book he wrote, I've used the winner's manual for leadership development for my players and coaches as well. So, oh yeah, that was great episodes.

Luke:

Awesome. Well, thanks for listening to it. And coach Tressel is one of the best then it helped catapult use. You mentioned throughout your career in 2010, your name, head strength and conditioning coach or football at division two, Ohio Dominican university. But after a little bit more than a year, you decided to go back to the high school level working in various leadership roles. So why did you decide to go back to the high school level and work with that age of athletes.

Nick:

Yeah. It was interesting as I was doing a lot of the. Particularly at Ohio state. You know, I was also contemplating getting married and, you know, for us as a family you know, just wanted to have a little more control if you will, over schedule. And, uh, some of the rhythms we envisioned, with having a family life together and whatnot, and yeah, so that's what initially led to it. And when I was at a higher Dominican, I was actually still teaching at a high school, you know, so that role was strength and conditioning came through as a relationship with bill. Who had been the recruiting coordinator at Ohio state for a number of years. He got the head coaching job there at Ohio Dominican and, got ahold of me regarding strength and conditioning. So as I got started with them, I was still teaching at the high school. Uh, yeah, man. And then what happened? There was, um, that same high school that I had been teaching at prior to Ohio Dominican ended up becoming principal of that school, so that was kind of a whole nother phase for us as far as the high school stuff, which obviously as a principal, that was a decision of okay. we're, uh, we're either Cannonball into the pool here, or we're not right as far as getting into administration. And so, yeah, so we decided to do that. Um, but like I said, it was a school I had taught at as well. So some of our journey kind of intermixed some of the college of high school stuff and yeah. Once I, once I made that plunge after I Dominican, you know, sit for the last, what has that been 12 years now? Since then it's just been full time when I refer to a school of ministry, you know, so teaching, you know, being a principal teaching coach and and some private school settings.

Luke:

One thing. You talked about an article I read by you is the idea of you don't know what you don't know. And all of a sudden you're a principal head football coach. You're in these leadership roles. And I thought it was pretty humble of you to admit, I really wasn't ready for some of this stuff. It's easy to, to sit in a classroom and to judge, for example, school administration, it's easy to be the assistant coach and to judge the head football coach. And it's core. This is really a podcast about leadership, Right. So what did you learn as you were thrust into these leadership roles? Because let's be honest, you don't go to school to learn leadership. You go to learn, for example, education, all of a sudden boom you're leader. So what were some of the first lessons and probably hard lessons you learned as a.

Nick:

Yeah. That's, you know, I'm not much of a gossip type or anything like that, but I think we've all we all, as teachers and assistant coaches have been in some of those, you know, for lack of better terms, like parking lot conversations, some of those little sideline or hallway. between another, you know, teacher coach, or kind of complaining to each other about the decision that was made or whatever it is. And, uh, yeah, so particularly the principal role, you know, when I was kind of thrust into that and faced you know, instantly with certain decisions, where you're, you're choosing between, bad and worst. And this kind of gives you some perspective real quickly, right? Some of the limited perspective maybe you had like, wow, maybe that decision, even, I wasn't real pleased with, like, if I was faced with those same factors, and had to make a completely difficult decision, you know, I probably would have gone the same direction of the same thing I was complaining about, but because I didn't know all the variables. And so, so yeah, so that, that really was impactful. You know, I think the way I probably put it in that article even was. And I describe it like this to friends is I felt like I spent more time repenting of some of those, you know, maybe negative attitudes I had crept into at times as a teacher assistant coach that first year as a principal probably than anything I've repented in my life. I mean, it was, it was eyeopening. But that kind of gave me, you know, that kind of set the course for me then, as far as really appreciating the role of, you know, trying to make good decisions and great decisions. And that's not always, um, rainbows and sunshine, That oftentimes as a leader, you're, you're having to try to make a decision. That's going to provide the best possible conditions, you know, for all the good that you want to see, take place, even if, you know, what's your, uh, having to decide between, right. It's not always good versus bad. You know, it's trying to decide what's actually best for everyone. So, but yeah, that was, that was eye opening and yeah, that phrase of, you don't know what you don't know became a very quick reality for me through that first principal role.

Luke:

Yeah, absolutely. I think everyone gets thrust into a leadership role. figures that out really quick. So let's talk about teenagers, the age that we work with on a daily basis, really tough, confusing years to begin with, but I don't know if there's been a tougher time in our country's history. We're, it's more confusing than ever to be a teenage. So what areas are you seeing that teenagers need us? They're teachers that are in coaches the most.

Nick:

Yeah, that's a great question. Um, you know, as you know, from other conversations we've had I've really just been pretty focused myself and been very alert to just some of the mental health realities that are being researched and communicated about this generation in particular. you know, it's, it's, it's at a crisis point, right? I mean, it's, it comes to anxiety. It's the most anxious generation on record. as far as some of that surveying, that takes place. You know, and it's not like it was, they started surveying this stuff 10 years ago for the first time. We're talking about some of that, long-term, kind of sociology research, even that some places have done for a long time, and then you can compare and contrast the numbers. And I mean, this generation with their version of the surveying, it's the highest it's ever been as far as reported anxiety and whatnot. And so I just think, yeah, I mean, I think that, reality. It's because it's increased. I think if, kind of increases the nature of our role into helping those kids through that and whatever means possible. So yeah, so that anxiety piece, I think, but then, you know, another thing coach that I think is just kind of timeless, independent of research even in America is thinking of just being human. is I really feel like this, the role of helping kids build and discover what their purpose is in life, Be able to understand themselves and, figure out what their, their gifts are. Their talents are, how they can use those to serve others and helping them to set goals. You know, things like that. me personally, I feel like, that's needed right now more than ever as far as my own experience compared to even coaching kids the last 20 years, because it's just, there's so much noise. Right. There's just so much frantic activity and they're exposed to so much information, that the idea of being able to crystallize. Okay, well, what's my role in this whole thing. What's my purpose. I think for kids it's tougher than ever. And so I think we can play a role in that in combination with kids' homes, that I think is pretty important right now.

Luke:

That's a great point about trying to figure out purpose because kids without purpose leads to some of those mental health crisis that you talked about, right. When you don't feel important, even though we are all individually important and we all do have a greater role to. But it's figuring out that role. And I really love your connection between health and fitness and, fitness of the mind as well. Right? Sound, body sound mind? I really enjoyed that. Your article and simply fast is four reasons. Every high school principal and Ady should invest in a school strength and conditioning program. that's really what connected us was that our. So let's start with discussing the powerful potential when Scholastic education and strength and conditioning are partners.

Nick:

Yeah. Well, that's, you know, kind of similarly this is one of the quotes I put in the article, but. You know, kind of the timeless nature of this even, right? We think we're fancy and we think we're more intelligent now than maybe people have been before, but, it was the Thomas Jefferson quote. You might remember. he said a vigorous body helps create a vigorous mind. Right. And now, you know, they were probably figuring that out more because of just general revelation, but just as true then as it is now, right? I mean, it's the human, body's the human body and, hormonally and all these things that take place when we exercise, you know, it's not like that's, change the time even since then, as far as the human body and its potential. And so, coach for me, it, as a, as a sports coach, It's a true traditional sports guy and thinking of strength and conditioning and fitness and how it benefits kids. You know, I would have to admit that, you know, early on in my career, it was just pretty focused on just the athletic benefits of that. Right. And just being pretty jacked up and excited and passionate about, helping guys develop athletically and the science behind that and how you can manipulate those factors. You know, really drive it towards some great outcomes, jacked up about that as a young coach. you know, and rightfully so. Right. I had just been an athlete, so coming out of all that, but it's been more, I'd say like in the last 10 years for me, getting to see some of the increasing amounts of research that are coming out, explaining some of the why behind what even Thomas Jefferson figured out, not only was fascinating to me and kind of opened up. New horizon as far as purpose for me in coaching. but became pretty clear like how timely it is for us to understand this stuff. Right? So back to some of the anxiety and depression and mental health crisis with teens and realizing, okay, wait a second. having like a centralized approach to how we're training kids physically, Can absolutely have a measurable, science-based research backed impact on their mental health, on the exact thing that's at it's worse than it's ever been like anxiety specifically. you know, it was pretty amazing to me. This is the timeliness of it, so that, you know, it's kind of become, like I said, the last 10 years, you know, more and more of a passion, for the purpose of doing some of this type of. physical fitness work with kids not just thinking it or, you know, having a hypothesis about it. Like no, if I, expose kids to this type of environment, with physical training, it is going to have a tremendous impact on their brain and their mental health. And that, to me, it's, you know, that's pretty explosive stuff. As far as the amount of potential we have with it.

Luke:

Yeah, I'm in the same boat as you. I completely have evolved in what I view the weight room is really being about. And I tell kids all the time lifting as the least important thing that we are doing. And being able to win more games is the least important thing we're doing in there. and I think, and I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of COVID, that's a whole nother conversation, but I do think that help bring some of this to the forefront and how important a healthy lifestyle really is and where we're at as a whole country in that we're really behind a lot of the rest of the world, but let's talk about those four specific things why we should have a centralized. In school, you have improved the health and well-being of students. Secondly, engage learners next, establish unity and teamwork among faculty and staff, and lastly nurture growth and success in students. And let's talk about each one of those individually, starting with what you've already touched upon, improve the health and wellbeing of. And you're talking about the mental wellbeing and also the physical and injury prevention of it. So talk a little bit about some of that research and how those things are really importantly, tied into a universal, centralized strength and conditioning for.

Nick:

Yeah, well, I mean the dive right back in with the anxiety and depression stuff, I mean, that's, that's some of the, um, you know, newer research, you know, so some of the things I cited in that article one was a 2017 study. The other was a 2019 study. and then there's a lot more, that's still coming. to this day. And then, like I said, for me personally, going back even 10 years, you know, stuff from 2010 into a at now, it just keeps coming. And yeah, the bottom line is, is particularly with, intense exercise, right? And, or resistance training specifically has been some of the scope of the research I mentioned, and the connection to the anti-anxiety and anti-depression effect. That, that type of exercise specifically has on the brain and how it works to decrease those experiences. You know, so you and I are of the generation that we we've known long enough, as far as our age, that physical activity generally speaking, is going to improve and help mental health. I mean, I think we've known that for a long time. but specifically resistance training and then like your high intensity interval based type of work. Right. Some of that research I cited is showing that that has the greatest impact with these factors, even compared to aerobic exercise. Right. And the idea that, by participating in that type of exercise consistently, you know, it was going to have those types of effects. So in one article or one research article I did not share in the article that you keep referencing, was one from frontiers in psychology. So as a research. And it's an example where the nature of their study concluded that resistance training specifically, should start being used in a clinical setting when it comes to managing anxiety. Right? So, I mean, there's, there's stuff coming out now that, essentially would support the use of resistance exercise as being something that's clinically prescribed. when it comes to managing anxiety. And so, you know, to me, that's pretty powerful stuff. you know, if it's, if it's getting to that point, as far as the science, so yeah, so that, you know, that is a big passion of mine right now. That's something I talked to school leaders about all the time, like, okay, Hey, these kids are anxious. They're dealing with these things. Like here is something that I'm either beginning to even use in a clinical setting, that we can provide for them here in a school. for free, in a sense, right? No extra charge, uh, just can make it part of the school program. It can become a consistent avenue, that if we can get more and more of our kids exposed to this, whether they're an athlete or not, you know, we're going to have a significant impact. We'll move the needle with how anxious our group is.

Luke:

Yeah, that's really powerful stuff. You're talking about that connection between the mental health wellbeing and resistance training. And honestly, it's stuff I've always felt was true, but it's great that we're starting to have that scientific backing behind it and the other area moving on to the second reason why. Have a centralized strength and conditioning program is more engaged learners. So talk about that connection between sound, body, sound, body, excuse me, and a sound mind, and how it also improves or I should say also enhances classroom before.

Nick:

Yes, I would decided some of that in the article too. But bottom line is you have the more often, and the more intensely a person exercises, the better the brain functions, is what that research is showing. even taking a look here, I believe one of these I linked in that article. It was an association between that type of intense exercise, particularly in a sports team setting and having associations with higher academic outcomes in middle school and high school students specifically. and so that's just one example, but, and there's others where it's okay. Yeah. Hey, this is an anecdotal anymore, right? It's like, you know, this type of work, this type of exercise, particularly with the age group that we're working with, their brain will function. Doing this type of activity than if they weren't. And you know, for me as a former principal, that's pretty incredible stuff, I mean, it's, it's pretty rare that an academic content area, right. Can say that the work that they do in that room is going to absolutely not in theory, you know, but you know, research-based, is going to impact how well they perform in another country. Right. There are some associations like that, that we can piece together kind of anecdotally, but here we have an area that, can definitely say, look, you know, as we particularly would maybe integrate this into the curriculum within a PE department, that work can absolutely help increase the academic performance of those kids in every single class that they're in. Why? Because their brain is functioning. better Right. Therefore they're able to learn better. it's going to raise their academic performance, just from that activity alone. And so, so that's the, I know for me as a principal, I was always kind of looking for, culture type things that had a lot of bang for the buck, you know, where we can make an investment, but not have to go, too many directions with it and be focused, but making an investment that's going to. You know, have a cascading effect, throughout the whole building. And this to me is a prime example of that. And then, you know, I also mentioned growth mindset in that article. doing this type of training with kids, I think helps kind of give the scaffolding to train them how to have a growth mindset.

Luke:

Well, speaking of scaffolding throughout the building, that's a great segue to the next benefit of this and that's unity and teamwork amongst faculty and staff. And I think that's really important if you're trying to implement a culture, all. Adults need to be on par with our messaging. And I think that's really difficult in a school because there's so many different personalities between the chemistry teacher, the English teacher, the school principal, the football coach, the baseball coach. I mean, there's a lot of dynamic personalities in there and I hate to use the word agenda, but everyone has a different agenda. Right? What the chemistry teachers, goals are and what the football coaches goals. Sometimes those aren't in alignment, all they should be That's where you're going to get the best functioning school. So talk about how that centralized strength conditioning program does help to establish that union teamwork amongst the faculty and.

Nick:

Yeah. I mean, I think that phrase centralized even, you know, like saying like, Hey, just like other things that we attempt to do, let's have an all in centralized view of how we go about this and, and why we do. you know, what I think is unique with strength and conditioning is it kind of can provide a. Uh, particularly for talking about coaches, so to about athletics specifically, because of the nature of strength and conditioning and the idea of, you know, if you're looking at it this way, the idea that, you know, you're training athletes, right? We want to develop our athletes overall in their athleticism come through this type of training. If you're looking at it that way. Well, then the idea is as well, this is going to benefit every sport that these multi-sport high school type of kids. participate in and you know, if that's the view, it's like, well, Hey, let's set, let's have a centralized way to go about this then. So we can have, you know, not just the culture of unity, but even for the kids' sake, right? Like these are not college athletes. many of these kids are gonna play more than one sport, you know, for the kids' sake, even let's have some clarity, let's have things organized in a way that they can thrive in and right. And I just really think that that type of environment just has a lot of potential because it's going to serve so many different sports settings has a lot of potential to at least give a chance for the adults to have, something to rally around together, no matter what sport they coach, Because they, if I'm coaching football and your coach and baseball and, we have a kid that plays both well, we don't have the luxury of saying, well, that's my fault. Yeah, you don't have the luxury of saying, well, that's my baseball guy. It's like, no, this kid does both. And so, let's have a centralized approach to how we help develop him athletically so that when we get him in our sport, we're going to reap those benefits and it's going to go around. Right. It's going to benefit other people. And so, yeah, so that centralized piece, I think that, you know, it's like we spend so much time trying to talk about creating focus and, having an identity and having a call. you know, and I think strength conditioning can be a great hub to do that. And then I think the opposite is true as well. Is if your approach to training kids through strength, conditioning is scatterbrained, right. If it's all over the place, well, then now it can kind of become a hub to do the exact opposite of what you want. And so that's why they get a critical.

Luke:

And the last point that you make in your article is this idea of nurturing growth and success in students and beyond just athletes. You're talking about all students in the building of participate in that. So let's talk about that last piece and the importance of individual setting and meeting of goals and how that impacts growth within these young people.

Nick:

Yeah, well, this, this is a passion area, I would say, particularly that I'm going back to the Mount union stuff with coach Cara's. Yeah. And I remember being fascinated to learn that he had a academic background in behavioral psychology and how much that impacted his coaching. And, and I remember a particular number one is, uh, he always engaged players with the goal setting process. you know, I remember him telling the story or reading it somewhere, whether I was there as a player or after, but that, uh, even the idea of a goal of a national championship, he said that he didn't put that goal. It was the players that first did. And what I know from having played there is the players put that forward because he did facilitate an environment where he encouraged, goal setting and those player leaders to, create goals each year. And a thing other than I learned from him then too, was the importance of informational feedback would be the psychology term. this as teachers, we know all about that with. But the importance of timely feedback in that the motivational effect that, that has particularly on young men. and so, yeah, so that, that whole nature of what are we doing to help train kids and having a, a goal setting mindset, and being able to get feedback, you know, in their lives about how they're doing with those things. That's all research backed and things of that nature. But I think that strengthened condition. Once again, kind of coming back to that hub analogy, that type of stuff is inherent in a strength conditioning setting. Right? I mean, you have goals every time you come into the room for a session. Well, Hey, I use 15 pounds last time. Okay. Well, I'm going to progressively overload and try 20 pounds this time. Let's see if I can do it right. That's okay. Uh, particularly get kids recording those things. Now they're having written goals associated with it. and then the feedback piece, right? You know, whether a weight room or speed training type of environment, if you, if you choose it to be that environment can be saturated with feedback, right? So you've got numbers on the bar, you know, weights that are calculated. You got sprints that are timed jumps that are measured. If you're getting into velocity based stuff, you have barbell data that's instant at the rack. And so, so I think, you know, kids being exposed to that type of feedback mechanism, in a very low stakes environment, so to speak as going into the weight room to get a workout in, you know, I really think can give some, you know, coming back to that word scaffolding for kids, like, okay, well, Hey, just like you experienced this here. And you're motivated by it. And you're excited about it. Let's talk about what do goals and what feedback look like for you and your math class, you know, or you're trying to be a better son, a better brother at home, you know? Well, let's set some goals for that and let's set some times to meet and talk about it so you can get some feedback. And so that's this ways for me personally, that I've tried to kind of replicate some of those basics of motivation and the way. And try to help that pour out into, other areas of their lives.

Luke:

So anyone listened to this, that's interested in implementing a centralized strength and conditioning program in their schools. What would you tell them is probably one of the biggest challenges that they're going to be facing as they start to, uh, implement such a pro.

Nick:

broadly, I would say communicating. specifically what I mean about that though, is a few different layers. number one is, you know, you're not implementing a school-wide strength conditioning program without school administrators. Right. And so, you know, I've been through this a number of times with a variety of different outcomes, but, number one is, is obviously some of the advocacy to have principals, athletic directors, head coaches, quote unquote on board. That's going to take communication, right? Like everything we're talking about right now, and some of this research like this isn't mainstream, this, stuff's not just out there, people aren't talking about it. And so some of that advocacy and this communication, as far as, um, getting administrators to understand like, look, this is not just about athletics. this is about young people right now, and this is a great bang for the buck type of tool. I think that's a pretty big communication piece. And then from there, it's all, like I said, it's not getting implemented without those soaks. And so then those folks, you know, if it's going to be centralized and there's going to be a unity, that's not going to happen because of a strength, conditioning coach or a head sport coach trying to tell all the other adults, this is the vision, the cell, you know, things are going to be organized. that's going to take some top down communications. Yeah, so athletic directors, principals, superintendents, whatever it is like the importance of them communicating vision and direction and expectations. I might actually say that that's one of the biggest factors, right? So I've had an experience before where I've had, so maybe the person that, you know, an administrator, even if I'm not working with them where it's like, okay, I catch the vision. I can see why this is important. You know, but then it's like radio silence when it comes to them communicating about it to their people. in my mind, you know, it's not going to work without that. and then from there, coach, I would say, you know, under that umbrella communication again, when it comes to the actual strength, conditioning coach, we gotta do a great job at that level. Like on the ground, communicating to kids and parents, this is the purpose of this. This is the way. Making sure they have an excellent experience, you know, that we're coaching kids. Well, when they're in the room, it's not just kind of a meat head, bro science type of, environment, that kids come into a setting like that and feel like it's organized and they understand what the expectations are. And that to me is the communication piece that falls with, the strength conditioning coach. so yes, all, all those layers, man. Communication would probably be that summary statement. If I had to kind of pin it down on one thing to actually make it successful.

Luke:

Yeah, you never could communicate too much, you know, clear, concise. Communication solves so many issues, especially within a school setting, which you and I had been in for over 20 years. It's amazing how much the telephone game impacts relationships amongst kids and adults in the building. So you're Right. The more we can get in front of people, explain the why and the how. The more, you're going to eliminate some of those issues, because I do believe at all of our cores, as, as people in education, we all do want the same thing, right? Like it's all about the kids. It really is. I mean, sometimes we get distracted by other things and we think that maybe our curriculum is the most important thing or winning games is the most important things. But we all got into this business sharing that same vision. So. Bringing it back to that unifying core belief of what we all want, I think will, will help tremendously. You also mentioned these articles that are not mainstream, anything that you have to share with our listeners. Once we, uh, are done recording this, I'd appreciate you emailing over and I'll share in our show notes because I do think there's a lot of people listening that would love to read the research and learn more, to be able to educate their parents. And their kids and their school community overall on this stuff, but you're right. You don't ever hear about it. So I didn't need to get, share with us. I would really appreciate it. And I will definitely get in our show notes and to wrap up this episode, let's talk about your contact info and any way that people could reach out to you to discuss this a little bit more. If it's Twitter, Instagram, your email, whatever you'd like.

Nick:

Yeah. I mean, email wise, um, you know, so in cook, so my name is Nick cook. So inCook@cvcaroyals.org, and I can send that to you via email as well. So we're posted clearly, uh, and then yeah, on Twitter am active on there just within the coaching community and so the user handle for Twitter is coach.

Luke:

Awesome. Well thank you very much. This was a great episode to get to talk about this really important piece that the good news is it is growing in high schools and it's growing exponentially because we are learning. The bad news is we have a long way to go to get all the adults in the building to recognize the benefits of a strength and conditioning centralized program. And maybe even just the word. Kind of turns people off a little bit, right. Like maybe it should be fitness training. I don't know. But being an English teacher semantics do matter. And the presentation, because I think sometimes that word strength scares people a little bit and even conditioning sometimes does as well. At least that's curious the kids. So, but Thanks for sharing your expertise in that article, uh, which will be linked in the show notes. And for talking to our listeners today, if they give a lot of great information to share. So I encourage all of our listeners to reach out to coach cook, if you have the opportunity to do so. So with that coach, get back to your school day. Thanks for taking time with us. And we'll be in touch shortly.

Nick:

all right. Thanks Luke.

Nick Cook Profile Photo

Nick Cook

Head Football Coach and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach

Nick Cook spent the last six years as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach and Head Football Coach at Chicago Christian High School, and currently holds the same positions at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Northeast Ohio. As an educator, Coach Cook has experience as a teacher, coach, and school principal. As a football coach he has been a head coach at three high schools, including starting a high school program from scratch. As a strength & conditioning coach, he has spent time developing and implementing training programs in private training facilities, at the high school level, and at all three levels of the NCAA.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, Cook won three NCAA Division III National Championships as a member of the Mount Union football team. He contributed to the longest winning streak in NCAA history (55 consecutive victories); during his four years with the Purple Raiders, they had a combined record of 54-1.

Cook went on to win a fourth National Championship as part of the strength & conditioning staff with the Ohio State University football team (2002) and to serve as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach with Ohio Dominican University football, before embarking on a career in K-12 education. Coach Cook is a member of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, the National High School Strength Coaches Association, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.