Choosing a training facility is probably one of the most important decisions you have to make, when preparing for a future in professional football. This choice may make the difference between attaining the numbers and performance necessary to land on an NFL roster and being overlooked. The following are 8 of the top questions to consider and to ask when evaluating potential combine training facilities.
1. What are the qualifications of the staff?
Anyone who is training you physically to prepare for the combine should have minimum qualifications of a four-year degree in exercise science (or related field) AND a high-level certification, such as a CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA). Do not be afraid to ask for credentials.
There are a lot of unqualified “trainers” out there who claim to be qualified and sometimes are great salespeople. Be cautious of anyone who is hesitant to provide their credentials. Passion for football and playing experience are great, but they don’t qualify a person to be a coach or trainer.
2. Who will I work with on a daily basis?
This is another huge question that piggybacks off of question one. Some organizations may have a qualified master trainer or guru who they advertise. In reality, you may spend a majority of your time with support staff or interns who might not be qualified to work with an athlete at your level.
The precious time you have to prepare for the combine and your pro day cannot be wasted on working with people who don’t have the ability to help you perform at your best. Look for people with the minimum qualifications listed above.
3. What is the group size, and what other athletes will I train with?
The answer to this will give you an idea of how much individual attention you will receive while training, which should be a lot. If the training group is larger than 4-6 athletes per coach, you will not receive the same level of individual instruction you should receive. It is also wise to inquire about who else you will train with. You should only work with other athletes who are preparing for the combine and/or other professional players.
4. What services does the facility offer?
In addition to performance training and drill work, any complete combine prep program should include physical therapy. Physical therapy not only to helps resolve old injuries, but will help improve your movement efficiency and durability. Programs should also include nutrition programming, sport psychology services, and position-specific coaching.
5. Are there athletes I can contact as references who have been through the program?
Contact more than one athlete who has been through the program (don’t be afraid to be thorough and ask for multiple references). Ask the reference what results they achieved, how they liked the facility, the experience, and the coaches/staff.
One important thing to consider is if the reference has any affiliation or financial interest in the company. It is becoming more common for athletes to have a financial interest and/or have ownership in facilities where they train. Their story may be influenced by other factors, if this is the case. Don’t hesitate to ask if they have a financial connection or interest in the business.
6. What are the typical results from your combine training program?
This is the “show me the money” question. A facility should be able to provide some hard numbers showing the average results from their combine training program. If these numbers aren’t readily available or don’t match up with what you’ve heard from references, consider looking elsewhere.
7. How are programs designed and what does the last week of pre-combine training look like?
The first part of this question is there to weed out the cookie-cutters. Believe it or not, there are still combine training programs that use the same program, regardless of the position or specific needs of the athlete. Each workout program should be based on the findings of an evaluation and movement quality assessment. It should also take into account your specific position on the field. These are minimum requirements.
Part two of the question refers to what the last week of training looks like. The answer you should look for here is a decrease in overall volume with a focus on explosive power production at high speed. This helps to have you at a peak on combine day.
8. Who does the position coaching and what are their qualifications?
This piece is very important. While getting ready to perform at the combine is important for putting up good numbers and impressing scouts, your program should also emphasize preparing you to be a better football player at your position. This has a much bigger impact on your career in the long-term.
Look for coaching and/or playing experience at high levels of football. It is important to note here that playing experience does NOT equate to being a good coach. Some great players are not so great at coaching, so certainly inquire about their coaching experience and ask for references as well.
Location and accommodations. We recommend finding a facility in a location where you can be distraction-free. If a program promotes the “extra-curricular” activities and the weather as main selling points, it may not be the best fit to produce the results you need. You should to spend the 8-9 weeks of combine training purely focused on getting your body and mind prepared for the combine and your pro day.
Agent relationship. Some agents strongly recommend a training facility, while others are more open-ended to your preferences. Make sure that your agent has your best interests in mind and is supportive of your decisions and instincts toward the process.
If your agent pushes for you to attend a particular facility, one important question to ask is: do you have a financial arrangement with the training facility? If so, there may be other motives at play outside of your well-being and results. This is not always the case, but something to consider closely as some agencies even have partial ownership in training facilities.
While many agents are good people with your best interest in mind, money still talks. An agent should disclose any financial relationship to you before you make a decision to trust a facility or person with your training program. Good, bad, or otherwise, this is an issue to be aware of through the process.
Final thoughts. There are a lot of decisions to make in a short period of time leading into the combine and draft process. Choosing your training facility is one of the biggest and most impactful decisions you will make. An informed decision on your training facility will help you get the most out of the process.
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