Jan 29, 2015
Fighting Irish Stepping It Up

By Kyle Garratt

Every athletic department wants improved sports performance. The University of Notre Dame has taken it a step further by establishing a new division dedicated to providing individual athletes with every possible advantage.

In June, the University of Notre Dame athletic department announced it was creating a performance division to help athletes maximize their potential. The goal of the new department is to coordinate strength and conditioning, athletic training and physical therapy, sports medicine, nutrition, sport psychology, and other areas that contribute to student-athletes’ physical welfare and on-field performance.

The division will be run by Associate Athletic Director Mike Karwoski. “We are really on the ground floor of trying to develop this,” says Karwoski, formerly the Director of Compliance and Student-Athlete Welfare and Development. “Our Director of Athletics, Jack Swarbrick, looked at the way we did things and said, ‘When it comes to individual athlete performance, are we doing enough to assist student-athletes in maximizing their performance?’ That’s how the conversation began.”

Notre Dame plans to take a more scientific approach to analyzing and improving performance. “We want to use the Olympic training concept, but not just look at individual sport activities,” says Karwoski. “We are looking at this strictly as an athletic department, but trying to be science-based in our approach. We want to get data to our student-athletes to help them with their training programs.

“Every university has an athletic training department and a strength and conditioning program, and a handful of schools also have a sport nutritionist and a sport psychologist,” continues Karwoski. “But they are all separate units that may not always communicate effectively. What we are trying to do is wrap all those into one program.”

Karwoski spends much of his time researching performance labs and talking to experts to get an idea of what kind of equipment and personnel will be needed. “The big question I ask is, ‘If you were starting a sports performance lab, what is the one piece of equipment you couldn’t do without?'” says Karwoski.

He is also consulting with James Moriarity, MD, Director of Sports Medicine, and members of the College of Science for additional advice. The university doesn’t have a model to draw from because the idea is unique, not just in a college setting, but in the larger sports medicine community.

“There are a lot of sport performance labs across the country and almost all of them are affiliated with a hospital or medical school,” says Karwoski. “We are not necessarily looking at this as a research-based program. Other labs are community-based, so they may be dealing with child obesity issues or elderly folks but they’re not focused on sports.

“We are unique because we are looking at this simply as a way of making our student-athletes better,” he continues. “They come here to compete at a high level, and some of them have Olympic and pro sports aspirations upon completion of their schooling. We are looking at our department from a student-services perspective and asking, ‘Are we providing our athletes with everything they need?'”

By the end of the calendar year, Karwoski expects to have a business plan that identifies facility, equipment, and personnel needs, and sets a timetable for when the department will be fully functioning. “We want to provide student-athletes with every opportunity to be successful in whatever they decide to do,” says Karwoski. “This is an opportunity to give our teams another edge by working the science and training aspect to maximize their potential.”

Kyle Garratt is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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