Strength Training and “At Risk” Students

We all know that a Strength Training and Conditioning program or class has great benefits for our athletes.  Most of us (fall or spring sport coaches) are deep into our off-season programs with our athletes during this time of the year.  The thing I have really begun to realize after teaching the course for a number (and I mean a NUMBER) of years is that it can really be a great class for any student and especially for “at-risk” or “problem” students who are not athletes.

Here are some reasons why:

1)  Most of the work is typically done in small groups – with normally 2-4 students in a group working together.  Studies have identified, and we probably all can cite anecdotal examples of the advantages of learning in small groups:

  • Students come to a more complete understanding by comparing themselves with others.
  • Having to explain to others encourages elaboration.
  • Students with better skills serve as models.
  • There is more opportunity to develop skills in communication (listening, responding, interacting) and interpersonal relations
  • Motivation comes from peers in addition to coming from the instructor.

I have noticed all of these things taking place in a high functioning Strength and Conditioning class.

2)  Peer tutoring

Peer tutoring has been defined as students from similar social groupings whom are not professional teachers that help each other to learn and, in fact, learn themselves by teaching.  This happens daily in good strength and conditioning classes.  Peer tutoring is beneficial to both the Tutor and the Tutee:


  • Tutoring helps students increase their own understanding of the subject matter as they teach students
  • Tutors can practice their communication skills with junior students
  • It allows tutors an opportunity to develop their own leadership skills


  • Tutees receive individualized instruction
  • Tutees receive more teaching
  • Tutees (may) respond better to their peers than to their teachers
  • Tutees can obtain companionship from the students that tutor them

3)  It is easy to catch someone “Doing Something Right

push pressI think this is the most significant reason that a Strength and Conditioning class can be every effective for “At Risk” students.  Lets say the students in class are doing a workout that consists of 3 sets of 8 repetitions on 3 different lifts.   During the course of that classroom session you as a teacher (or a peer tutor) has the opportunity to watch and catch them doing something correct as they attempt nearly 75 repetitions!  Almost any student will find a way to do at least 1 and probably several reps correctly… and that gives you, as an instructor, an opportunity to praise them and give them positive feedback… something many “At Risk” students seldom hear.

I see it nearly every day… a quick “that was awesome” or “great technique on that last rep” and their faces light up.

4) Students get a sense of accomplishment.

I have never had a student get weaker during the course of a Strength and Conditioning class…. most see significant gains.  These gains typically come weekly or even daily early on in a program, and are displayed prominently on their workout card (see post The Workout Card) as they “break” (see post Breaking – It’s a Good Thing).  Many students, even those that have never been involved or successful in athletics, can achieve some degree of success in Strength and Conditioning class.  With that success comes confidence.

Who takes the Strength and Conditioning classes at your school?  Are non-athletes encouraged, and are there sections open to non-athletes?  Do you as a teacher put the same type of effort into your non-athlete Strength and Conditioning classes?

Just asking….

I would love to hear comments or stories about your experience with At Risk students in a Strength and Conditioning class!

You Can Do More…. your brain is lying to you… Don’t Believe It! 

Jeff Floyd –

3 thoughts on “Strength Training and “At Risk” Students

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