Letter of Resignation
By Jim Wendler
Dear Athletic Director,
This letter is to inform you that I am resigning from my position as head strength and conditioning coach. I enjoyed my time while at the university and feel grateful for the knowledge and friendships that I have gained. I feel I owe it to you to offer an explanation as to why I have made this decision.
I began my job at the university with a tremendous challenge. The coach before me did not have the attention to detail that I have. In fact, there was no attention to detail. The workouts were not planned, and the athletes had awful form on the exercises. They had terrific attitudes and determination but have been completely misguided. It’s a shame, really. I look at these seniors and wonder what could have happened to them if they were given some sort of proper guidance in the weight room. I do not blame them. I blame the coach.
The athletes believed that what they were getting was a top-notch education, both in the classroom and on the playing field. I cannot attest to the classroom but can assure you that they were getting cheated in the weight room. Progressing an athlete when he is not ready, using advanced modalities on beginning athletes, and never COACHING is being cheated. That is a fact.
Upon coming here, I was appalled, but I had a positive attitude. When I began working with the football team, they were very responsive to my coaching. Sure, they had to leave the ego at the door and take weight off of the bar. But they were doing it right. I began a beginner program and started coaching and teaching. Today’s athlete wants to know the “why” of what they are doing, and I explained to them how important it was for them to perform the exercises correctly. If you wish to know why please ask them. They are as informed as anyone in the field.
I thought that many of the athletes would rebel against taking weight off the bar, but soon the desire to do things correctly and then add weight began to take shape. The athletes took pride in a good squat and a good bench press. The kids quickly began policing themselves and would coach each other up. Not parallel? NO LIFT! Butt off the bench? NO LIFT. It became a sense of pride with the kids and their attitude was tremendous. You were happy, injuries were down, and the sense of camaraderie built in the weight room was something that this university had never seen.
But then it all ended. I call it the Quest for Numbers and the ridiculous standards that seem to be set all over the country. There are reports of colleges sporting 40–50 football players benching 400 lbs plus and squatting 700 lbs plus. On one team! Either they have the biggest freaks of nature or their lifting is suspect. Being in the weight room almost my entire life, I would side with the latter. These numbers are being inflated by strength coaches who are either downright lying or suspect lifting. I have even heard of coaches instructing the spotters (three of them) to keep their hands on the bar at all times and to “assist” the lifter. For a bench press, this equates to one person benching and three people deadlifting. Not only does this skew the numbers, but it no longer can be termed a bench press! The same goes for the squat.
Then there were the comparisons that you and your coaching staff have made to our team. I have told you numerous times the differences between what “they” are doing and what we are doing. You ask me all the time why our numbers don’t add up to other programs. I have given you the same response and have been patient and explained it to you. But it always comes back to the numbers. You want an army of 700 lbs squatters yet you recruit a class of 18-year-old football players. There is a big difference between the two.
You are always comparing our numbers to other schools, but what you fail to see is the progress we have made. Many of the players could barely squat 225 lbs when they came here. A 455 lbs squat after three years is commendable. They have made progress and are doing it the correct way. It’s not a 700 lbs squat, but it is progress. If you want a bigger squat, start recruiting guys that can squat 500 lbs with perfect form as freshman. Just a note—they are hard to find.
I am not about to sacrifice my integrity and the safety of our athletes for a number. If you are willing to look a parent in the eye and tell them that their kid’s health and performance is secondary to your quest for a number, then I can live with that. What I can’t live with is being part of a staff that believes this to be true. So after defending my stance for so long, and it falling on deaf ears, I have chosen to resign.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of the university and the athletes’ lives. I wish you continued success in the future.
Every damn strength coach who is frustrated by the fact that the profession has become a game of numbers rather than a continued quest for improvement and excellence.