Giving High School Football Players The Mental Edge

I’m 50 if I count the actual years that I’ve been on this earth.

But I feel like I’m 23 in terms of my physical capabilities.  I plan on staying in my 20’s until I turn 70 and then I might consider turning 30.

Ego?  Sure, I’ve got one.  Who doesn’t?  Some call it “self-love”.  “Self-love” is what got me strong and healthy.  This past weekend, I had my high school football players over to train in my Lago Vista garage gym.  I had warned their parents that this was going to be a “gut check” workout.  I had loaned them the movie “Strong” for reference.  “Strong” is a documentary about a New Jersey gym where the best area athletes train, support each other and achieve incredible results.  There are high school boys and girls, college and professional athletes training at this gym.

It’s physical but more than that, it’s intense.  I introduced this “hostile” type of training for the first time to these 2 high school football players.


the warm up

After a general warm up which they performed on their own as soon as they arrived, we moved to a dynamic warm up, followed by a fitness game, followed by some sprint work.

We did:

  • 2 x 40 yard sprints at 50%
  • 2 x 40 yard sprints at 75%
  • 1 x 40 yard sprint at 100%

When I say “we”, I mean “WE”.  I train with them.  My goal is to beat them on everything –  kind of like Apollo Creed and Rocky running footraces on the beach.  THAT’S how you build intensity and mental toughness.  As Rocky says in the movie, “Rocky Balboa” “it’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward”…

the workout

10 sets of 10 reps with one and half times body weight on the barbell squat.  I weigh 185 as does one of the other athletes.  Another weighs 165lbs.  So my weight and the other 185lbr’s weight would be 275lbs.  The 165lbrs weight would be 250lbs.

That was my plan anyway.

We warmed up with the bar, 135lbs, and 155lbs.  Then we went to 225lbs.  The 165lbr struggled with these reps and the 185lbr needed to adjust his weight as well.

like i said – this workout builds intensity and mental toughness

I did:

  1. 275 x 10 reps
  2. 275 x 10 reps
  3. 275 x 10 reps
  4. 275 x 10 reps
  5. 275 x 10 reps
  6. 275 x 10 reps
  7. Uh Oh  225 x 10 reps
  8. 225 x 10 reps
  9. Uh Oh 185 x 10 reps
  10. 185 x 11 reps

Note the 11 reps on that last set.

Words cannot describe how excruciatingly brutal this workout is.  You have to do it to understand.  It’s like owning a Harley-Davidson.  If I have to explain why, you wouldn’t understand.

The 185lb Cedar Park football player did:

  1. 185 x 10 reps
  2. 185 x 10 reps
  3. 185 x 10 reps
  4. 185 x 10 reps
  5. 185 x 10 reps
  6. 185 x 10 reps
  7. Uh Oh 155 x 10 reps
  8. 155 x 10 reps
  9. 155 x 10 reps
  10. 155 x 10 reps

The 165lb Cedar Park football player did:

  1. 185 x 10 reps
  2. 185 x 10 reps
  3. 185 x 10 reps
  4. 185 x 10 reps
  5. 185 x 10 reps
  6. 185 x 10 reps
  7. 185 x 10 reps\
  8. 185 x 10 reps
  9. 185 x 10 reps
  10. 185 x 9 reps (went back and finished the 10th rep)

Afterwards, we were all gasping, red faced, ghost faced yet proud of what we had accomplished. This is a warrior workout that builds 4th quarter grit and determination.  Just knowing that the opponent DOES NOT train this way is a huge mental boost.  How do I know that the opponent does not train this way?  I’ve been around the block and have been in this game for 30 years.

I just know.


fail to win

My goal was to use 275lbs on every set.  But I wasn’t able to this time.  I’ve done it plenty of times and have used 315lbs for all 10 sets – no knee wraps or supports.

But that’s OK.  My body and my mind tell me that I succeeded.

My athletes should be proud as well.  Their goal weight was 275lbs and 250lbs.  They weren’t even close.  But now, they will train that much harder so that they can meet their goal in time.  It may take a year or it may take 3 years.  The goal will still be there.  The weight never lies.

the carry over effect

Training this way builds mental toughness.  Physically, you’ll be sore for days.  Mentally, you’ll stay tough for a lifetime.  It will carry over into every other part of your life.  I love training athletes.  I love to turn them into fire breathing dragons who can do anything in this world that they set their minds to.




Scott York is a strength and conditioning coach in Lago Vista, Texas – just outside of Austin, Texas.  Scott is married, has 4 kids and has trouble with math – especially when it comes to age.



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