Jan 29, 2015Finishing Strong
By Jason Benguche, MS, CSCS, PES
With a very successful first half of the season behind them and a tough remaining schedule ahead, the Georgia Tech football team is intent on keeping its focus and confidence. Here’s a look at how the player development staff is doing just that.
The 2011 college football season was highly anticipated throughout the country just as it is every year. The analysts come up with all the answers on what is to come based on initial preseason rankings. These rankings, of course, do not tell the whole story of a team’s off-season preparation.
The media and analysts did not have much thought about what was going to happen here at Georgia Tech. We were unranked, coming off a 6-7 season in 2010. However, the expectations of the individuals within the program were very high. We had spent the off-season working hard and we saw some great progress. This became evident soon enough as we began with a 6-0 start, and a No. 12 national ranking, with statistically one of the best offenses in the country.
But suddenly things changed at week seven, when we lost to an unranked opponent. After suffering our first loss of the season our athletes and staff are now being challenged to get back on track and finish this second half of the season as strong as it began. Here is a look at how we will continue to keep our athletes focused on the task at hand, both physically and mentally.
Strength Training: Prior to beginning the preseason in August our summer program in the weight room was based around goals of developing strength and power. Our focus now has shifted gears to the maintenance of what was built over the grueling summer months.
Our travel squad trains 35-45 minutes two days a week in-season. These two sessions consist of total body workouts, with the first involving our most strenuous lower body training (back squat). Two days later the second training day occurs with emphasis on our major upper body pressing exercise (bench press).
Both days are geared toward incorporating power exercises (hang clean, DB snatch), followed by major structural strength exercises for the rest of the body such as back squat, bench press, glute ham, bb step ups, pull-up, and inverted row. We feel these major exercises give us the most bang for our buck when training on a limited basis. Additional core, pre-hab, flexibility and mobility exercises are included within the workout or completed post workout.
Conditioning: The majority of in-season conditioning is a result of practice plan and tempo. Every football player will tell you that there is always a difference when you are in “football” shape. And this is our priority, ensuring that our athletes are as efficient at their given football skills while still being able to perform at a great work capacity. In addition to a high tempo practice plan we will complete practice three days early in the week with short, high intensity sprints such as gassers and 10 to 30 yard sprints.
Nutrition: In season nutrition is a huge component of each individual athlete’s success. With different class schedules, study habits, and preferences it is important that we convey the message each and every day to our athletes about staying on top of fueling and hydration practices. In the weightroom we are able to supply our athletes NCAA compliant carbohydrate and protein supplementation. Our training table is fully operational on daily basis to supply our athletes with proper meal options that fit their individual needs. With the help of our Director of Sports Nutrition, Leah Thomas, many of our foods are labeled and contain advice on where this item fits within their meal profile.
Our last and most applicable nutrition strategy occurs on game day. Our pre-game and game day menus consist of items containing a wide spectrum of nutritional value, and there is also variety in order to suit all of our athletes’ individual preferences. These items are rich in protein and carbohydrates, which help our athletes maintain the energy and focus that it takes to win ball games. We also focus on hydration, and provide an assortment of sports drinks, bars, and electrolyte supplements for those athletes prone to cramping.
Recovery: The most overlooked aspect of training has always been recovery. Recovery is an athlete’s greatest line of defense in being productive on a day to day basis. We employ a collective strategy of several different points of emphasis. First and foremost is sleep. College age students have yet to truly understand the benefits of a solid night’s sleep. Study habits, PlayStation, X-box, and the Internet can all find a way to intrude. On our end, we have modified training to include afternoon sessions, which allow individuals to at least sleep until preparation for their first class, unlike the 6 a.m. sessions of the past. This has helped tremendously for the individuals who have utilized the extra hours of sleep.
Self myo-fascial release and massage/flexibility sessions are conducted weekly to help loosen tight tissue and aid in the recovery process. Mixed practice plans also help greatly with providing athletes variety in practice stress and make certain they are ready for game day.
C.L.I.M.B: During the off-season, we implemented a leadership program run by our team chaplain Derrick Moore. “Championship Leadership Is My Behavior” instills many different qualities of not only individual leadership and accountability but a championship team environment. The lessons athletes and staff learned along their “C.L.I.M.B” to the summit during the summer months are constantly reiterated to us on a weekly basis and provide a team identity when all of our backs are against the wall.
Buzz Terms: There are two common terms you will hear amongst us here in the Georgia Tech football community. One is “Dialed In,” which is all about being engaged in what tasks lie ahead. There are no distractions and everyone is working toward establishing a pre-set list of goals. Sure, these goals change as the season goes along, but in whatever direction they go the mindset is always the same. We are dialed in, and ready to go.
A second phrase is “Win Today,” which entails concerning yourself with today and today only, and not getting caught up with tomorrow or what happened yesterday. This mindset can go a long way when it comes to preparation in training and having confidence in competition. On any given day, you give whatever you have to be the best.
DON’T CONFUSE THE SIZZLE
We know that a top 20 ranking does not guarantee football success. No one has ever won a football game just because they were ranked higher than their opponent. You can’t confuse the sizzle with the steak.
Great teams continue to play with their reputations on the line week after week and realize that plenty of teams would give anything to be in their position. This means being prepared both physically and mentally to finish what you start and keep standards high. Whether a game ends up looking like a track meet or a wrestling match, the team that ends up with the win will have a superior plan in place to play with passion, intensity, and a mindset as if it is the only thing that matters.
Jason Benguche, MS, CSCS, PES, is Assistant Director of Player Development for Football at Georgia Tech.