Mar 5, 2018Partners in Strength
At the University of Kentucky, the football team’s strength and conditioning program is overseen by not one but two coaches, with Corey Edmond (left) and Mark Hill (right) serving as Co-Directors of Performance. “Although we’re both competitive and passionate, there are no egos involved,” says Hill.
As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one. That has certainly held true for the strength and conditioning program at the University of Kentucky, where Corey Edmond, CSCS, and Mark Hill, CSCS, work together as Co-Directors of Performance for the school’s football team. Though this type of leadership structure is rare, for Edmond and Hill, it works seamlessly.
“We collaborate on everything,” says Hill. “Coach Edmond writes all the speed programs and I write all the strength programs, but I ask him what he thinks, and he asks me what I think, and we make decisions together. And we’re always talking about the upcoming weeks so we can stay on the same page.”
The partnership didn’t develop overnight, however. In fact, it was more than 20 years in the making. Edmond was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the late 1990s when Hill played there, and they have maintained a connection ever since. Hill worked under Edmond a few years later with the University of Oklahoma football team, and then served as Edmond’s assistant with the University of Arizona football team from 2004-06. At both stops, it was clear how well they work together.
“We began to realize that the job title doesn’t matter,” says Edmond. “Kids respected what we knew and what we did. When we walked into the room, you never knew who the head strength guy was, because we fed off each other and taught the same model. And if one of our backs was turned and an athlete wasn’t doing what was required of him, the other coach would step in and make corrections.”
After their time together at Arizona, Edmond and Hill went their separate ways-until two years ago. Edmond-who has been at Kentucky since 2013-called to offer Hill the position of co-head strength coach. Then the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Indiana, Hill’s first response was to laugh, thinking it too good to be true. But Edmond assured him it was a very real opportunity and convinced him to leave the Hoosiers.
“I’m always looking to get good people around me,” says Edmond. “When I talked to Coach Hill about coming to Kentucky, I explained that the money made sense and he would be in a great environment without having to worry about doing it all himself.”
“I knew it would work because of our overall chemistry,” says Hill. “We know so much about each other, and our friendship and mutual respect makes coaching together easy. Although we’re both competitive and passionate, there are no egos involved.”
In fact, leaving their pride out of the equation is one of the main ways they make everything click. “We listen carefully to each other and delegate responsibilities,” says Edmond. “That’s hard for a lot of people in this profession-they want to do everything themselves. But why have a problem with sharing the load when it equates to winning?”
Constant and candid communication has been another big part of the plan. “We can fuss and fight, but there’s no ill will,” says Edmond. “He knows I’m going to tell him things that will benefit him and vice versa. When both of you understand that, there’s never a problem.”
“We have an open, honest relationship,” Hill agrees. “We’re extremely real with each other and don’t hold anything back. We tell each other what we’re thinking, no matter what, and we respect what the other person has to say.”
Though this duo is connected by years of friendship, Edmond points out that the decision to hire Hill was primarily based on his ability to help elevate the Kentucky football program. “It’s not just about hiring your friends,” he cautions. “You have to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses and hire the best people to get the task done. Back in 2016, Mark was the best person out there, and because of the synergy we have, I knew he would be a great fit. When you’re both focused on the success of the program, it makes for a great situation.”
This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Training & Conditioning.