He had been on the job just two days, and H.R. Greer’s office remained mostly empty inside the cavernous indoor facility known as The Outback at Weatherford High School. The only item sitting atop his work desk was a large container of whey.
“That’s standard strength coach stuff there,” Greer said. “I don’t have anything set up, but I have some whey protein in here.”
Isn’t whey gross tasting?
“It doesn’t taste too bad,” he said. “You have to just shove it down.”
Weatherford’s first and only strength and conditioning coach guzzles a glass of whey with the same enthusiasm that he trains athletes. He carries himself with purpose and a high level of energy and wants those traits to become contagious for kids on every repetition, every drill. He said as much to a gathering of Kangaroo athletes on his first day on the job.
“If you are early, you are on time,” he recalled telling them. “Have your shoes tied. Be ready to be coached really hard.”
He will be “passionate and intense” during training whether someone is doing things right or wrong.
“I’m going to be consistent and honest and come in here with energy and enthusiasm and, man, we’re going to get after it — you’re going to love it,” he recalled telling the kids.
Greer, 32, is part of a growing trend at high school athletic departments. Coaches specializing in strength and conditioning have long been common at colleges and the pros. The anticipated benefits include greater strength, endurance and speed, fewer injuries, increased confidence and the establishment of healthy habits that could last a lifetime.
High schools are climbing aboard the bandwagon hoping to achieve those same results.
Jeff Kipp, strength and conditioning coach at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, is among the wave of strength coaches working in Texas high schools. His goal is to guide young athletes using specific training techniques to help them reach athletic goals with fewer injuries. In an article for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, he explained why he transitioned to high schools after 15 years of coaching at the collegiate level.
“I was drawn to the high school level because I was regularly seeing college freshmen coming into the program who were underdeveloped and unbalanced as athletes,” he said. “They were just surviving on their natural abilities. And they were getting hurt. I thought, there’s got to be someone at the high school level to guide these kids, to prepare them for the physical stress that goes with the expectations of being a collegiate athlete.”
Greer transitioned to the high school level, as well. He worked as a strength coach at Arkansas State and New Mexico State after graduating from Ole’ Miss with a degree in kinesiology. He had played fullback for the football team and married one of the team’s cheerleaders, Maggie, before becoming a college coach.
In 2015, he decided he wanted to create the “gold standard” for strength and conditioning at high schools, he said.
He and Maggie decided Texas, where Friday Night Lights shine brightly, was the place to go.
In 2015, Greer became the first strength and conditioning coach at Mansfield Legacy High School. He stayed until 2019 and, then, became the first to hold that position at Southwest High in Fort Worth.
“It’s become a really big thing to hire a sports performance coach,” he said. “Especially in the Metroplex. It’s pretty remarkable.”
His focus is “the athletic development of all these kids, which involves strength, speed, power, agility — all these different motor skills and abilities,” he said.
He knew of only seven or eight similar coaches at local high schools when he first arrived in North Texas.
“Now it seems like every school I know is trying to hire that position,” he said.
Both of his previous high schools sought replacements for him after he left.
Weatherford Athletic Director Aubrey Sims expressed appreciation — and lofty expectations — for the new coach.
“That is an area of need that is going to make a big difference in all of our programs,” Sims said.
Sims, who was hired two months ago at Weatherford, had never hired or had a strength specialist at any of his previous high schools. Instead, Sims would run the strength and conditioning on the boys’ side, and girls’ coaches would handle their programs.
Having a strength and conditioning coordinator working with boys and girls at the high school and junior highs will be “fantastic,” he said.
“Somebody that is not coaching a sport but just worrying about the strength and conditioning part of it is going to be a huge asset for our coaches,” he said.
Sims didn’t have any trouble convincing the school superintendent. Beau Rees, who was hired a year ago to lead Weatherford schools, was an enthusiastic proponent of bringing in a conditioning specialist, Sims said.
“Some places he’s been, they’ve had a strength and conditioning coordinator,” the coach said. “He saw where that really made a big difference in all their programs.”
On the first day that Sims showed up for work, the superintendent gave him the green light to find a strength guru.
Rees has “really been pro-athletics,” Sims said. “He understands what it’s going to take for us to be successful. A huge phase of the development of our kids is in the weight room.”
Earlier this week, Greer held in-service training with coaches for the boys and girls programs to establish a consistent message. He will train boys and girls separately but with the same principles and techniques.
“They are handing me the baton, and I want to hand it back to them with a bigger, faster, stronger kid,” he said.
The best coaches connect with players and instill in them an enthusiasm for hard work, organization and self-discipline, Greer said.
“It’s the connection and teaching of all the intangibles that make a great athlete, not just what happens on the field and in the weight room,” he said. Those connections “can really change kids’ lives.”
In conversation, Greer refers often to doing things the “right way.”
When pressed to define the right way, the coach explained it as a daily discipline based on consistency. Habits through training don’t just help in athletics, they carry over to life.
“It’s hard to do the right thing the right way every single day, but once those habits are built, kids are drawn to it because they become better athletes,” he said. “They see it. They feel it. They are more confident.”
Running and lifting provide structure.
“You want to be around it when everybody is doing the right thing the right way every day,” Greer said. “The goal is building the right habits and building the right culture here.”
But what is the right way to do it?
“By the right way, I mean with great energy, great enthusiasm and being super coachable,” he said. “That calculated mentality of every time I step in that weight room, I’m going to have great enthusiasm, whether I want to do it or not. That’s hard to do every single day, but that’s what it takes to be elite.”