Mike Gittleson was the Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Michigan for 30 years and was a part of 15 Football Championships in that time. He explains, how it is important to make conscious decisions about every aspect of the athletes training down to the minute detail.
Managing body weight is fundamental in athletics, I always believed it was a reflection of your mindset. Any athlete I coached heard me say, “Your weight is your attitude.” When I weighed athletes in as a team it was a big deal. Each player that stepped on the scale, the pounds that they weighed, represented his commitment to winning and if collectively the results were favorable there was a good chance we would be a pretty good football team.
With today’s technology there are many types of scales to choose from, electronic scales that can measure body composition, digital scales with memories, scales that hook up to your computer and more. When I went about selecting my measuring instrument I wasn’t interested in modern high tech machinery, my concernment was the message. I wanted a big scale that was tall with a huge dial and went up to 500 pounds or more that both the athlete, myself and others could gather around and look at together. The scale would be the first thing you saw when you entered the weight room. It didn’t matter if you were weighing in or not, you would walk by this huge hefty object that would eventually tell a lot about you and how you have been approaching the game.
When an athlete sits down to eat and overeats, he may have tried as hard as possible in workouts, but he quit trying and has lousy effort while sitting at the table. If he skip meals it certainly doesn’t help growth and hurts his and the teams progress. The term ‘training table’ by definition is “a mess hall, providing planned meals for athlete in training.” When you sit down to eat you are continuing your training at the table.
I wrote on the scale the ‘the minimum’ weight management. When an athlete is given time off from exercise as part of their preparation and asked to relax, hang out, stay off their feet, they still have the responsibility to do ‘the minimum’, that is weight management. Eating behavior is then everything because caloric expenditure has suddenly changed dramatically.
I called a friend in my scale quest who we appropiately called “Gary the Scale Guy”, who’s job was to fix and calibrate scales and told him what type of weighing instrument I was looking for. Gary searched around old factories in Detroit and found a rusty antique Toledo scale that needed refurbishing. When done the item was perfect. Not only was the scale large and heavy, it also went up to my requested 500 pounds, which was how much the scale itself weighed. The hulking measuring instrument seemed to shout out how important your weight was and accomplishing my goal of others being able to see what you weighed on the oversize dial.
If you are a coach the message is this – it’s about coaching and management. We communicate with our athletes in many unspoken ways, we hang motivational signs, dress in specific colors, have logos, we display pictures of our past, exhibit trophies of successes, post record boards, have specific rituals players must adhere to and on and on. These are all conduit in shaping our constitution. All the things you do with the athlete are important and require forethought as they deliver a message. I am not recommending you do anything I did in regards to weighing athletes, I am only recommending you make conscious decisions about every aspect of their training down to the minute detail – if it is a measuring tool that you purchase ask yourself where will I place it, how will I use it and why?