The challenges of training junior college athletes are worth the rewards


At Sanford POWER Bismarck, we are lucky to have the opportunity to train the four sports for the junior college in town, Bismarck State College: volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball.

Strength and conditioning specialist, Nick Jolliffe, at Sanford POWER in Bismarck, NDOne of the biggest challenges we face at Sanford POWER Bismarck is we only get to meet once every two weeks with each team. This brings challenges with programming and accountability from all parties.

Prior to training, each athlete goes through Sanford SCORE testing which consists of five tests: vertical test, standing long jump, 20-yard sprint, pro agility and 300-yard shuttle. Each athlete also completes a block zero movement preparation for one week.

Programming for the four sports consists of in-season and offseason training.

In-season (two days a week)

Our number one goal for in-season training is to keep the athletes healthy, which is why we do the Sanford Knee Injury Prevention Program (SKIPP) protocol before each training session.

Along with SKIPP, we believe we can still improve performance in-season through proper regulation of volume and intensities. During a normal training session for an in-season athlete, you will see an Olympic lift variation, squat variation, push and pull, and unilateral auxiliary and core movements.

Offseason (three days a week)

The offseason is a crucial and beneficial time for the athletes to prepare for their upcoming sports by getting bigger, faster and stronger.

Before each training session, the athletes will complete the SKIPP protocol. For offseason training, we implement an eight- to 10-week training program. To help the athletes grow over time, we regulate volume and intensities through the program – with week one consisting of higher reps and lower weight, and weeks eight to 10 consisting of lower reps and higher weight.


The biggest challenge we face as a training staff is only being able to see these athletes once every two weeks. For in-season, that is one out of four workouts, and offseason one out of six workouts.

With this schedule, we are putting a lot of trust in the athletes to hold themselves accountable and consistent with the training program. For a strength coach it brings a challenge of building trust, buy-in and communication from the athletes as well as their coaches.

As far as programming for the strength coach, it is important to regulate the training so that the athletes fully understand all the movements. We want them to successfully complete all the movements without a strength coach present.

Lastly, junior colleges are two-year programs when it comes to sports, so turnover with the athletes is high. It is vital to build a culture of accountability, trust, and buy-in to improve their performance as collegiate athletes.


Although there are challenges when developing an NJCAA program, the benefits still outweigh those challenges.

Sanford POWER Bismarck gets the opportunity to provide Bismarck State College with a periodic training program that is developed and implemented from certified strength and conditioning specialists. With this opportunity, we are hoping to take these athletes to the next level in the NJCAA and possibly help them continue their collegiate athletics into the NCAA.

Lastly, being part of a team is also rewarding. We get to watch these athletes from the four sports, recognize the entire team and cheer them on for success.

Nick Jolliffe, CSCS