Combine Preparation

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions: “How do I get noticed?” or “How do I get recruited and get to the next level?” In the past, there were not many avenues you could take to get to the college level, just play hard and hope you get noticed. Nowadays, there are many avenues from combines and day camps. But, if you do go to these camps, you better train to impress.   That brings up another question: “How do I prepare to impress?” In the past, most training involved basic strength training followed by long distance conditioning, but with the advancements made in the performance industry, there are specific programs and training techniques used to improve the skills that colleges are looking for. In short, plan your work and work your plan. Be specific in what you are trying to improve!

The following will give some short tips you can use when getting ready for those camps:

40 Yard Dash –  You know before you go to these camps, they will want to see a fast 40 yard dash time if you play football. Since you know “the 40” is important, train for it, much like you would train for any other sport or skill. Failure to train for this specific skill would be much like entering a free throw shooting contest and only practicing half-court shots.

Shuttle –  The same goes for the agility cone drill, commonly known as the Five-Ten-Five or the Pro Agility Drill. Your time on this drill can be drastically improved by learning the techniques used to run this drill. I have seen many athletes drastically improve their times just by being shown a few pointers that they need to work on, thus attracted the attention of many colleges. In contrast, I have been to camps where very quick athletes have failed to score well because they had poor technique, thus scoring much lower than they were capable of and hurting their “marketability” to scouts and recruiters.

Vertical Leap – The vertical leap is another important test the scouts will want to see. This is an excellent way for scouts to see how explosive the athlete is with their own bodyweight, which is also an indicator for speed. The best way to improve this score is through the implementation of plyometric training (the stretch-reflex) and dynamic weightlifting (“weightlifting” refers to the Olympic lifts). These techniques will train your body to be explosive where many other techniques train you body to have endurance, thus diminishing the body’s ability to perform in short, explosive bursts. With the technology used today, we can actually measure the speed and power that is being generated in each workout, increasing the effectiveness of that exercise when improving the athlete’s vertical leap.

Bench Press / Medicine Ball Throw – This exercise has unfortunately been the “staple” of many strength programs, even though pressing weight off your chest while lying on your back is not the best way to “train with intention.” With that being said, we must play by the rules and train to improve your bench press for repetitions, which is much different than training for 1 repetition max. This is where a specific program must be implemented to improve your score as well as learning the technique of the bench press. I have seen athletes improve their bench press for reps by up to 25% simply by implementing a specific program prior to testing. It is important to note that exercises must also be done to negate the negative aspects of overtraining the bench press and prevent injuries to the shoulders.

I am a big proponent of that fact that many combines are moving to the medicine ball throw. This test is functional and is a much better measure of athletic performance and power than bench press. If you are still training for just bench press it is time to change your train of thought and move toward more functional training. The medicine ball throw is also a test that you must still train for and learn how to perform.

Look the Part – There will be some genetic limitations we will run into when dealing with your height and weight, but we must learn to focus on only the things we can improve and not the things we have no control over. This is where diet and nutrition will come into play. It may be beneficial for you to get with a sports nutritionist or begin to do your own research about diet and nutrition. Scouts and recruiters are looking for a specific body-type and look of the athlete, and it is your job to create that look. A soft body will not catch the eye of the scout and may hurt your chances of being noticed. Also, be skeptical of the supplement industry. Many supplements on the market are not NCAA compliant and it would be a shame to fall short of your college dream due to your ignorance of the supplement industry.

Skill Positions – Work on the drills that will improve your movement and speed that is specific to your position. The quarterback position does not require the same skills as an offensive lineman; therefore they must not follow the same training regime or program. It would also be beneficial to work with a coach or a specialist on your position drills and technique.

Grades and SAT / ACT – Well, here I go getting on the soap box. One area that many athletes tend to overlook but the scout definitely will not are your academic performances and your SAT or ACT scores. College programs are under constant pressure to improve the average GPA on the team and academic excellence will help you catch the eye of ALL scouts and make you very attractive to college coaches. Take advantage of the ACT and SAT preparation courses made available by many educators in the state. Do not become another athlete who loses out on a college scholarship due to poor grades.

Conclusion: It is very important to train for the specific drills and skills you will be tested on when attending camps and combines in attempt to improve your recruiting status. There has been advancements in the performance industry that all athletes must learn to take advantage of. I leave you with a quote by Garrett Giemont, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “It takes zero talent to get yourself into top physical condition.”