Mar 16, 2015Secrets of Longevity
Mike Gentry has headed up the strength and conditioning program at Virginia Tech for 28 years, an eon in the profession. He recently talked about what he’s changed and what he’s kept the same while growing his staff and facilities.
According to the interview, which appeared in hamptonroads.com, when Gentry was first hired, he and a single graduate assistant trained every Hokie athlete in one 2,700-square-foot facility. Today, the football room alone is 9,000 square-feet, and he is happy to have more hands on deck.
“Now there are five of us working football in this room, we’ve got three full-time people upstairs in the Olympic sports room and three GAs and then in the basketball facility there’s another weight room where David Jackson and Brandon Dillard work,” he said. “So that’s five full-time people outside this room, plus GAs, so it’s really grown exponentially in that time. But it’s been a long time too. I might be the guy that’s been at one place in this position longest in the country, certainly one of them, because of coach Beamer’s run.”
Gentry is aware that the way he designs workouts has also changed, though some things are still tried and true. He recalls that when he started, he had so many teams that his main focus was furnishing and maintaining the strength room. But as the mission of the department changed, and his personnel and facilities increased, his workouts also evolved. They now incorporate more conditioning and speed work. The cycle in which he works with athletes is also much different:
“We’re more year-round with everybody…When I first got here, typically football would stay and a few basketball players, but now, every sport is trying to keep their athletes around more often. Baseball, in the early days, it was almost taboo. They paid lip service to lifting and they’d lift in the offseason. Now they’re very much into it. Same with female sports. Initially they were a little bit afraid to lift. They didn’t want to get too big and so forth. But now they’re educated enough and they see these pro female athletes or great female athletes training hard, so you don’t have those barriers anymore.
He acknowledges that one of the biggest challenges he faces is keeping things fresh and adding variety into the routines. He sticks to the basics, but knows that to keep his players interested, changes in exercises is essential. At times, he relies on competitions to keep things new.
“We always have something competitive going on around here. Whether it’s a Super Iron Hokie, you have to earn the right to lift on this platform. And we’ve got the Excalibur Award, which takes the 40 time and vertical and everything, not just strength.
Honestly, the part I like about coaching is not always about getting stronger and faster. I like trying to build a team and the cohesiveness. And you get those things through the team workouts in the summers when you’re pushing them through things together and they’re coming together as a group.”
The gym, his staff, and how the athletes train might have changed, but Gentry says his partnership with Head Football Coach Frank Beamer has remained the same—solid and filled with mutual respect. In the rest of the Q&A, Gentry talks candidly about that relationship and about the work he gets done during the offseason.