Jan 29, 2015Still Going Strong
When Will Hicks, CSCS, started out in the strength and conditioning field as an Athletic Improvement Coach at North Carolina State University in 1985, none of his current football players were born yet. When he came to Syracuse University in 2000 to be the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, most were likely just entering elementary school. But because of his constant dedication to learning, adapting, and most of all, caring, current Orange football players are the beneficiaries of Hicks’s 29 years of experience.
Hicks is now the Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance and the head of the Syracuse strength and conditioning program. However, even after three decades, he doesn’t consider himself an expert in the field.
“As soon as you feel like you know everything,” Hicks told The Daily Orange in a recent profile, “you don’t really know anything.”
This mindset has driven Hicks to consistently seek out new ways to improve the strength and conditioning program at Syracuse. He attends several athletic conferences yearly–for other sports besides football–to track down innovative exercises and training methods to incorporate into his workouts. For example, he once heard an Olympic hurdler speak about the exercises he used to improve his hip mobility, so he brought them back to Syracuse to assist a football player who struggled with flexibility. When the drills proved effective, they quickly spread to the whole team and are still being performed twice a week.
Besides continuing his education at every turn, another key to Hicks’s long and successful career is his ability to adapt to change. When the Orange had a spate of nagging hip, shoulder, and lower-back injuries, Hicks added prehab exercises to the team’s workout regimen to keep those issues at bay in the future. The football program switched to a hurry-up offense over the summer, so Hicks cut the players’ rest time in half between sprints and lifts. As a result, Syracuse has become one of the best-conditioned squads in the country.
Hicks has always tried to maintain a levelheaded approach to strength and conditioning. The football team’s current in-season training plan calls for three days a week of lifting, while the off-season routine includes four lifting days and five running days weekly. Hicks’s players also follow a strict diet inspired by his own days as a professional weightlifter, when he would eat 60 hard-boiled eggs, 10 pounds of chicken breast, and a pot of a rice and black bean mixture each week.
“There’s a big difference between being on the cutting edge of stuff and being on the bleeding edge of stuff,” he said in the article. “You can kind of get too out of whack to where you water down what you do so much that you don’t really do anything well.”
Hicks credits his connection with the players as the biggest factor in his success. He frequently texts them during the season and always stays up-to-date on each of their weight and strength gains or losses.
“Nobody cares how much I know until they know how much I care,” Hicks told the paper. “I can know everything in the world, but if the players don’t believe in me, it don’t work.”
After 29 years and numerous accomplishments with the Orange–including appearances in 12 bowl games, sharing one Big East Conference title, sending over a dozen players to the NFL, and being named one of 22 Emeritus members of the National Strength and Conditioning Association–Hicks shows no signs of stopping any time soon. And neither does his passion for the job.
“You can’t do it ‘just because,'” he said in the interview. “I guess that’s my biggest–not a fear, but the biggest thing that keeps me sharp–is I don’t ever want to [say] I do it ‘just because.'”
Mary Kate Murphy is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.