Taking My College Strength Program Online

Coach Development | COVID


Whitney Rodden

Coach Rodden started out as a Softball player for MidAmerica Nazarene University (MNU) in 1997 and went on to participate in MNU’s Olympic Weightlifting Program. She graduated from MNU in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Athletic Training, and a Minor Degree in Psychology. In May of 2004 she graduated from Kansas State University (KSU) with a Master of Arts Degree in Education Administration and Leadership. She is a member of United States of America Weightlifting (USAW) at the Coach Level and Referee Level, a member of the National Athletic Training Association (NATA), a certified Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach (SCCC), and she is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) in which she is a member and a Specialist. In July of 2005, Rodden Became the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for MNU. She is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for Football, Men’s & Women’s Basketball, Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Volleyball, Softball, Baseball, and the Cheer Squad.

// How I Took My College Strength Programs Online During COVID-19

My entire career, I’ve been teaching young men and women how to perform Olympic lifts in person. Sure, I’ve made an online strength program or two, but when it comes to dispensing knowledge and giving instruction, I’m most comfortable doing both face to face. Then suddenly, along came COVID-19 and this was no longer an option. And just like that, the football, basketball, soccer, and other players that I get so much joy from working with were gone from campus, and there was a chain on the door of the weight room where I’ve practiced my craft for the past decade. 

After I’d gotten past the initial sadness and frustration, it became a matter of figuring out what was next. How could I continue to serve my athletes and keep them as physically prepared as possible for whenever our school administration and their sports’ governing bodies issued the all-clear to return to campus and resume the competitive calendar? 

The simple answer, of course, was to somehow put my strength programs online and make sure that as many athletes as possible had access to them. Then I wanted to make myself available to answer questions, overcome the lack of equipment availability, and stay engaged with my student-athletes. Here is how I took my college strength program online during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Steps to Take My Strength Programs  Online

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Step 1

Overcoming Technology Challenges

The first main challenge I faced might seem like a silly one, yet it was significant at the time: I couldn’t remember or find my Instagram password. I’m sure it’s in some old notebook in my work or home office, but despite an extensive search, I could not locate it. So I started a new Instagram account, which made me feel like a Luddite from a bygone era who’d never even seen a computer, much less a so-called smartphone. 

Fortunately, I had my tech-savvy student workers to help me. They were an early bright spot in this whole topsy-turvy process. As soon as I reached out, they were all in. A couple said that this was exactly what they needed to provide a sense of purpose now that they weren’t able to play their sport. The duties I assigned them also gave a welcome diversion or outlet from their studies, which were now online too. 

With their assistance, I came up with a unique way to get players in all sports to get and stay involved. In some of the early sessions, I demonstrated the exercises of the day, but from then on, my athletes were the ones doing it. There wasn’t one who I contacted that was unable or unwilling to step up and contribute. Sure, a few shared my struggles with the technology, but soon found a sibling or parent willing to pitch in and help them figure it out. Thanks to their generous contribution, I’ve been able to post a daily workout for all the teams I’m responsible for.

Step 2

Recreating the Weightroom

Another fun thing I started doing a few weeks ago was Zoom workouts with my son and daughter and their friends. When I told some of my student-athletes, they wanted to get in on the action to supplement their other sessions. So we’d all hop on a video conference call and I’d both lead and participate. This has helped me keep my own fitness level up and has challenged me to come up with creative ways to utilize simple equipment until we’re able to get back to our usual weight room setup. 

One of the biggest head-scratchers in the early stage of the coronavirus lockdown was how to develop power, particularly for football, basketball, and volleyball players whose sports demand it. Usually I’m a big fan of the snatch and clean and jerk and, failing that, kettlebell swings. While I was able to secure a discount on the latter from the kind folks at Perform Better, a lot of my athletes still lack access to even the most basic equipment options. So I turned to jumping, which is still one of the best methods for improving lower and total body power.

Step 3

Find Comfort in Your Community

Over the past few challenging months, I’ve come to recognize how crucial it is to be in a community, even if that’s only in a virtual sense right now. I’m a member of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA) and we regularly hold a women’s breakfast. Being able to share my struggles and hear how my fellow female professionals are overcoming similar difficulties gave me a big boost and helped me realize that I’m not alone because we’re all in this together. 

It’s also been great to invite my athletes to open Zoom sessions in which they can vent, ask me questions, and keep the lines of communication open. I like seeing them use the #mnustrength hashtag on Instagram when posting their workout results, and hearing about how some have been doing their sessions in small groups via Zoom or FaceTime or TrainHeroic. We might not be together in person, but we are still united in spirit.


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