Jan 29, 2015
Strength Coaches in the News

By Dennis Read

While strength and conditioning coaches largely stay behind the scenes, every now and then the media takes a peek in the weightroom to see what’s going on. At the University of Michigan and the University of Texas, reporters were eager to talk with new strength coaches, while a Calgary writer checked in with a globe-trotting strength coach for the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, some recent hirings have also garnered attention as we take a look at strength coaches in the news.

At the University of Texas, new football strength coach Bennie Wylie reluctantly gave up time during lunch with the players to talk with members of the media, and it appears meals may have been the only time Wylie slows down. Wylie dismissed players’ reports that he does every exercise they do as a myth, but his boss, former football strength coach Jeff Madden, who now overseers strength and conditioning for all sports, called Wylie, “the Energizer Bunny.”

“He just keeps going and going and going,” Madden said to the Austin American-Statesman. “He’s got tremendous endurance. He works out all day long.”

The Longhorns are counting on a renewed off-season effort to help turn around the disappointment of last year’s 5-7 record.

“We’re moving at a fast rate now,” Madden said. “Before, we just lifted as heavy as we could and get as strong as we could, then we’d stroll over to the next (station), get our three-minute rest and attack it again. Now everything is moving, moving, moving.”

Meanwhile, Aaron Wellman has been at the University of Michigan since January when he made the move from San Diego State with new Wolverines Head Coach Brady Hoke. The team’s media day, however, served as his formal introduction despite his efforts to stay in the background.

“This is Michigan, this isn’t about one person,” Wellman told the Detroit News. “This isn’t about me. I came here to help this program win Big Ten championships. My part is getting in early, working my tail off, staying late. If I spend a half-hour doing interviews every month, that’s a half hour I’m taking away from this program.”

While the article talks about Wellman’s approach to training–saying it’s to “maximize strength, develop maximal power and speed and minimize orthopedic stress to the body”–the coach emphasized that the actual exercises are less important than the approach.

“When you get to a program, the first thing is make sure we’re accountable,” he told the News. “Let’s emphasize discipline, let’s emphasize toughness, let’s emphasize great effort. Forget about anything else. Until you have that foundation in place, it doesn’t matter to me what you’re doing. The kids were great. The seniors have been great. They’ve all done a great job.”

While summer vacation is a misnomer for most strength and conditioning coaches, Rich Hesketh, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the NHL’s Calgary Flames, still did plenty of traveling. The Flames revamped their approach to offseason training this summer and sent Hesketh around the world to work with the team’s players.

“We’ve had a very proactive, very comprehensive outreach program to our players,” Flames General Manager Jay Feaster said to the Calgary Herald. “This is unprecedented in terms of the out-reach. We are in touch with these guys on a very, very frequent basis.”

The longest trips took Hesketh to goalie Mikka Kiprasoff’s summer cabin in Finland and then he met in Sweden with center Mikael Backlund. In addition to shorter trips within the U.S. and Canada, Hesketh also oversaw on-ice sessions for players who remained in Calgary. The end result, the Flames hope, is a healthy start to the 2011-12 season.

“We feel good right now,” Feaster said. “I touch wood everybody stays that way.”

This sort of international travel is old hat to Darcy Norman from Athletes’ Performance in Phoenix, who was recently named the strength coach for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. Norman was brought on board by Jurgen Klinsmann, who took over the squad at the end of July. The two had previously worked together with the German national team and FC Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga.

Klinsmann has a long history with Athletes’ Performance, dating back to 2004 when it provided fitness training for the German National Team as it prepared for the 2006 World Cup. Norman talked about Athletes’ Performance approach in this interview with the National Soccer Examiner.

“Our mission is to provide the best methods–seamlessly integrated, efficiently and ethically–to enhance the athletes’ performance,” he said. “We take this very holistic approach, leaving no rock unturned, to see what we can do to improve the athlete.

“Our four main pillars are mindset, movement, recovery and nutrition and they get broken into subcategories, a big checklist of things. The methodology is like a bunch of gears in a transmission and each gear represents a certain part of wellness, performance, training, and nutrition. If one of these gears isn’t working well, that affects the rotation of all the other gears.”

A chance to return to his native Texas turned out to be too much for Matt Herring to resist. He has joined the San Antonio Spurs as Director of Athletic Performance after spending seven years as a strength coach at the University of Florida. With the Gators, Herring worked closely with the men’s basketball team, which won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.

“I really hadn’t thought about [leaving] until San Antonio came calling,” Herring told the GatorZone.com. “The main reason why we even considered it is one, it’s a great organization and we certainly follow them, and then the draw to get closer to family and see my little girl get a chance to get closer to her grandparents and foster those relationships.”

Herring grew up in Austin, Texas, and got his bachelors degree at Southwest Texas and masters at the University of Texas.

“It was just a tremendous opportunity for us on a personal level,” he said to GatorZone.com. “The University of Florida is a fantastic place to be and Coach Donovan and the administration certainly tried to encourage me to stay here, but at the end of the day, they can’t move Gainesville to Texas, and that was the biggest draw.”

In the Northeast, meanwhile, Jaime Rodriguez is moving in the other direction, becoming Head Strength Coach for Clarkson University men’s hockey team after four years as the Director of Strength and Conditioning for the Worcester Sharks in the American Hockey League. Previously he had worked as Head Strength Coordinator at Mike Boyle’s private training facility.

“I feel extremely privileged to join Clarkson’s coaching staff,” Rodriguez said. “From my first visit I immediately recognized the passion and dedication this University has towards their athletics. Hockey is not just a sport; it’s a culture to the school and fans. As the strength and conditioning coach my responsibility is to make sure the success of off-ice training is an important piece of the puzzle that will help make Clarkson hockey a successful and contending program.”

Dennis Read is an Associate Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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