Just the thought of inviting sports parents into the weight room is enough to give some coaches a headache.
But not Micah Kurtz.
Kurtz, Director of Sports Performance at Windermere Prep School in Orlando, Florida, all but drags them in himself.
Kurtz leads a "morning workout club" open to all Windermere parents every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He also recently organized a Dads & Daughters lift where fathers could train alongside their female athletes.
While some coaches might hesitate to invite parents into their weight room due to a fear of them second-guessing or criticizing their methods, Kurtz has found it only solidifies their belief in his program.
"There's still that stereotype that the strength coach is just in there yelling and screaming and getting the athletes to lift the heaviest weights possible," Kurtz, who was named the NSCA National Strength Coach of the Year in 2016, recently told STACK.
"If I can get the head coach, if I can get the parents, if I can get the administrators—if I can get them all bought in and believing in what we're doing in the strength program, it's going to go a long way to get our athletes to buy in and believe in what we're doing."
For Kurtz, being open and inviting to the entire community that exists around his athletes is the best way to get everyone pulling in the same direction. Better buy-in—be it from parents or sport coaches—starts with trust. When you're hostile and guarded about your program, you lose opportunities to build that trust.
"Today's coaches need to be open and embrace being open and being able to explain their program," says Kurtz. "I take a lot of pride in being able to sell my program and explain my program…To be able to get the parents involved in your program and show how you progress and regress (movements) and teach in your program, I mean, it definitely goes a long way in getting all the stakeholders to be really bought in to what you're trying to do as a strength coach and as an athletic development coach."
And if the parents are game to get involved themselves, all the better. Kurtz says events like the Dads and Daughters lift can be an incredible bonding opportunity between parent and child. Many of the fathers left with a new respect for their daughter's strength, fitness and work ethic.
"They said, 'Hey, you work our daughters out this hard all the time?," says Kurtz.
"(I said), 'Well, their workouts are normally a little bit harder than this.'"
For the parents who regularly train with Kurtz, the benefits are even greater. Regular resistance exercise is one of the best methods to improve mental health, which can be a wonderful thing in a time where sports parents seem more stressed out than ever.
And given that everyone wants to look and move like an athlete, Kurtz programs many of the same exercises (albeit with appropriate regressions and progressions) for sports parents as he does high school athletes.
"It's another way for parents to connect with their teenaged children. At that age, as a parent, sometimes it becomes hard to have something in common with your child. And that's just another way for them to be like, 'Hey, I worked out with Coach Kurtz today. Here's what I did. What did you do today?'" says Kurtz. "My goal as a strength coach, especially at the high school level, is to create a whole community of fitness and wellness…Being open and being inviting and having people come in and observe and join in on what you're doing, only strengthens our strength program."
— Micah J Kurtz, MS, CSCS*D, RSCC*D, USAW, FMS (@KurtzM3) August 27, 2019
Many misconceptions still exist around strength and conditioning, and in the social media age, misinformation has never been more widespread or more accessible. By getting parents involved, Kurtz ensures everyone is on the same page.
It is certainly true that many athletes will spend just as much time with their strength and conditioning coach as their sport coach, and Kurtz looks to guide anyone he trains to more than just a solid squat form or a new Pull-Up PR.
"I talk a lot about how what we do in the weight room correlates to all areas of life," says Kurtz.
"I want everyone involved in our program to try to become a little bit better every day. If they can learn how to do that through our strength program, that can correlate to many other areas of life."
When getting better is a family affair, everybody wins.
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