This is a guest post from a great strength coach here in California: Noel Piepgrass from Exeter, CA.  Before coming to Exeter, he spent 9 years at Central Valley Christian High School where he served as Strength and Conditioning Coach and Assistant Football Coach.  Noel’s specialty is in designing Strength and Conditioning programs for student-athletes.  In 2015 he founded OMNISTRONG: The Complete System for Team-Based Training, which is a Digital Training System that empowers any coach with all the tools necessary to deliver an elite level training program with their team.  

You can find Maximizing Motivation in the Weight Room Part 1 here.

4 Ideas for Developing a Process Oriented Culture

1- Create a Mantra:

As a USC Trojans Football fan, I loved Pete Carroll.  The thing I loved about him was the way he “sold” his program.  He wasn’t so much a coach as he was a curator of team culture.  I remember being at a Nike Coach of the Year Clinic at USC where we had the pleasure of hearing Coach Carroll speak.  The thing that struck me were all the slogans he repeated.  “It’s all about the ball.”  “Win Forever”.  “Doing it better than it’s ever been done before”.  He echoed these phrases over and over again.


That day it hit me that what Pete Carroll was doing was using these slogans to spread the core values of his program.  Driving back from that clinic with a car full of fellow coaches, we committed to a slogan that embodied the values we wanted to take hold of in our program.  We would be a 3D Football program.  Devotion to God above all else, Desire to be your best both on and off the field, Dependence on God and one another.  It also so happens that these values were process oriented, not performance oriented.  Nothing in our slogan related to outcomes, but rather, a way of being.  We then took this mantra and committed to making it the centerpiece of our program.  It was on shirts, it was on our walls, and we constantly referenced the idea of being a 3D Football Team.

You can do the same thing.  Do you have a mantra?  Can your players name the core values of your program by repeating a phrase they hear you say over and over again?  Do you have a sign posted on your weight room walls that echo what’s important to you?  You are what you emphasize, and creating a mantra is a great way to emphasize the values you want your program to be about.

2- Recognizing Weight Room Achievement:

You just heard me say one of my favorite phrases.  “You are what you emphasize”.  Well, here comes another one.  “You are what you recognize”.  If you see your student-athletes doing something that you want to see repeated, you have to make sure their behavior is recognized.  You can do this by complimenting them individually, or praising them in front of the team, but you cannot let it go un-recognized.

Big Gainer Award:

One of the ways I’ve made sure to do this is through a recognition award I created called the “Big Gainer”.  The “Big Gainer” Award rewards student-athletes who have made gains in each of the Performance Assessments/1 RM Tests in my training system (40 yd Dash, Agility Shuttle, Squat, Clean, and Bench Press 1RM).  Student-athletes who earn the award get a shirt with the “Big Gainer” logo on it, or a sticker of the logo for the back window of their truck, etc., as well as having their name posted on the Big Gainer board in the weight room for the rest of the semester.  The key with this reward is that it recognizes improvement or mastery, not performance or competition between two players.  Awards like this help to foster a Process Orientation because everyone in the room has a chance to get better.


If your reward systems are always based on performance, you may be rewarding student-athletes who have not necessarily achieved mastery, but are genetically superior to their teammates.  In my experience, I have taken great pride in motivating the student-athletes who may not have a lot of natural physical ability, but are willing to put in the hard work to get better.  By doing so, our so-called “weakest links” have been stronger and have elevated our overall level of play.


Another way that I have recognized Weight-Room Achievement is by posting a Leaderboard in the weight room.  The Leaderboard is a white board with all the Performance Assessments and 1 RM Tests listed on the left side and weight classes listed across the top.  The idea is that at any given moment, the school leader in a particular area is posted for each weight class.  Like a Leaderboard in a golf tournament, this Leaderboard can change moment by moment, and in fact, will often have to be updated several times a day during our testing weeks.

The Leaderboard is as close as we’ll ever get to a “School Record” board, which I have resisted tooth and nail.  I like the Leaderboard better for several reasons.


First of all, it’s erasable!  I love how things can change moment to moment.  I’ve found that the flexibility of the board has often driven outstanding effort during our testing weeks.

Second, it’s all about the present.  I really don’t care how much Johnny Johnson squatted 5 years ago.  I care about student-athletes getting better in the here and now.

Finally, I like the Leaderboard because it’s broken down into weight categories that make the competitions more interesting.  For example, the 250 pound Left Guard on your Football team doesn’t stand much chance at having the fastest 40 yard dash in the school, but he might have a chance in a 225 pound and up heavyweight category.  It’s fun to see your big guys get psyched about a 5.3 “40”!  On the other hand, the little guy busting blood vessels for a 200 pound Bench gets excited about having a chance to compete against guys near his own body weight.  I think it gets more guys bought in to what you’re doing.

As you probably noticed, the Leaderboard is a bit of a Performance oriented reward.  All on it’s own, I would prefer not using that type of reward in my program.  However, I have found that it works really well in concert with the Big Gainer Award.  The Big Gainer Award is totally mastery driven and tends to be better at motivating the less gifted student-athletes.  However, the Leaderboard, though it is more Performance driven, tends to be something that gets the top end guys really competing.  Plus, you never know who is going to end up on that Leaderboard, and it can be a real big accomplishment for certain student-athletes who have been working hard their whole careers to get up there.

If you’d like to learn more about his Digital Training System or just stay in touch with loads of great training content, visit 

3- Promote Competition:

I hate to reference Pete Carroll too often, but while I’m sure he didn’t invent the idea of promoting competition within your own team, he certainly popularized it during his days at the helm of Southern Cal.  Carroll was known to name days of the week such things as Competition Tuesday and thrived on creating a recruiting environment where the best recruits were willing to come compete for a job, all the while knowing they’d have to beat out some of the best talent in the country.

There are lots of ways to do this, but here are just a couple of ideas.

Tough Man Competitions:

While I was coaching at Central Valley Christian High School, we did what we called Tough Man Competitions every Thursday during our Summer program.  Head Coach Mason Hughes (@Mason_Hughes) led our staff in putting together a battery of Strongman type contests.  We then placed the student-athletes on teams that they would stay on for the entire summer.  It all started with a draft led by the Senior players who had to pick teams from the entire program, 9th-12th grades.  Each day, there would be a winning team from the day’s Tough Man battery and an individual winner from the final showdown of the day, which was always some sort of “mano y mano” affair.  The winners generated points for their team that would compile over the course of the summer.  At the end of the summer, the winning team got a Steak Dinner.

Our student-athletes loved the Tough Man Competitions.  It never failed; we had guys puking their guts out at the start of each summer because they were pushing themselves so much harder than they’d ever pushed before in an effort to avoid letting down their team.


Lifting Group Competitions:

Another thing we did to promote competition in the weight room was our lifting group competition.  What we did was assign lifting groups to create a bunch of mini-teams.  These mini-teams were scored on a daily basis during our Spring Strength and Conditioning Program.  Points were awarded for outstanding effort, technical exercise proficiency, encouraging your teammates, etc.  We basically rewarded every behavior that we wanted to see duplicated or repeated.  At the end of each week, the team with the least points had to do Up-Downs.  Upon the conclusion of the semester, we rewarded the top teams with a BBQ Lunch.

4- Reward Participation:

The final idea for developing a Process Oriented Culture is to reward participation in your off-season program.   I really cannot take credit for these ideas because they were the brain child of Coach Hughes and they were not specific to the weight room, but the football program as a whole.  Showing up consistently is one of the key traits of a process oriented individual.  A team that has truly taken on this mastery mindset is one that has high attendance numbers.  I can’t think of a more fundamental trait than practice attendance.  You simply cannot get better if you do not show up to practice.  Since our off-season strength and conditioning program is always a part of our off-season practice schedule, rewarding practice attendance is one in the same as rewarding weight room attendance.

Blackshirt Award:

One of the most coveted awards I have ever seen a student-athlete earn was the Blackshirt Award.  In order to win this award, a student-athlete had to attend a predetermined number of our summer practices and events.  The number usually put the student-athlete at or above 80% attendance, which is pretty good for a summer program at a school where many of the kids had lots of opportunities to be gone for family vacations, camps, and things of this nature.  Any student-athlete in the program who made this level of attendance during the summer, would be given a blackshirt with the logo shown below (DHT stands for “Do Hard Things”).  These student-athletes would also get a black patch with the same logo, sewn onto their game jerseys.


Ice Cream Sundaes:

As if the patch and the shirt were not enough, student-athletes who earned this award were also taken out to a local ice cream parlor for a free Ice Cream Sundae called the S.O.S.  This outing turned into a competition of its own as our student-athletes would race to see who could eat the 7 heaping scoops of ice cream first.  Many of them could not even finish the S.O.S., let alone win a speed contest, but suffice it to say, all left with a well-earned stomachache!

In conclusion, remember that all of these ideas are based on the concept of creating a process-oriented culture.  The goal is to create a team ethos that values mastery over performance.  The driving belief is that a team full of individuals focused on developing their abilities trumps a team full of individuals focused on demonstrating superior performance.  If you can create a culture where this type of focus is mainstream, you will have a team that outworks it’s opponents week in and week out and gets better and better throughout the season.

If you’d like to learn more about his Digital Training System or just stay in touch with loads of great training content, visit 


Coach Noel Piepgrass holds a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  He is also a Certified Sports Nutritionist and USA Weightlifting Coach.  Noel has experience in college weight rooms at Boston University and Fresno State and a decade’s worth of seasoning as a High School coach and teacher.  He is also the Founder of OMNISTRONG: The Complete System for Team-Based Training.  If you’d like to learn more about his Digital Training System or just stay in touch with loads of great training content, visit

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