Before he ever stepped into the Agoura High weight room, Andy Campbell worked with a future three-time national championship college football coach, a future championship men's college basketball coach, Olympians at one of the nation's finer academic institutions and student-athletes at a renown military academy that is responsible for preparing those who are charged with protecting our country.
"All of those experiences have made me a better person," said Campbell, noting that if he had taken a job coaching high school athletes 10 year ago, "I'd have been a very typical high school strength coach [yelling] 'More weight, more weight!' I'd really be on the guys, not having that compassionate side of understanding that they're just kids.
"Part of our job is to love them. Part of our job is to help them adapt to a very tough society."
Campbell said that, notwithstanding the fact that the Chargers players haven't chalked up as many wins as they'd like the past two or three seasons, that hasn't prevented them from maintaining a positive outlook while exhibiting a winning work ethic.
"One thing that has been very enjoyable for me here at Agoura is, although we a haven't had the success on the field that all of us would like to have, watching these young men grow up and to see those who have taken leadership roles on the team, has been extremely fulfilling," said Campbell. "Watching the camaraderie of the guys and how they've embraced the hard work, that's the fun part for me.
"There are not a lot of high schools that would go through an off-season program that these guys have. At some of the area schools that are winning, their players tell me what they do; half of the players couldn't make it through what we do. Our team continues to show up, love each other and push through it. It's fulfilling to sit back and watch that."
The strength and conditioning regimen that Campbell employs at Agoura is one that may be a little different from other high schools.
"A lot of what we do is just very comprehensive strength training," Campbell said. But he added that at all the colleges at which he worked, incoming freshmen tended to have similar problems and he has tailored his program accordingly.
Those problems included not having enough core strength and tending towards overuse injuries, sometimes because of football players habit of doing too much bench press-type work.
"A lot of high school programs are based on heavy weights," Campbell said. "We may lighten up on the weights a little bit. However, we really push full range of motion and a lot of core strength [work]."
Campbell talked about the three players, all seniors, written about in the most recent blog: Richard Poutier, Agoura's quarterback; Sean Kagan, a wide receiver/defensive back; and Cody Banks, a running back/defensive back.
"As a freshman, [Sean] Kagan was just this little kid who asked a question about everything," Campbell said. "It's been fun for me to watch him develop into one of my favorite guys to coach. And I think all three of those guys, Sean, Cody and Rich, have done a very good job understanding that leadership is lonely.
"To be a leader on a team, some guys aren't going to like you. But it's about the betterment of the team," he said. "All three, in different ways, have done a very good job of understanding their teammates differently than we see them as coaches."
Future championship head coaches Nick Saban (football) and Tom Izzo (men's basketball) were among the Michigan State University coaches during Campbell's four years at the school from 1995-1999.
Campbell then moved on to to Stanford University for two years, and along with the many coaches who had an impact on him–including football coach Ty Willingham–Campbell was humbled by working with athletes who had already taken part in the 2000 Sydney Olympics before they were freshmen at the school.
Campbell later spent six years at Indiana University (post Bobby Knight) and one year at the United States Military Academy at West Point (or as football fans and most know the school: Army). He said he has incorporated all he learned at those schools into his coaching style.
And he notes that high school is different from college.
"The majority of kids aren't going to go on to play college football or college sports, in general," he said. "So what are we really doing? And that's where I've taken a much greater stance of teaching life lessons. Using my small world–the strength and conditioning world, lifting and running–to teach some of those lessons."
What are some of those life lessons?
"Learning how to work with others," Cambell said. "Understanding self-sacrifice and putting that back into the greater good of the team; how to step up when you need to step up. And whether that turns into wins and losses...I think that's secondary."
Campbell said that if he had to give advice to any young coach, especially one who was asking about coaching high school-age kids, he would steer the coach away from a winning-at-any-cost approach.
"First and foremost, show them that you care about them," he said. "I've tried to take that to heart as much as I can."